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School board gets superintendent search update

Special closed session meeting scheduled for May 2

The Pleasanton community wants a schools superintendent who is motivational, collaborative and committed.

That’s what the school board heard Tuesday night as part of an update on the search for PUSD’s new superintendent provided by representatives of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, the firm running the search.

Last month, the board held a special meeting with HYA representatives where a tentative timeline for hiring a new superintendent was established. It called for the new leader to be appointed at the June 13 regular board meeting and start on the job July 1, the first day of the 2017-18 school year.

As part of its work, the firm met with residents and community groups to get feedback on qualities they’d like to see in PUSD’s next leader. An online survey was also open from March 14 to 31 for community members to provide input.

On Tuesday, HYA associates Barbara Young and Jim Negri presented the survey results and stakeholder group’s input as a leadership profile that Young said the new superintendent will use “as a foundation of understanding about your community.”

The associates conducted personal interviews or focus groups with administrators, trustees, PUSD staff, parents, and students, and community members -- 121 people, all told. Those interviewed consistently said they wanted a superintendent who is collaborative, “inspires, motivates, and unifies stakeholders,” and is an engaged communicator, according to the profile.

They also listed the community involvement, schools and staff among the district’s strengths.

Online survey respondents -- there were 1,013 in all -- listed school safety, technology integration, student college and career readiness and effective administrators and staff among the district’s biggest strengths.

But only 23% of all survey-takers marked “agree” or “strongly agree” in response to the statement, “There is transparent communication from the district.”

“The district is fiscally responsible” prompted 27% to mark a positive response, while 30% of respondents agreed, “The district is heading in the right direction.”

The four statements they deemed most important in selecting a new superintendent were: “Foster a positive, professional climate of mutual trust and respect among faculty, staff and administrators”; “Recruit, employ, and retain effective personnel throughout the district and its schools”; “Provide transparent communication,” and “Effectively plan and manage the long-term financial health of the district.”

Parents of students represented two-thirds of all survey-takers, while the next largest group was certificated staff at 16% followed by classified and confidential staff at 9%.

“With the number of survey responses, you have a large amount of data for goal-setting,” Negri told the board.

Trustees, including vice-president Mark Miller, briefly weighed in on characteristics they’d particularly like to see in the next superintendent.

“The one I was strongly for is critical thinker,” Miller said. “I really want to make sure we’re looking at all sides of an issue and all risks.”

Trustees will now each submit several questions they’d like candidates to be asked to HYA, and each recommend one community member they’d like to serve on a panel that will interview top candidates May 9. Panelists will serve all day and have to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Besides the five community members, the panel will also consist of interim superintendent Micaela Ochoa, a school principal, a student, and two union representatives.

At 5 p.m. on May 2, the board will meet in a special closed session meeting where HYA representatives will present them with the top candidates. The board will subsequently conduct first interviews May 5-7.

The district has been working to appoint a permanent superintendent since the school board fired Rick Rubino in January. Deputy superintendent of business services Ochoa was formally appointed interim superintendent weeks later.

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