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RSF School board considers national superintendent search firms

R. Roger Rowe School.
(Karen Billing)

In the coming months, the Rancho Santa Fe School District board will be making one of the most important decisions a school board has to make: hiring a new superintendent. The board is now reviewing search firms to help them recruit a high-quality candidate to replace Superintendent Donna Tripi who is resigning at the end of the school year after a little over four years with the district.

According to National School Boards Association, the average tenure for a superintendent is 3.2 to 4.5 years.

For the record:

6:59 p.m. Nov. 12, 2022Annette Ross is the board’s vice president, not Rosemarie Rohatgi

At the Oct. 28 special board meeting, the board considered the services provided by the San Diego County Office of Education. The board also interviewed the private, national superintendent search firms of McPherson and Jacobson, and BWP & Associates its Oct. 14 meeting.

After some discussion, the board narrowed it down to the two private firms. They will vote to select a firm at an upcoming meeting to get the search process started possibly as soon as November.

The majority of the board (President Jee Manghani, Trustee Rosemarie Rohatgi and Trustee John Tree) was leaning toward hiring BWP & Associates, a firm that stated 99% of the superintendents they have placed have successfully completed their first contract, usually two or three years.

While based in Chicago, its search team would include Leighangela Brady, a former assistant superintendent in the neighboring Encinitas Union School District, now the superintendent of the National School District in National City.

The trustees were willing to use BWP on the condition that they would get to review all applicants who had applied for the position.

The other top choice preferred by Trustee Kali Kim, McPherson and Jacobson, is a partner of the California School Boards Association that has conducted over 60 searches for California school districts since 2013.

BWP gave an estimated cost of $16,900, and McPherson and Jacobson provided a cost not to exceed $16,400. The costs include things like advertising for the position, stakeholder meetings, online surveys, video interviews of candidates, background checks and travel expenses.

The San Diego County Office of Education’s fee would be no more than $5,000. As a service to mostly smaller school districts, the county office has done 10 searches since 2017, including for the Bonsall, Sweetwater and Ramona School Districts.

Vice President Annette Ross was interested in using the local option but, as Tree said, the national firms will be able to tap into a much larger national network, which he said will be beneficial in finding the best quality candidate to lead their district.


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