San Dieguito taps superintendent search firm, selects interim leader

The San Dieguito Union High School District board has unanimously selected Hazard, Attea and Associates to lead the search for its next superintendent. The firm also recently placed neighboring Solana Beach School District’s new superintendent.

“Hiring a superintendent is the greatest responsibility of a school board,” SDUHSD President Beth Hergesheimer said in a release. “We take this duty seriously and are looking forward to a comprehensive search with a thorough vetting process to find a superintendent to lead this amazing district.”

The board selected the firm for its familiarity with the district and with searches in the state, as well as the strong search team members provided to the district.

The Hazard, Attea and Associates (HYA) San Dieguito search team will include Rudy Castruita, who served as the San Diego County Office of Education superintendent for 12 years, and Dave Cash, a former superintendent of the Santa Barbara, Clovis, Claremont and Fullerton School Districts.

“(Castruita) was an outstanding county superintendent and it makes me feel very comfortable having the search in the hands of someone like him,” SDUHSD Trustee Joyce Dalessandro said.

While the firm conducts the search, the board has selected Larry Perondi to serve as interim superintendent and will look to approve his contract on June 21. Perondi retired from Oceanside Unified School District in 2014, where he served as superintendent for seven years. He began his career as a teacher at Sweetwater Union High School District and rose to deputy superintendent during his 32 years at the district prior to moving to Oceanside.

“Bringing in an experienced and respected superintendent like Mr. Perondi to handle the demands of that office will allow our leadership team to continue their focus on the daily activities of running the school district,” Hergesheimer said in a news release. “We have so many important initiatives such as transition to new science standards, professional development of teachers, increased focus on student wellness and school safety, and implementation of a new special education strategic plan that we did not want to put that work on hold by adding the superintendent’s responsibilities to any administrator’s already full plate.”

With the summer search timeline, trustee Mo Muir was concerned about getting necessary parent input. Castruita and Cash said they hope to meet with stakeholders as soon as possible through town hall meetings to find out the strengths and challenges of the district and the characteristics people are looking for in the next superintendent. The firm also plans to use an online survey to help develop a leadership profile to get the best possible candidate for the district.

During public comment, parent Wendy Gumb provided some input on the characteristics of the next superintendent –she said a lack of leadership at the administrative level has caused some angst for parents and students in the district.

She said the next superintendent should champion the needs of the students who are the most vulnerable, have a proven track record of uplifting all students and a balanced approach to the complexities of running a high-performing school district.

“The next superintendent should do a thorough accounting to determine if the current operational budget is sustainable because the deficit gaps are not being closed at the end of the year like we have been told,” Gumb said.

Parent Rita Macdonald questioned, as has been pointed out in past board meetings by some parents and teachers, whether the fact that they don’t always have a unified board will prevent them from finding quality candidates.

Castruita said that he did not see a split board to be a stumbling block: “If board members are all thinking alike, there’s no thinking going on,” said Castruita.

Castruita said that they recently led the search for Los Angeles Unified which has seven board members that rarely agree but they all came to a consensus on the superintendent candidate that HYA brought forth.

“It won’t be difficult finding good candidates,” Cash said, adding that SDUHSD is considered the premier high school district in the state. “They will want to serve this community.”

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