Placer Union to hire search firm

District to spend $21K to find new superintendent
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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An Oakdale search firm will aid in the process of selecting Placer Union High School District’s next superintendent.

At its regular meeting on Thursday, the district’s board of trustees approved a motion to hire Educational Leadership Services to develop an advertising and application process, do community research, set up interviews and generally seek out candidates who fit the board’s criteria. The board has until June to find a replacement before current superintendent Dave Horsey retires.

Educational Leadership Services is led by Executive Director Dr. Wendell Chun, an adjunct professor in the University of Southern California’s doctorate of education program and former superintendent of Oakdale Joint Unified School District. According to his pitch, Education Leadership Services has performed similar services for districts throughout the state with average daily attendances from 170 to 35,000.

Board President Lynn MacDonald said the board received impressive presentations from three firms on Wednesday, including Leadership Associates and Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, but liked Dr. Chun’s offer for post-selection services.

“One reason we chose Dr. Chun was because part of his services is that he helps the new superintendent after the superintendent is chosen,” she said. “He’s available for help, mentoring or whatever.”

Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Doug Marquand said the cost estimate for Chun’s services is $21,500, though the board has yet to sign a contract.

MacDonald said the decision is important enough to warrant the expense of looking outside the district, because a lot more dollars are riding on the outcome. Even though current superintendent Dave Horsey was an in-house appointment, she said, the board still did a search to be sure he was the best possible candidate for the job.

“We want all people interested to apply, in house and out of the house. If you have a search team and they interview everyone, then you’re assuring the general public that you’ve hired the very best candidate, but we’re encouraging all candidates to apply,” she said. “Out of a budget of $38 million, it’s worth it.”

The board will sit down with Dr. Chun in two weeks, on a currently unspecified date, to hash out the details of the search.

Board clerk Maureen Ward said Chun will present the board with a specific timeline of when and where he will advertise the job, and at that time the board will give him a list of necessary qualifications for prospective candidates. She said the board cannot accept applications until it agrees on said qualifications, though the community will eventually have some input as well.

“(Dr. Chun) does the proposal and writes it up, and he may advise us that, ‘You guys are crazy to want that (qualification)’ … so we don’t know,” she said. “One of the things that appealed to us – and actually all three search teams would have provided this – is that they do a lot of information gathering out in the community as directed by the board … so there will certainly be an opportunity for the community at large and our staff to give input. It’s a good process for our district to go through.”

MacDonald claimed there is “nothing written out” as far as a job description for the superintendent, but she read from the board’s list of preferred qualities: understanding all aspects of budgeting, ability to commingle resources to meet educational programmatic needs, ability to explain budget decisions to the community, have knowledge of the district’s PLC (professional learning communities) process for working collaboratively, decisive leadership with declining enrollment, and on top of the list, “keep budget priorities aligned to the district’s educational curricular goals.”

MacDonald said budget issues resulting from declining enrollment will be the next superintendent’s most critical test.

“We need someone who understands the budget, and someone who is a curriculum leader, someone who is good with personnel. Staff development is very important to our district … teacher training to have the best teachers in the classroom,” she said. “We have strong people in leadership positions right now … We have a great team right there in the district office. They don’t need to hire anybody new. We have good principals, we don’t have any problems there. It’s just grappling with the budget and declining enrollment.”