SMITHFIELD – The Smithfield School Committee will hire the consulting firm New England School Development Council in its search for a new superintendent, paying more than $10,000 for the help.

The committee received three bids for consulting services, and ultimately went with low-bidder NESDEC, which offered Smithfield a discount on pricing from $13,560 to $10,800.

Committee member Tony Torregrossa said of all the bidders, NESDEC had the most references and experience related to superintendent searches. Of the five firms he and member Benjamin Caisse requested bids from, three responded.

In addition to experience, NESDEC also had more straightforward pricing with fewer optional charges that could be added on than the other bidders.

“NESDEC is far and away the better choice,” Torregrossa said.

Caisse said that after a long discussion about the benefits of hiring a firm at a previous meeting, he stands by his stance that an outside firm offers the best opportunity to have the most productive search to find the most qualified candidate.

“They help facilitate the public input to make sure we all have the chance to navigate this search,” Caisse said.

He added that $10,000 is a minimal cost to make sure the hiring process is as transparent as possible.

Committee member Rose Marie Cipriano on Monday agreed with Caisse, saying she also still supports using NESDEC. She said in the past, NESDEC was “unbelievably helpful” in interacting with the community, including planning meetings to meet with the public and set up interviews.

“The outside group is an incredible component,” she said.

Cipriano emphasized that the school board makes the final decision on who is hired. She said the consulting firm will present three or four vetted candidates for interviews, from which the committee may or may not make a selection.

Later in Monday evening, Smithfield parent Tammy Lawrence questioned whether the committee hired the firm simply to lighten their workload rather than do the work themselves. She said the committee needs to try harder to listen to the community.

“You’re indicating the work is too hard, or you don’t want to do the work on the School Committee,” Lawrence said.

School Committee Chairwoman Virginia Harnois said that the new superintendent will be the seventh hired during her tenure, and this is the second time using NESDEC to help in the search.

“It isn’t that we don’t want to go out and do the work ourselves, it’s a great deal of work,” she said.

Rather, she added, the committee wants to get the word out to more candidates to attract the best candidate to Smithfield.

Smithfield will hire NESDEC this month, and NESDEC will then begin its search for a new superintendent to replace Supt. Judy Paolucci, who announced her retirement late last year.

Paolucci will leave in September leaving nine months for the search, interview, hiring and training process for a new superintendent. At a November school board meeting, Paolucci said there are at least four other school districts in Rhode Island with interim superintendents, and at least 50 projected superintendent vacancies in Massachusetts this year, with possibly two more vacancies in Rhode Island soon.

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