School board to discuss superintendent search | News | Palo Alto Online |


School board to discuss superintendent search

Board president seeks feedback on process

With no permanent superintendent at the helm in Palo Alto Unified following Max McGee's early resignation last month, the school board is preparing to launch in earnest a search for his permanent replacement.

Board members will discuss on Tuesday evening their next steps in the process, which will be led by President Terry Godfrey with the support of the district's newly named interim human resources director, current Barron Park Elementary School Principal Anne Brown. The board is set to approve a contract for Brown's new appointment on Tuesday.

The board will also review the district's two most recent superintendent searches — in 2007, which ended in the hiring of Kevin Skelly and in 2014, when McGee was hired — and provide feedback to Godfrey on what to replicate or disregard from those processes.

In both 2007 and 2014, the board decided to hire the same executive search firm, Leadership Associates, from about five options. Both times, the monthslong process cost the district about $35,000, according to the district.

Board members will discuss on Tuesday a list of nine firms compiled by the district and could either narrow the group down to about five, choose to solicit input from most or all of them and/or suggest other firms to consider, Godfrey wrote in a report for the meeting.

They'll also discuss what kinds of questions to ask the firms during interviews. In 2014, questions ranged from "What is your experience in conducting statewide versus national search for a California superintendent?" to "What happens if a suitable candidate does not emerge?" and "What do you see as the biggest challenge for us in filling our superintendent position?" according to a document included in the board agenda.

A draft timeline plans several meetings and deadlines through the end of the calendar year focused on selecting the search firm. The final selection of a firm will take place in a public meeting with presentations from the finalists.

Dates for posting the job itself, soliciting comprehensive community input, candidate interviews, a "validation visit" to the finalist's home district and more are still to be determined. The district aims to have a new superintendent on board by July 1, 2018.

In 2014, the district had a more compressed timeline. The district started searching for a new replacement for Skelly in February, and McGee officially accepted the job in late May. He was hired by that summer.

The board's next steps will be to issue solicitations for proposals from search firms and create a webpage to post information for the public on the search process.

Tuesday's board meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave. View the agenda here.


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2 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Will the board consider looking within PAUSD for a new Sup?

8 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 24, 2017 at 1:46 am

I hope they pick someone who already lives in the district and fully understand the politics of California. We do not need someone from out side the state.

7 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 24, 2017 at 7:58 pm

Here we go again: A wide-net search by high-priced executive search consultants for the perfect supe. What will we get? If we will learn from history, we can expect a high-priced ego who dazzles the school board while being spectacularly incapable of practical leadership or administration.

I agree with the above posters. Ditch the glitz and promote an experienced competent leader from within. Then get out of her/his way and let the district work.

9 people like this
Posted by Truth and Trust
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2017 at 3:03 am

I think we need to do some truth and reconciliation here,in a formal way,and clean out the skeletons in our closet in an honest way before we consider bring in a new superintendent. We brought McGee in expecting him to singlehandedly fix the mess under our rug, with no processes that favor openness and honesty, and a CYA culture among employees. That hasn’t been fixed.

The problem is not the search firm, it’s law firms that have seen us as cash cows and doled out advice that created antagonism between administrations and the parent community they are supposed to be serving and answering to. We need collaboration and a restoration of trust.

We need:
Change to county legal as Ken Dauber suggested

Overt truth and reconciliation efforts

An ombudsman with power who answers to residents and doesn’t work directly for the district, who can also help improve processes to solve problems and collaboration between families and educators

We need to do this before we get a melee super who comes into the insularity of our district office

Maybe we need to fire everyone like West Valley did and start from scratch...

4 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 25, 2017 at 1:52 pm

"The problem is not the search firm, it’s law firms... "

Neither is the problem. The base problem is the board and staff who invite them in and listen to them. The money lavished on both would be much better spent on the students, which are the reason PAUSD exists. Sometimes I wonder if the Churchill crowd remembers that.

4 people like this
Posted by Board Watcher
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 25, 2017 at 1:58 pm

The board chooses the search firm, the board chooses the superintendent, the board chooses the law firms. They can change them out any time they want. So really the board is where the buck stops.

The problem is too many of them just don't know what to do and just do what's been done before - which will get us the same results we had before.

2 people like this
Posted by Truth and Trust
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2017 at 2:25 pm

@ urmudgeon,

I do not disagree with your perspective. But from a practical standpoint, changing the board or staff will not fix things if people remain to promote these pernicious practices (the law firms and the staff who end up engaged in CYA and antagonism of parents It has to start with the law firms and the advice they give. We need legal that remembers they are working for families not personal ambitions of individual administrators.

Unless we get that, we can't fix things. because that's what gets school employees doing things that amount to CYA. The board has the keys to the kingdom now. Please encourage them to fix that so that they can move forward in a trustworthy way.

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