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RSF School taps consultant to lead superintendent search

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The RSF School board discussed the next steps in superintendent search at its Aug. 17 meeting.
(Karen Billing)

The Rancho Santa Fe School District has an open superintendent position to fill, but first the board had to appoint a new board president after Todd Frank’s Aug. 10 resignation. The board voted unanimously to appoint Tyler Seltzer as president at its Aug. 17 special meeting. The board seat left vacant by Frank’s resignation will be filled in the November election so the board will be the “fantastic four” until then, Seltzer said.

“It seems a little crazy but it’s an exciting time,” Seltzer said, nodding to RSF Education Foundation Director of Development Barbara Edwards who stated earlier in the meeting that while transitions can bring a lot of anxiety, the foundation’s outlook for 2018-19 is “relentlessly positive.”

“Relentlessly positive,” Seltzer remarked. “I think everybody should adhere to that. Onward and upward.”

At the meeting, the board agreed to keep moving onward by hiring Dr. George Cameron, a longtime superintendent of the National School District in National City, as its consultant to lead its superintendent search. Board member Scott Kahn said Cameron stood out distinctly from the four proposals the district received, many of them from larger firms.

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“He’s walked the talk very successfully in a difficult district,” Kahn said of Cameron. “Just an unbelievably committed, knowledgeable and nice human being. I think he can really help us.”

Board members said the boutique nature of Cameron’s services will allow the board to take a different approach in its superintendent search, one more suited to Rancho Santa Fe’s small school district.

“We want someone, in my opinion, that can be as customized and personalized as possible in their dealings with candidates, when they talk to the board and when they meet with parents,” said newly-appointed Board President Tyler Seltzer. “You want someone to have that personalized touch.”

Clerk Sarah Neal said it was also important that the board selected a consultant like Cameron that allows the board to review all applicants rather than just bring forward a handful of top candidates as many other search firms do.

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During public comment, parent Kali Kim spoke about some of the frustrations the community has had with the voluntary resignation of Superintendent David Jaffe in late July.

“The board has to make very tough decisions and there are reasons some of these decisions have to be made in closed session. However, in light of the sudden and unexpected departure of our superintendent, I believe our community deserves a little more color,” said Kim. “Examples of color could be: was the decision made due to a dispute with the board, financial disagreements, performance issues and what we plan to do with the new search so that this doesn’t happen again. I believe this color should be provided, especially because it was this board who had interviewed and approved hiring of the former superintendent.”

According to the release agreement in exchange for Jaffe’s voluntary resignation, the district paid Jaffe a sum of $174,166 or the equivalent to the monthly salary of the superintendent ($15,833) multiplied by 11 months. The district also agreed to maintain Jaffe’s health coverage for 11 months through June 20, 2019 or until he obtains coverage elsewhere.

“Without color, it appears on the surface this quick and hasty decision has us paying for the former superintendent for a year who is not working at the school, an interim superintendent, a consultant to help the interim superintendent and a temporary assistant principal,” Kim said. “All of this for the administration of a one-school district.”

The contract for Interim Superintendent Kim Pinkerton and the as-yet unnamed temporary assistant principal are expected to be reviewed at the board’s Sept. 13 board meeting. The consultant to provide mentoring/consulting services for the interim superintendent that Kim referenced was before the board on Aug. 16 but it was pulled from the agenda.

Seltzer said that as Jaffe’s resignation is a personnel issue, the board cannot comment further on the issue.

“My one priority right now and going into the future is that we are very transparent and pro-active with our communication from the board to the community as much as we can,” Neal said, noting that she has heard the community’s concerns.

The board has committed to providing a superintendent search tab on the school website to keep the public informed on the search as it continues.

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