ENCINITAS — The San Dieguito Union High School District has been without a permanent superintendent since Dr. Robert Haley abruptly left the district in April. This week, the school board is conducting interviews with its first applicants for a full-time replacement.
According to JG Consulting, the Texas-based firm hired by the district to facilitate the search for a new superintendent, they have held nearly 50 meetings and have received over 700 online surveys from community members and faculty.
The application due date for the position passed Monday and the board will meet in a closed session on Oct. 7 and 8 to interview applicants for the first time.
The process began for JG Consulting on September 13 and according to the timeline given to the board, they are expecting a finalist to be named on October 14.
James Guerra of JG Consulting described the process of organizing so many meetings in such a short window of time as needing an “all hands on deck approach”.
JG Consulting identified five objectives from the meetings and surveys they are recommending the board take into consideration when they review the applicants this week. These include good collaboration between the board and the superintendent, finding a candidate to support diversity, equity and inclusion in the district and working to bring the community together.
Communication has been an issue in the eyes of some faculty members and families in SDUHSD, with some expressing frustration that the district has not been clear in its communication, especially in regards to policies surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interim Superintendent Lucile Lynch, who has been in the position since Haley’s departure, has made strides with parents and the district’s faculty association, all of whom seem pleased with the job she has done communicating.
JG Consulting says the word “healer” has been used frequently to describe the ideal candidate during stakeholder meetings and in surveys.
“Somebody who can really heal and galvanize, to use that word in a more eloquent way, the entirety of this work,” Guerra said.
The firm has also recommended to the board that once a superintendent is chosen, the district ought to consider regular town hall meetings to “support two-way communication and solidify community ownership in the education of its students.”
Trustee Katrina Young expressed her support for those types of public meetings in the future.
“I don’t know if we have done anything like this in recent years and so I fully agree that is something we need to do,” Young said. “It’s the best way that we don’t only set up our new superintendent for success and to truly immerse themselves to understand our community and engage our students, but it will also allow our community to get to know that person as well.”
The search for a full-time superintendent has reached beyond both school district and state boundaries. But the district’s communication issues appeared to stem from hiring a candidate from a different community altogether.
Haley, who previously worked at Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District in Sonoma County, was selected after Hazard Young Attea and Associates performed a nationwide search. For many, the next superintendent will need to be able to communicate better with both parents and district officials.
The board will have the opportunity to look deeper into the applications from JG Consulting this week as they get closer to finding its permanent superintendent.
“I’m so looking forward to looking at the data,” Board President Mo Muir said. “I saw all the places across the country that you’re searching and I know you’re going to find us someone amazing.”