Verona Area School District administrative building March 2020

The outside of the Verona Area School District administration building.

Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates will be the firm that helps select the district’s new superintendent.

The school board voted unanimously to hire the Schaumburg, Illinois-based search firm at its meeting on Monday, April 20, after members of its Policy and Personnel Committee interviewed three search firms over video conferencing platform Zoom last week.

Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates will conduct a nationwide search for candidates to succeed current district superintendent Dean Gorrell, who announced in January that he plans to retire in June 2021. Part of that search will be working with families and the community to gauge what traits and values they want the next superintendent to have, based on the school board’s timeline.

Board member Meredith Stier Christensen said that all three of the firms that were interviewed would have been excellent choices, but ultimately, they chose Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates because of the firm’s communication style.

Stier Christensen said she felt really good about recommending Hazard, Young and Associates to the board.

“We really felt like they were able to tackle this search with the skills necessary, especially maybe in unusual times,” she said.

Board member Kristina Navarro-Haffner said one of the benefits to having to conduct the interviews virtually was getting to see how the three firms would conduct its work remotely, if state and federal guidelines in regards to limiting the spread of COVID-19 prevent staff from doing the work in person.

“I kept thinking, ‘well, if the firm we’re hiring has to screen our superintendent candidates using similar technology, it was actually a good trial run of how comfortable, and how savvy and effective they were using that technology,” she said.

Following the board’s hiring of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, the district’s attorney will draft a contract with the firm, which will be brought back to the school board for approval.

The board had intended to do in-person interviews with superintendent search firms in closed session at its March 16 meeting. Board members opted to postpone those interviews, since all of them called in from remote locations during the meeting because of COVID-19.

The board’s original timeline for selecting a new superintendent, published in January, involved board members working with a chosen superintendent firm on ways to engage families, students and staff in the selection process from April to June, and having those conversations with them in July and October. The board’s timeline has scheduled for it to select a superintendent candidate in December.

Email reporter Kimberly Wethal at and follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wethal.