Presidential search committee hopes to choose new leader by early spring

graphic created by Emily Larson and Hannah Scherer

graphic created by Emily Larson and Hannah Scherer

The close of 2013 also brought the close of the active recruiting stage for candidates for the new president of BSM. This process has been ongoing since current president Dr. Bob Tift announced his resignation in May of 2013.

Barb Melsen, chair of the Presidential Search Committee, shares her reaction with the progress on the search. “I feel the search is going as expected at this time––no better, and no worse,” Melsen said. Ultimately, Melsen expects that the BSM Board of Directors will name a new president for the school by mid-March.

This is only the fifth time that Benilde-St. Margaret has chosen a new leader in its 40 year history.

Since the merger of Benilde High School with St. Margaret’s Academy in 1974, there have been only four BSM presidents. Sister Marie Herbert Seiter and Father Corwin Collins served as co-principals before during the merger, before the title of “President” was in place. Since the union of the the schools, Fr. Arnold Weber, Fr. Thomas Andert, James Hamburge, and Dr. Tift have all held the position.

According to a study by the National Association of Independent Schools, the average tenure for the head of an independent school is about 13 years. BSM’s average is 9.25 years.

With better than a decade being the average tenure of a president of an independent high school president, it is remarkable that a number of other local Catholic high schools are also seeking a new president this year.

Totino-Grace is seeking a new president following the resignation of their president last summer. In addition, St. Thomas Academy seeks a new headmaster for their school next year with the upcoming retirement of current headmaster, Dr. Thomas B. Mich. Finally, the president of Cretin Durham Hall announced last month that he will resign in June 2015. This means a great deal of turnover in the leadership of local Catholic high schools in the next few years.

Gary Wilmer is the Archdiocesan Representative to the Totino-Grace Board of Directors and member of their Search Committee. “The goal was to find a dynamic, experienced, practicing Catholic with leadership skills who will promote the mission of the school,” said Wilmer.

Planning for a new leader for BSM began last summer. Chandler Group Executive Search was hired by the board to help with the search, and a search committee was formed to oversee the search process. The first stage in that process, the development of a candidate profile for the new president, was completed this past fall with input from all of BSM constituents: teachers, staff, administration, students, parents, alumni, board members, and other supporters.

Maddie Etienne, a sophomore, was one of the participants in this process. “It was a great experience to be able to give our input on behalf of the student body; it really showed that the administration wanted the opinions and views of the students in this decision,” Etienne said.

In October 2012, the candidate profile which provides direction to the search process was made public, and Chandler Group Executive Search began to recruit candidates for the position.

The community has been curious and very supportive in our recruiting and networking. Everyone wants to see the ‘right’ person in this leadership role.

— Chris Cohen

In addition, members of the BSM community and others were able to submit the names of individuals that they believe should have been considered for the next BSM president.

Chandler Group Executive Search Team, Chris Cohen, Don Taylor, and Cindy Chandler, reports the level of interest in the BSM president position. “The level of interest has been solid. People from all sectors have been helping in the networking and spreading the word about this position,” the search team said.

According to the search team, the reaction to the opening was very welcoming. “The community has been curious and very supportive in our recruiting and networking. Everyone wants to see the ‘right’ person in this leadership role,” Cohen said.

Chandler Group considers applicants who have applied for the position or those whom they recruit. “The current mix of local and national candidates includes professionals from traditional academic environments, alumni, professionals from the business community, professionals from the public sector and leaders with faith based organizations,” Cohen reports.

With first round interviews of candidates scheduled for February, the Chandler Group will spend January preparing to bring a strong slate of candidates to the Search Committee for review.

When all is said and done, Benilde- St. Margaret’s hopes to announce a new president for the upcoming 2014-2015 school year who, as Melsen puts it, is “a person who is a strong leader, has a strong faith, [and] embodies a passion and enthusiasm for our mission.”