School board seeks search firm to hire superintendent by July

Shauna Perigo

Following Superintendent Laurie Kimbrel’s announcement of her upcoming resignation, the Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) Board of Trustees voted to attempt to find a new superintendent by July 1 of 2015, as opposed to hiring an interim superintendent to serve from July 2015 to July 2016.

This decision occurred shortly after a public comment session at the Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 28, during which the audience was given the opportunity to voice their opinions. Comments were made on both the issue of the interim superintendent and the issue of using a search firm to conduct the hiring process.

Board members discuss the issue of hiring a new superintendent at the TUHSD Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 28.
Board members discuss the issue of hiring a new superintendent at the TUHSD Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 28.

Community members, including Redwood science teachers Todd Samet and Skip Lovelady, expressed discontent with Superintendent Kimbrel and recent events in the TUHSD. Samet came forward to speak on behalf of 64 tenured Redwood teachers who put together a signed document communicating their concerns.

“Over the past six years, we have become increasingly concerned with the direction of our school district,” Samet read. “The prevailing climate is one where professional experience is not valued, dissenting opinions are not tolerated, and staff morale is at an all-time low. In particular, the district’s unwillingness to accept constructive feedback from staff has resulted in serious program changes that are poorly conceived and unevenly implemented.”

Lovelady stressed that he and the other teachers wanted the school board to seriously consider the issues they raised.

“The recent resignation of the current superintendent will not on its own solve the problems of the Tamalpais district,” Lovelady said. “The selection of the next superintendent will determine whether those problems are perpetuated or successfully addressed. We would advocate that the board put in place a transparent and inclusive selection process that includes real input from parents, students, teachers, and the community at large.”

Although Lovelady and other community members urged the board to elect an interim superintendent to give them more time to find a permanent one, the board decided to hire a search firm to find a new superintendent by July 2015. The board will only hire an interim superintendent if they cannot find a capable candidate in the next five months.

“I implore you to choose to elect an interim superintendent, hopefully for the reasons that you see tonight: that the district has an enormous problem with teacher morale, which equates to performance in the classroom,” Lovelady said. “If your incentive is to fix this district and move on from the Laurie Kimbrel years, you cannot do this in the time frame that we’re talking about. You need a full year to do that.  If your incentive is to say we want to move on from these past six years, and I will acknowledge teacher morale is very low…If you acknowledge that, then you need to understand there has got to be more time between now and the 2015-2016 year to hire another superintendent.”

Members of the board stressed that five months is a long enough time frame to find and elect a permanent candidate.

“I have been assured that our timeline is attainable, that we have enough time to find somebody,” said board member Laura Anderson. “We have five months between now and when we have no superintendent to figure out what we’re going to do.”

The board did emphasize that they would not rush to find somebody at the risk of selecting the wrong person for the position.

“I think we should do our darndest using an inclusive process to find the right candidate by July 1, but under no circumstances should we settle for someone who we think is not the right candidate… If we can’t find that person, then we should have an interim solution,” said board member Michael Futterman, echoing the opinions of the rest of the board.

Other audience members urged the board to use a committee of teachers, parents, and community members to choose the new superintendent as opposed to a search firm or a collection of board members. However, the board stressed how important it was to hire a search firm to conduct the process.

“I do think we need professional assistance to go out and cast a net, whether we find someone to help us out in the interim or someone to sign a contract on a more permanent basis,” Anderson said. “This is not something I think the five of us can do on our own. I do think we need help, and after talking to other neighboring districts and several districts like ourselves, I think that is the way we need to go.”

Futterman acknowledged that the board will take into consideration the suggestions brought up during the Public Comment portion of the meeting, but will ultimately make the decision themselves.

“Whatever process we go through and select, it needs to be an inclusive process,” Futterman said. “There’s clearly a lot of problems with morale in this district, that people don’t feel like they’ve been listened to…In the process that we go through, we’re certainly going to take that into account, and I hope that you as a community assume good will on our part in terms of listening and taking all that into account. That said, it’s the board’s job. This is probably our most important job. It’s not a job that we delegate. It’s not a job that we can delegate.”

Board members Laura Anderson and Chuck Ford volunteered to be part of the two-person sub committee that will choose a search firm out of six potential firms contacted earlier by Anderson and board president Cindy McCauley. The board will send out requests for proposals to these firms on Thursday, Jan. 29 and then choose three to interview.

Board member Bob Walter stated that the search firm will cost about $20,000.