Placer Union OKs timeline for superintendent search

Opportunities for public input coming soon
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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The search is on for a new superintendent at Placer Union High School District.

With current superintendent Dave Horsey set to retire in June, the district’s board of trustees approved an official process and timeline for the search in a special meeting at the district office on Tuesday, and received a detailed outline from Executive Director Dr. Wendell Chun of Education Leadership Services.

In the interest of being as thorough as possible, the board agreed earlier this month to hire Chun for an estimated $21,500 to conduct the search. An adjunct professor in the University of Southern California’s doctorate of education program and former superintendent of Oakdale Joint Unified School District, Chun has performed similar services for districts throughout the state with average daily attendances ranging from 170 to 35,000.

Chun explained his search plan for the board on Tuesday, distributing planning binders to each of the board members containing confidentiality agreements, suggested interview questions and other materials. The search will be open to anyone who applies, and though Chun promised to be very involved and available, one thing his contract will not allow him to do is make a decision.

“It’s really a consulter’s rule – we don’t tell you who to hire,” he said. “Board members ask, ‘Dr. Chun, who do you think we should hire?’ My answer is always, ‘I think you should hire the one you like the best.’”

Chun said a nationwide search would be more thorough but more expensive, and board member Ron Oates, to no objections from other members, requested that he keep the search in-state.

“California is so unique, to have a superintendent that comes in that’s never worked here before would be difficult,” he said.

Since the board approved his process, Chun said the next step is working with Lisa Burlison, the district’s executive assistant, to set up online input surveys and contact information for public input. Burlison hoped to announce details by the end of the week so residents or community organizations could schedule interviews with Chun on March 13 or 14 to share their thoughts on what the district needs in a new superintendent.

Chun also intends to collect the opinions of key “stakeholders” in the district: administrative staff, classified staff, the teacher association president and cabinet, classified association, booster groups, parent groups, or any others the board wants him to meet. He will also ask staff for top candidates in the district whom he should encourage to apply.

Following the collection of public input, the board will have a few days to review preferred qualifications, skills and abilities before approving an official leadership profile on March 19. It will also begin choosing interview questions at that time, and Education Leadership Services will start advertising in websites, databases, print publications and other major sources throughout the state based on the board’s choice of qualifications. Applications close at 5 p.m. April 8.

Chun said his firm would screen the applications and conduct comprehensive background checks on any candidates it would recommend for interview. The board will get to see all the files of qualified applicants who met the deadline, he said, but cannot reveal anything about them to the public.

“One of the hallmarks of our search process is the confidentiality we keep for candidates,” Chun said. “Because part of the process is to recruit sitting superintendents and sitting administrators who want to keep their confidentiality to the very end.”

Board members will work with Chun to settle on 20 interview questions for the first round of interviews on April 19, during which each candidate must be asked the same questions. The board may ask more open-ended questions in the second round of interviews on April 20 and visit the top candidate’s community, if desired, in the following days. Official dates for selection have yet to be determined.