March 25, 2021 – Although boards of directors are considered the backbones of organizations, director recruiting has grown markedly more challenging, say recruiters who conduct searches in that area. As a result, companies continue to turn to executive search firms to help find new board members. Willa Perlman, co-CEO of LPA Search Partners, recently assisted learning technology company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) in the recruitment of Jean-Claude Brizard to its board of directors. Mr. Brizard is the president and CEO of Digital Promise, a global, non-partisan, non-profit organization focused on accelerating innovation in education. “We are thrilled to welcome Jean-Claude to HMH’s board,” said Larry Fish, chairman of the board of directors at HMH. “With his extensive experience in the K-12 space and as a former educator, we look forward to the valuable perspective Jean-Claude will bring to HMH’s strategy and success.”
“With more than 30 years of experience as an educator, advisor and leader, Jean-Claude has demonstrated a passion for driving innovation in classrooms to improve performance, as well as a commitment to closing the equity gap to ensure all students have what they need to succeed,” said Jack Lynch, president and CEO of HMH. “We look forward to leveraging Jean-Claude’s expertise and insights as we deliver connected learning solutions that are effective, engaging, and equitable to students and teachers around the world.”
Prior to assuming the top post at Digital Promise in 2021, Mr. Brizard was a senior advisor and deputy director in U.S. programs at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he led the U.S. program’s PK-16 community investment team in their effort to more deeply understand a student’s journey from preschool through completion of a post-secondary credential. Mr. Brizard also led efforts to close the racial and economic opportunity gaps in Washington state’s educational system, and supported the growth and sustainability of the public charter schools’ sector in the state. Mr. Brizard is the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools and Superintendent of Schools for the Rochester School District in New York. His experience also includes a 21-year career as an educator and administrator with the New York City Department of Education. He served as a regional superintendent, supervising more than 100 schools in the Borough of Brooklyn, and as the system’s executive director for its 400 secondary schools. Mr. Brizard is a fellow of the Broad Center, a fellow of the Pahara-Aspen Institute, and a member of the Aspen Institute Global Leadership Network.
“I am honored to join HMH’s board,” said Mr. Brizard. “This role offers an exciting opportunity to leverage my experience as an educator and advisor in the K-12 space to help guide HMH’s digital first, connected strategy and support its commitment to enhancing teaching and learning.”
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is a learning technology company committed to delivering connected solutions that engage learners, empower educators and improve student outcomes. As a provider of K–12 core curriculum, supplemental and intervention solutions and professional learning services, HMH partners with educators and school districts to uncover solutions that unlock students’ potential and extend teachers’ capabilities. HMH serves more than 50 million students and 3 million educators in 150 countries.
LPA Search Partners is a women-owned firm led by industry veterans Ms. Perlman and Anna McCormick Kelch. It offers expertise in the following industry verticals: Education, EdTech and knowledge services; information services & SaaS; digital media & publishing; data analytics; healthcare IT & services, professional services; non-profit; and board of directors. LPA specializes in searches for C-level executives and their direct reports. The firm is represented in New York, Chicago, Providence, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and London. The firm offers complementary services to recruitment including interim placements, executive coaching, M&A consultation, and a board practice with a special focus on diversity and women candidates.
According to Egon Zehnder, heightened expectations now placed on boards have elevated both the professional standards and personal commitment required of all directors.
This past year, boards around the world were facing a range of competing expectations for the new members they would add in order to meet their ever-growing remit. According to Heidrick & Struggles’ 2020 Board Monitor, modern boards are expected to possess significant expertise in areas as specialized and diverse as digital transformation, cybersecurity, corporate reputation management, sustainability and social media, to name just a few, as well as to include significant diversity in terms of gender, racial and ethnic background, and national origin, among other characteristics. Beyond adding specific expertise, it’s widely accepted that more diverse teams make better decisions.
At the same time, many boards find that the supply of independent-minded “board experienced” directors – especially those who can add vital forms of specialized skills and expertise – is limited. Such candidates are widely sought but can be hesitant to take on the intensive responsibilities now required of board service.
Most in demand are women, senior leaders with global experience, ethnically diverse professionals, and Millennials.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media