San Dieguito board sets timeline to select new superintendent

San Dieguito Union High School District administration building.
(Karen Billing)

The San Dieguito Union High School District board approved moving forward with a new timeline to appoint its next superintendent, aiming to potentially have its next leader selected by Sept. 27 and the contract ratified by the Oct. 14 board meeting.

The board vote at the Sept. 3 special meeting was 3-1 with Trustee Katrina Young opposed as she did not believe the new timeline values stakeholder input.

The other option on the table discussed last month was a two-and-a-half-month-long process, with the board approving the new superintendent’s contract by Nov. 18.

The approved timeline is still subject to availability by the yet-to-be selected search firm and is “not set in stone” and can be adjusted —as SDUHSD President Mo Muir said, the timeline sets target goal dates and “just gets the ball rolling.”

Muir said she did not want to delay any longer as they are heading into the holiday season and she wants a permanent superintendent in place to address the issues the district is facing.

The board had resolved in June to not hire a new superintendent until January 2022 and Interim Superintendent Lucile Lynch agreed to stay on with the district until Dec. 31.

In May, the board issued a request for proposals for a search firm and by the June 7 deadline, they had only received three responses that none of the board members were prepared to move forward with. By the new Sept. 3 deadline, they received an additional two.

Per the approved timeline, the board plans to interview and select a superintendent search firm on Sept. 9 from the pool of five firms.

From Sept. 13-20 they would conduct an online survey of focus groups, advertise and recruit for the position.

The previous option gave three weeks for that process and Young said she could not agree with spending half the time on one of the most important jobs they have as a board.

“I don’t want to shortchange our community or shortchange their voice,” Young said, noting the main difference between the two timeline options was the voice of the community in a “robust” vetting, recruitment and advertising for a candidate best suited for the needs of the district.

During public comment, parents also spoke up against the “condensed” or “rushed” timeline to find the next superintendent. A rushed timeline, parent Heather Dugdale said, is not transparent, inclusive or collaborative.

“The primary function of a school board is to hire a superintendent. I can’t think of anything more important than finding the right person that will lead our district in this critical time,” said Duncan Brown, president of the San Dieguito Faculty Association. “Why the rush?”

Per the approved timeline, all of the advertising and interviewing for the superintendent position would occur within a month but Lynch noted that the position has been available since May and people are aware of the opening. Trustee Michael Allman said that if the board needs more time, they can always take more time.

“We’re all in agreement we want the best candidate possible,” Vice President Melisse Mossy said. “We are not trying to expedite this in a way that diminishes the input of our stakeholders.”

Under both timeline options, the board will be short a member in interviewing superintendent candidates as the special election for the new Area 5 trustee will be held on Nov. 2.