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Chicago Debates Selects KEES to Find Next Executive Director

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Nonprofit and public sector executive search firm KEES has been retained to find the next Executive Director for Chicago Debates. Chicago Debates focuses on advancing the educational achievement, community contributions, and life success of Chicago’s youth through the transformative power of academic debate. KEES Vice President Laura Weinman and Consultant Stacy Harker will lead the search following the successful tenure of the organization’s current leader, Dr. Toinette Gunn.

This partnership builds upon KEES’ history and expanding relationships with individual Leagues across the Urban Debate network, as well as with the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues. KEES has frequently been retained to provide Executive Search, Consulting, Event Planning, and Interim Staffing services within the Debate League community.

In addition to placing Dr. Toinette Gunn in 2018, KEES’ most recent Chicago Debates placement is Marissa Barnes as Director of Development. Barnes’s focus and commitment to providing access and opportunities to Chicago’s youth will further help Chicago Debates bridge the educational opportunity gap for Chicago Public School students. 

The Chicago Debates Board of Directors selected KEES after previously working together on several successful projects, both search and consulting. “We were looking for someone that had an in-depth understanding and experience with debate placements,” said David Nadig, Board Chair and Senior Counsel with Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP. “The KEES team and their excellence in executive search stood out because they were familiar with our mission, provide outstanding service, and are dedicated to the debate movement. We are thrilled to have selected KEES and look forward to this renewed partnership as we search for our next Executive Director.”

As a premier executive search firm, KEES specializes in executive searches for top executive positions such as Chief Executive Officer, Executive Director, and President roles and has a long history of placing accomplished executives within the Chicago metropolitan area and in the state of Illinois. 

“We are thrilled to have been selected to continue driving forward the missions of Chicago Debates, a leader in the national Urban Debate network,” said Laura Weinman. “We congratulate Dr. Toinette Gunn on her impactful tenure and look forward to beginning the search process for the next leader.” 

Confidential inquiries, candidate recommendations, and questions concerning this upcoming Executive Director search may be addressed to 

About KEES 

KEES (formerly Alford Executive Search) is a non-profit executive search firm that builds diverse teams and dynamic leaders in the non-profit and public sectors. A woman owned and operated firm, KEES offers a full array of non-profit consulting services, including executive search, leadership development, interim staffing, and HR support. For more information, please visit

About Chicago Debates   

Chicago Debates envisions a world in which Chicago youth are empowered to find their voice, succeed in college and career, and become leaders in their community. Since its inception in 1995, Chicago Debates’ Chicago Public Schools partnership has grown from an initial five high schools on the south side to over 90 middle and high schools throughout the city. Chicago Debates has become one of the most competitive policy urban debate leagues in the country, and a national model for other urban leagues. We envision a world in which Chicago youth are empowered to find their voice, succeed in college and career, and become leaders in their community. For more information, visit  


Jamie Sheffler