Turnover of superintendents impacts Marin school districts

In the last several months, the school districts of San Rafael City Schools, Mill Valley, Novato Unified and Sausalito Marin City have each announced that their current superintendents plan on departing their respective districts at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. 

In November 2022, San Rafael City Schools superintendent Jim Hogeboom said he planned on retiring at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. 

On Jan. 11, superintendent Kimberly Berman of the Mill Valley School District announced that she, too, would leave her position at the same time. Berman was one year into a three-year contract and no reason for her departure was given. 

In early February, the Novato Unified School District stated that they hired a new superintendent, Tracy Smith, to replace the retiring interim superintendent Jan La Torre-Derby. 

Finally, Sausalito Marin City School District announced that current superintendent Itoco Garcia would step down at the end of the school year after a mutual agreement with the Board of Trustees. 

The turnover in Marin school administrators is part of a larger trend, noticed Annie Sherman, president of the Board of Trustees in the Larkspur Corte Madera School District.

“This problem is not something that is specific to Marin. It’s something that we’re seeing nationwide,” Sherman said. “I think the pandemic was an extremely stressful time for superintendents [which may have contributed to some of their departures]. They were really making the decisions as far as when and how to get back in the classroom. We were all very concerned about safety, so the stakes were extremely high.” 

Sherman also noted that although many superintendents have announced their departure at the same time, they are all individual circumstances. 

“I don’t think you can glean major generalizations from the departures of the superintendents. I think you really have to look at the individual districts and look at what the situation is in each district,” Sherman said. 

Laura Myers is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction and Student Support Services for the Mill Valley School District. She noticed that turnover in administration is also common at this time of year to allow districts enough time to find a well-suited candidate before summer.

 To find someone to fill an open superintendent position at this time, it is common for a district’s administration to hire a search firm that can broaden the search for candidates. 

“Mill Valley hired leadership associates to help them identify candidates to interview. It’s also very normal for [the agency] to gather input from all the stakeholders, the caregivers, the students and the staff to find out what their priorities are, and then [use that guidance] to help match the desired qualities of a candidate to the people that are applying. Then [the firm] recommends those people to be interviewed by the Board of Trustees, who interviews candidates and makes a decision on who to hire,” Myers said.

Because of the recent turnover of administration in Marin, other school districts could be affected by disruption of communication between schools as well as shared programs and services. But Myers finds that one of the biggest impacts, both negative and positive, is on those who work and attend schools in the district. 

“[The departure of a superintendent] provides a sense of uncertainty for people, not knowing who’s coming next. And I think that can cause some unease. But I think that’s easily rectified when a new [superintendent] is announced,” Myers said. “Students often pick up on what the adults around them are experiencing … And having a new leader provides a new vision for the district, so that could eventually have a positive or negative impact on students depending on what the new person’s vision is.”

While there are no current impacts of new hires, the search for new superintendents continues in multiple Marin school districts. All four current superintendents plan to officially depart on June 30.