It is a joy to work with professionals in their field! You get the rare opportunity to work and learn with someone whose life is embedded in their chosen field of endeavor. In our industry, you can't learn the real meat and potatoes of show design in a classroom anywhere in the country. And, apprenticeship seems to have died out, having once been a reliable means of developing the knowledge and education as a growing designer. When you have the opportunity to commission a designer for their work, there are some things to keep in mind to make your experience and that of your students the best one possible.
1. You do not "hire" a designer, you commission them as an artist. This is an important distinction between hiring an instructor or clinician. The designer (whether that be in the musical or visual fields) maintain intellectual property of their creation. Therefore, it's important to understand that not only is the artist you are hiring the creator at the drawing board of your show's design, but at any time throughout the season should you wish to have changes to your show made, you MUST consult them. The show is their intellectual property. Most designers (especially those who understand how to design successfully for the achievement of a competitive ensemble) will make the changes that you and your program need, and will even be able to render it in a more creative way than a merely functional "fix." ALWAYS remember that the final say in any designer's creation is the designer himself/herself.
2. When you work with a professional who designs or arranges shows for a living, this is their livelihood and timely payments are not supplemental income, they ARE income. This is a business, and designers and instructors in this industry depend on the punctual payment of their fees. Imagine how you'd feel if the principal of your school decided to delay your paycheck! As full-time designers and instructors, we have the opportunity to work with multiple programs across the nation as well as develop a first-named basis relationship with the judges and other designers. So, you're not just paying for a service or an hourly task, you're getting an invaluable resource in the industry.
3. Designers do not have to be local. Your instructional staff needs to be present at as many rehearsals as possible in order to develop training and clean show repertoire. The designer doesn't have to be at your rehearsals, and often in order to have them their can cost quite a bit more than your instructional staff. Though it is a very valuable investment to have your designer come in from time to time throughout the season, it really is more important to have an instructional staff that is not so personally invested in the design of the show.
I hope these points help you in your process!