San Dieguito Union High School District’s superintendent search firm wrapped up its community input sessions and online survey, looking to present the final leadership profile for the district’s next leader to the board on Aug. 9. The firm of Hazard, Attea and Associates (HYA), which recently placed Solana Beach School District’s new superintendent Jodee Brentlinger, held the last of its three input sessions on Aug. 1, lightly attended by just two parents.
Dave Cash of HYA said all of the input they have gathered is valuable to help understand what the district’s strengths and challenges are as well as the personal and professional characteristics that teachers, staff, parents and students are looking for in the district’s next leader. Per the search calendar, the board anticipates beginning to interview top candidates in September and appoint a new superintendent in October.
“We need strong leadership that can withstand the union’s political pressure, be transparent, integrate controversial ideas, institute a collaborative style of communications, hold all stakeholders accountable for their actions, and is able to clean house when required,” wrote one parent in written comments to the firm, also asking for a “global thinker” who can embrace the diversity of the multi-cultural district.
At the Aug. 1 session at the district office, parent input expressed that the next superintendent should have many years of teaching experience and administrative credentials, ideally experience as a superintendent. The board waived the requirement for an educational background with former superintendent Eric Dill.
“I just feel when a person has been in the classroom that they bring so much more understanding and depth of decisiveness to make effective change,” the parent said.
District strengths listed by the parents included the district’s high academic performance, “quick and comprehensive” reaction to school safety, an emerging call to action about social emotional and wellness issues, parent involvement and the work of the high school foundations to close funding gaps and a movement toward more integration in special education.
As for challenges, parents expressed that there were still improvements to be made in support of programs such as special education and English as a second language, as well as the schools offering more career and technical education opportunities for all students and more counselors. One parent said more emphasis should be placed on retaining leadership positions, giving the example of the lack of stability of the Diegueno Middle School principal position.
Another longstanding problem, one parent said, is that stakeholders feel they are not being heard.
The “divisiveness” and “infighting” on the school board and its frequent 3-2 split votes has also been noted as a concern during all input sessions. At a June board meeting, HYA search team member Rudy Castruita said he did not believe that a split board would be a stumbling block for attracting quality candidates to the district.
“I’m hopeful that there are several good candidates out there to have a choice of the best of the best, because parents feel that this school district is the best,” a parent said at the last input session. “It’s time for us to start acting like it.”