Outreach has begun in the search for Rancho Santa Fe School District’s next superintendent. The district’s search consultants, George Cameron and Ernie Anastos, held parent input sessions on Sept. 14 and Sept. 17 to allow people to share their thoughts that will help them find the right candidate, the “perfect fit.”
“This district deserves, and I think demands, the very best superintendent that can move the kids forward and fit into the culture that is distinctive to Rancho Santa Fe,” Anastos said.
The consultants will follow up with an online survey to form a leadership profile that will guide their search—they plan to present the results of their outreach during an open board meeting.
Cameron and Anastos are working with a broad timeline. In a challenging time of year for a superintendent search they said it’s possible a selection could be made in November.
“We have not as a board given them any specific date required or desired to conduct or complete the search,” RSF School Board President Tyler Seltzer said at the Sept. 13 board meeting. “The term I came up with is ‘focused urgency’…to say we don’t want to be rushed but we want there to be some urgency in that there’s always something happening with the search.”
Board member Sarah Neal said she was encouraged that the board has supported open communication within the process. She noted the board will have to have some closed sessions due to confidential personal information but the goal is for the process to be as transparent as it can be.
During the Sept. 14 input session, some parents questioned whether the decision on a new superintendent should be made by a full board. Following Todd Frank’s resignation, there are only four members on the board and two seats are up for election in November.
After the election, the new board would not be installed until December, which would push the superintendent search out further.
“Every day it takes to get a new superintendent costs this district money,” one parent said, referencing the $805 daily rate for the interim superintendent and the $499 daily rate for the interim assistant principal. “It is costing us to live under this current structure and the board’s number one priority is fiduciary responsibility to this school.”
Another parent disagreed: “The board’s number one priority is the well-being of our kids. If that means putting a little extra money to do it right, let’s do it right.”
Parents also asked the consultants what would happen if the superintendent search brings back a shallow pool of candidates— “We just had a superintendent for two years,” one parent said. “We really cannot afford a false start.”
Anastos said there is always the option to start a search again and Cameron said they plan to be very honest and candid with the board about the candidates that apply. The candidates will be vetted by the consultants to determine the top applicants for interviews, “It should be a very nice slate of candidates,” Cameron said. Typically the board would enter into a three-year contract with the selected superintendent.
At the Sept. 14 input session, the 11 parents in attendance were asked to list the preferred characteristics of a superintendent, the unique and positive qualities of the district, as well as its challenges. Parents said Rancho Santa Fe’s good qualities included the community feel (“A district this size, the superintendent should know every child’s name,” noted Anastos), small class sizes, the $1 million annual foundation gift to the school and dedicated, loyal and skilled teaching staff.
Some district challenges generated included a perception that the middle school is not preparing students as well as private high schools, the budget and deficit spending, as well as the fact that the last superintendent who left was “well-loved by teachers and parents, just not the board.”
Parents were also asked to rank their priorities on how important it was that the new superintendent have experience as a superintendent, experience in finance/budget planning and development, experience in facility management, and evidence of increasing administrative responsibility and complexity.
All of the questions parents were asked in the input sessions will also be mirrored in the parent survey that will be available online through Sept. 24.
Additionally, at any time throughout the search, the community is welcome to provide input to the search firm via email. Thoughts, comments and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org