SOUTH ORANGE AND MAPLEWOOD, NJ - For the second time in two months, the South Orange Maplewood School District (SOMSD) has received proposals from three firms seeking to help lead the search for a new superintendent, including one that employs former Superintendent John Ramos.

Ramos, who resigned last summer, works for one of the search firms that submitted a proposal for the contract to conduct the search, Hazard Young Attea Associates (HYA) of Schaumburg, IL. The other two firms are Ray & Associates Inc. of Cedar Rapids, IA and West Hudson & Associates of Malden-on-Hudson, N.Y.

All three firms submitted proposals in the second search this spring, which ended with a deadline for proposals on June 21. That was the second such request for proposals in less than two months, with the first taking place in May. But those first submissions were rejected after the school board chose to rewrite some of the specifics and language in the request.

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HYA and Ray & Associates Inc. had both submitted proposals the first time, along with a third firm that did not submit again for the second search.

The HYA website lists Ramos as an “east coast associate,” who could presumably be involved in the search effort. Ramos stepped down as South Orange Maplewood superintendent in August 2017 after just two years on the job. The board then hired interim Superintendent Thomas Ficarra.

When it was revealed last month that Ramos had ties to the HYA firm, many in the community objected in online comments and other communications, prompting Board Member Madhu Pai to respond online, “This 'non news' is hard to take seriously given all the existing bids have been rejected and new ones are being solicited. It would be a different matter all together if the BOE had chosen this firm (and even then, the hiring body has say over personnel assigned to the search, as is the case in most searches). It's unfortunate that folks have been riled up by this. And, generally, if folks have little confidence in the BOE to make decisions of this magnitude, I hope they show it by either running or showing up at the polls.”

Contacted about the possible conflict of interest, Ramos said via email that he would not be involved in the search: “The HYA engagement is p/t. No, I would not be involved in the SOMSD search - typically, a consultant would not participate in a district/search where s/he has served previously. Of course, I wish SOMSD and you the very best going forward.”

Board President Elizabeth Baker and District spokeswoman Suzanne Turner declined to comment on the search process or the firms that have submitted proposals. The board’s next meeting is set for July 14, 2018.  

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