Mayor Jon Mitchell says the cost of the hiring an outside search firm to help find candidates for the next superintendent of New Bedford Schools is money well spent.

In his weekly appearance on WBSM, Mayor Mitchell disclosed that the firm of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates would be paid $27,700 for their assistance in the search.

"That was the lowest bid, and it also happened to be by the most qualified firm," he said. "The search we did last time, five years ago, cost $23,000, so this is not too far off from last time."

School Committee member Chris Cotter told WBSM's Brian Thomas this past Saturday morning that he sent a letter to school department officials earlier in January requesting information on the cost of the search firm, which he deemed to be a "waste of money." Cotter contends the School Committee, and the Screening Committee that has been put together for the superintendent search, can do the work required to find viable candidates.

But Mitchell said having the search firm helps tap into "as broad of a network as possible."

"We want to make sure we have the biggest, most flush pool of high-quality candidates as possible by the time the application deadline closes (on February 15)," Mitchell said. "Because once it closes, your hand is dealt."

The mayor said the firm already "has at its fingertips a vast network of possible candidates," will do all the necessary background checks, and that they are well-practiced at working with school committees and communities to determine what they believe are the most important attributes a superintendent should possess.

"Having a robust public process is really important," he said.

Mitchell also noted that employing a search firm is important because it will "convey a level of professionalism and competence that attracts the best candidates."

"There is an expectation among the superintendent community out there, that if you don't have a search firm, you're not all that serious about finding the best candidate," Mitchell said. "In a $130 million dollar budget, $27,000 is not all that much."