Community outreach to start this month on RSF School District superintendent search

The R. Roger Rowe School campus.
(Karen Billing)

An educator with a vision for student excellence, an effective communicator and collaborator, a community leader—these are just a few of the qualifications that will be listed on the Rancho Santa Fe School District’s job posting for its next superintendent.

At the board’s Nov. 10 meeting, they set a schedule for its accelerated search process and refined the job announcement criteria, aiming to potentially select a new superintendent by February with a start date of March through July.

Superintendent Donna Tripi announced plans to resign at the end of the school year but would depart sooner if a replacement is found.

The board’s superintendent search will be led by William Huyett of McPherson and Jacobson, a retired educator who served as a teacher and administrator for 38 years in Northern California. Huyett expects to start advertising for the position next week, followed by community engagement including an online survey and stakeholder meetings Nov. 28-30.

The small groups of stakeholder meetings will include teachers, classified staff, union leadership, students, the Rancho Santa Fe Education Foundation, parents and community members. At least two open forums will also be held. Huyett said the same questions will be asked of every group: what are good things about your community and school, what are skills and attributes looking for in the school’s next leader and what issues the next superintendent should know about.

“Our theme is transparency. We really think it’s very important during this process,” Huyett said. “Every school district has issues. You’ve got a wonderful school here, a wonderful set of children and a great community…this is an opportunity to get the right leader for you and to get the issues out there in an open manner.”

Vice President Annette Ross said it’s important for all parents to have a voice in this process. As one parent said during public comment, stakeholders should include people who are unhappy with the school: “The conversations may be uncomfortable but that is the only way we’re going to make change.”

The closing date for applications will be Jan. 11, followed by screening and board interviews of the top candidates on Jan. 23. McPherson and Jacobson also encourages the use of a stakeholder panel to be part of interview process. The proposed 15-member panel made up of an even split of staff and parents and one student will conduct a highly structured interview of the candidates—they don’t rank the candidates or give recommendations but can offer the board what they see as strengths and concerns.

In the past, the district has not hired people with superintendent experience. Dr. Roger Rowe was superintendent for 37 years before longtime teacher Lindy Delaney took over as superintendent for 12 years—both her successor David Jaffe and Tripi had only served as principals prior to being hired.

Trustee John Tree stated that the board does not want to have someone learning on the job and Trustee Rose Rohatgi agreed: “The school really needs to have really good leadership.” As the majority of the board wanted someone with experience, they added a requirement to the job description for a candidate with three years of experience as a superintendent or assistant superintendent.

The job description will also include the board’s intention for a superintendent who plans to stay for at least five years: “We’re not looking for an interim bandaid,” Tree said.