Four firms to present for superintendent search | News | Palo Alto Online |


Four firms to present for superintendent search

Public interviews scheduled for Nov. 28

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The school board is aiming to select a firm to lead its search for a new superintendent on Nov. 28, when four companies will make public presentations.

The board has narrowed down a list of 12 potential firms to the final four: Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates; Leadership Associates; McPherson & Jacobson; and Ray and Associates.

On Nov. 28, partners from each firm will make a 20-minute presentation and the board will have 40 minutes to ask questions. Board members said Tuesday they plan to take a vote in open session at the end of the meeting on their selection, but reserved the option to set a special meeting if they need more time.

The firm will help the district look for a replacement for former Superintendent Max McGee, who resigned suddenly this fall. The district is being led on an interim basis by Karen Hendricks, who was hired in August as human resources director.

The Illinois-based Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, has conducted searches for nearby districts including the Ravenswood City School District, Cupertino Union School District, Sequoia Union High School District, Woodside Elementary School District and Portola Valley Elementary School District, according to a proposal the firm submitted to the board.

Board member Melissa Baten Caswell noted that McGee is now working for Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates' parent company; the board decided that this did not constitute a conflict of interest.

Leadership Associates conducted the last two superintendent searches in Palo Alto Unified, resulting in the hiring of McGee in 2014 and his predecessor, Kevin Skelly, in 2007. As a Santa Barbara-based firm, the company focuses its work on California districts, its proposal states. Leadership Associates has worked with the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District, San Mateo Union High School District and San Jose Unified School District, among others.

McPherson & Jacobson, which is based in Nebraska, represents the California School Boards Association in superintendent searches. While the firm is based in Nebraska, it employs 15 consultants in California who "understand California and its unique requirements and laws," its proposal reads.

Ray and Associates, based in Iowa, does less work in California, but has conducted searches for districts including Berkeley Unified and Poway Unified, according to the firm's proposal.

"We have often found excellent in-state candidates who would not otherwise have applied for the position due to a possible conflict of interest with a state or local firm," the proposal states.

Board members will be conducting reference checks for each firm between now and the Nov. 28 meeting. They also agreed to seek questions and input from groups including its employee unions before the meeting.

The board is aiming to finalize a contract with the selected firm in December, with the goal of hiring a new superintendent by July.

The Nov. 28 meeting will start at 5 p.m. at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave.


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10 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 15, 2017 at 12:47 pm

Jeez, these PAUSD supes cost real money at _both_ ends of their stints.

Isn't this how the school board found Skelley and McGee, our last two superstellars? Repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results is insane. What was that Mark Twain said about school boards?

2 people like this
Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 16, 2017 at 11:02 am

Gosh, why even waste money hiring a search firm? Just put an ad in a few education mags and hundreds of highly-qualified applicants will be breaking down the doors!

Just look at what we have to offer: Great climate, top-notch students, cheap housing...Oops! Friendly, supportive parents and press...Well...

No, really! Great candidates will be drooling at the chance to come here! All they have to do to find out how easy it will be is to talk to the last two superintendents, one of whom now leads a district just up the peninsula!

Good luck, PAUSD School Board! Good luck, PAUSD! Good luck, Palo Alto parents and kids!

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 16, 2017 at 12:18 pm

@Retired Teacher. The last Super got free housing in the form of a $1.5 million loan for a condo that the district now owns. And a $750 monthly car allowance. Lifestyle = ok.

Working with the board and community in a visible position is a big part of any Superintendent's job. Someone who doesn't think they'll be good at that probably isn't a good candidate here. On the other hand, someone who isn't good at actually managing a school district probably isn't a good fit either.

Like in most job searches, they don't need a lot of candidates, just a few good ones.

6 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 16, 2017 at 12:32 pm

@Retired Teacher,
With that attitude toward families you are supposed to be helping, thankfully you are retired.

I do think the underlying point needs to be brought up before we go hunting for a new super. Families will have a need and a wish to work with districts, and sometimes they will have to rely on procedures and laws if districts don't work the way they should. That is the nature of a well-functioning district. Administrators who see it as an us against them, and that they don't work with parents but rather make their lives easier by rolling over for anything the teachers want, will only continue the negatives.

A former administrator friend told me that superintendants and pribciples must balance the tension betwee teachers, parents, and administrators, and not be too much in any camp. The Skelly and McGee administrations tipped the balance to much in favir of teachers and away from families. Parents do not want to end up at odds with teachers or admins, these things hapoen when there is no avenue for collaboration. In those administrations, they talked a big game about civility, but if you had any probkem to correct that affected a chikd'dps education and/or wellbeing, the administrations pretty much ignored or even retaliated against you unless you got and stayed aggressive. That goes for even simple things without any legal consequences to the district but that some persons felt were "embarrassing" to them professionally.

We must decide what we want first before deciding on a firm. Looking for someone with backbone and an eagerness to work with families and ferret out rot, who have a willingness to be collaborative with families, should be Paramount. People with the denigrating, arrogant, almost hateful attitude toward families exhibited by retired teacher above should be encouraged to go. How could they possibly be a part of improving things with that attitude, which us most likely what got us here to begin with.

We also need to ensure we get a lawfirm that provides legal advice that doesn't get employees working against families for no other purpose than to increase legal fees. All this should happen before we go looking for the new super, so we don't just dump him or her in the middle os a mess like we did McGee (although granted now that Wade, Carrillo, Young, and a few others are gone, things will be much easier for the next one, we just need to make sure legal doesn't reinstate the old culture.)

The firm that put Skelly in SM should just be crossed off for obvious reasons.

Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 16, 2017 at 12:34 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

The real problem is finding good candidates. The PAUSD is very toxic to good candidates. How about fixing some red flag issues like the OCR issue and make sure CERTIFIED Special-Ed teachers handle issues, not teachers, principals and Administrators who hide them.

How about Board Members ACTUALLY DOING THEIR JOB??? They are our WATCHDOG, not a LAPDOG controlled by an Administrator.

Any true Administrator wants these issues resolved. That is why the PAUSD got Skelly who is now fit for life anywhere else in the US.

Our children deserve better.

Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 16, 2017 at 12:50 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

ADDENDUM: My parent, who retired as an Assistant Administrator in the SJUSD replied "no, No, NO!! " when I asked to do the job for the PAUSD. Eminently qualified to fix these issues Speciall-Ed teacher==>vice principal==>principal==>Assistant Administrator. When retiring Santa Clara County offered a judgeship for Juvenile Affairs with a $400 per deim salary. It was turned down.

I have give the advice for many years on these pages. It is a pity that no one at the PAUSD read this advice. This advice could have stopped the insanity at the PAUSD and saved money in the long run

Remember: Fool me once, shame on you, Fool me twice, shame on ME!

1 person likes this
Posted by Retired Teacher
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 16, 2017 at 12:59 pm

Punisher, I don't agree with much that you say, but when you say the PAUSD is toxic to good candidates, you are almost right. But it's the poison pen parents and the press that are toxic, not just to administrators, but to teachers as well.

Observer, I can't tell you how glad I am to be retired! I didn't teach in this district, and where I did teach I was always supportive of parents, especially those who didn't blame the schools for their own failings. On the whole, most parents were that way. Many parents are still supportive. Unfortunately, it doesn't take many bad apples to spoil the barrel.

Also, Observer, you do need to check your spelling and diction before you send off a comment. Lawfirm? "to many?" "favir?"

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 18, 2017 at 2:29 pm

I think it is going to be difficult and costly to find anyone to fill this position considering what happened to the former superintendents.
Hypercritical, demanding, "know-it-all" parents, mental health issues of the community, and costly cost of living (even when subsidized), and a multicultural environment, make this not such a nice place to live or work. I would not want to move my family here no matter what the salary.

Same thing applies to hiring a city manager.

Who is the heck would want to do take a job where multicultural hypercritical citizens criticize every damn thing that is done.

It is going to be expensive.
I foresee another costly trip for the board in the future, and a huge pay out to another executive search firm.

This place is unbelievable.

2 people like this
Posted by Parent of 2
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 18, 2017 at 3:33 pm

It might be hard to find someone, depends what they are looking for. Seems like they mostly need somebody who can just follow the law, manage the staff, and put one foot in front of the other. If the board helps them beat off the parents with random issues (instead of enabling them), the superintendent can just focus on "doing education" and it will probably be fine.

Seems like the last few times they wanted fancy people (Harvard degree! State Supt of Illinois!) who could be a visionary leader. How'd that work out? If we just had a block and tackle person who could manage without drama or foolish mistakes, things would be much better.

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