San Dieguito casts net for superintendent search firms

The SDUHSD board meets on Dec. 13.
The SDUHSD board meets on Dec. 13.

(Karen Billing)

SDUHSD board also needs to appoint a new interim superintendent


The San Dieguito Union High School District board is taking steps to fill both its interim superintendent and superintendent roles.

At the Dec. 13 board meeting, the board approved issuing a request for proposals for a superintendent search firm to help them find the district’s next leader and they also made a decision on how to replace their replacement interim superintendent.

Interim Superintendent Tina Douglas, who had been serving in the role since Cheryl James-Ward was placed on leave and then terminated in April, resigned last month. Douglas aims to move back into her role as the associate superintendent of business services effective Jan. 31, 2023 or whenever her replacement has been found.

To fill the interim superintendent post, the board agreed to request a list from the San Diego County Board of Education, vet the candidates in an open session and then make an appointment, possibly at the January meeting.

“We need a superintendent and I think that’s where we need to put all our energy and resources,” SDUHSD Board President Rigma Viskanta said. “That’s critical to get that right. I would hate to get bogged down in interim superintendent discussion and process.”

The district’s last interim superintendent Lucile Lynch, who took over following the resignation of Robert Haley in 2021, was selected through an open process where the district solicited applications from interested parties.

“It should be an open process like last time,” SDUHSD Board Clerk Phan Anderson said. “If a qualified candidate comes forward, we should welcome them.”

SDUHSD Trustee Katrina Young said her preference is to start with what the San Diego County Board of Education offers and then if the SDUHSD board is not satisfied they can expand the search out: “At least we will know everyone on the list is experienced, qualified and credentialed, and we can then realize who is the best fit and can offer us what we need right now.”

Last September, the board approved a contract not to exceed $25,000 with JG Consulting to conduct the superintendent search. Per their agreement, there is a clause that states if the superintendent ceases employment within two years for any reason, they will conduct a new search free of charge, just the cost of advertising.

As Ward served less than a year, the board had the option to go with JG Consulting again or go out for bid for a new search firm. The board was in favor of issuing the request for proposals in order to explore all of its options.

Young said those options could include the San Diego County Office of Education, which conducts searches essentially free of charge, save for the cost of advertising which is no more than $5,000. As a service to mostly smaller school districts, the county office has done 10 searches since 2017, including for the Bonsall, Sweetwater and Ramona School Districts. Young said the county would be well-versed on who is available and interested, the district’s specific needs and who would be a good match.

Following the meeting, the request for proposals was posted and applications will be accepted through Jan. 20.

JG’s search process last year took just one month before Ward was selected and some community members were critical of the expedited timeline.

The board’s goal is for this search to be different: “We’re not in any rush,” SDUHSD Trustee Micheal Allman said.

Young said they have learned that the ideal recruiting time for a superintendent is late winter or early spring. The district will be poised to start the search early next year and hopefully have a new superintendent start before the 2023-24 school year to make for an easy transition, she said.