The newly rearranged San Marino Unified School District Board of Education appears ready to start moving on hiring a new superintendent for the district, with the first step likely to be the appointment of a subcommittee to determine which search firm to hire.
Officials are looking toward hiring the school system’s new leader before summer, the better to court the strongest candidates for the job. Linda de la Torre, the assistant superintendent who handles human resources for the district, said that the board will need to play catch-up in that regard and that she’s confident in its ability to do so.
“While we want to do this in the best way possible, we also want to catch up to these other school districts” that also are hiring superintendents, she said at the board’s meeting last week. “I would call them competitors at this point.”
Based on de la Torre’s presentation, the board will likely pick two of its members to head a subcommittee to determine a search firm to evaluate superintendent candidates, set up avenues to solicit input from various community groups and stakeholders and then work with the firm to narrow the list of candidates through initial surveys and, later on, through interviews.
The board took no action at last week’s meeting but indicated it planned to do so at its next meeting in January.
“That would put us, in my mind, right where we need to be,” de la Torre said. “We are a bit behind other districts in some respects, but I think we can get caught up.”
This future superintendent will replace Alex Cherniss, who left SMUSD in September to become superintendent of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District. Loren Kleinrock, whom Cherniss was hired to replace in 2014, has returned in an interim capacity and has said he does not intend to have a second go at the permanent position. Kleinrock had retired after working throughout SMUSD since the ’70s but has served as a consultant or interim administrator with the district since.
The board opted to wait until now to begin the replacement search because of last month’s election, in which seven candidates — two of whom were incumbents — vied for three seats. C. Joseph Chang and Shelley Ryan were both re-elected, and newcomer Corey Barberie takes over for Nam Jack, who did not seek re-election.
Formalities: BOARD MEMBERS SWORN IN, OFFICERS PICKED
Lisa Link cited her first go-around as board president when outlining the agenda for her second round, which the board unanimously approved last week.
For 2019, Link said she will strive to improve governance by the board and also its communication and engagement with the San Marino community. She said she already has a plan for January: The board will undergo the full round of professional development training, including the topics of sexual harassment and adherence to open-meeting rules under the Brown Act.
Link said she also had a variety of plans to open doors for community members to ensure their voices are heard on school policies and actions, especially since transparency and outreach were talking points in this year’s election.
“Some have criticized the board on not being open enough, so let’s work on that and improve that,” she said. “Tonight’s item on the District Facilities Advisory Committee is the first step in that, and I will be making other proposals to engage the community in the future.”
Although the committee was not formed last week, the board looks to start putting it together in January after some discussion.
Board member Chris Norgaard was tabbed as the board’s vice president, per the informal rotation; he served as clerk for 2018. Chang, who was sworn in for his fifth (and, he has said, his final) term, will take over as clerk for 2019.
Barberie kicked off his first term by highlighting his eagerness to learn and contribute as quickly as possible.
“I know I have a lot to learn, but I look forward to serving with my fellow board members,” he said. “I look forward to doing my best and I look forward to hopefully adding a new perspective to the district.”
GONE, BUT NOT FOR LONG
Jack bade farewell to the school board at the beginning of last week’s meeting, but she already had a card for public comment queued up.
She used it to volunteer to lead the community group promoting the renewal of a parcel tax to fund faculty and staff positions, the election for which is set for Feb. 26. The ballot will ask voters whether the district should renew the annual $366-per-parcel tax for another six years.
The tax, which was first approved in 1991, generates around $1.6 million annually to fund 13 full-time and one part-time teaching and support positions at three of SMUSD’s schools. Although the district and board are free to provide as much information as possible, they must cede any campaign for (or against) it to residents.
“We will try to match the success that we’ve had before, because it’s really done so much for all of us,” Jack said.
In exiting the school board, on which she served two terms, Jack drew from the famed letter former President George H.W. Bush wrote for successor Bill Clinton and also called for San Marino stakeholders to remember they can “disagree, but not be disagreeable.”
“We have come a long way since I was sworn in nine years ago,” she said. “I feel like we have a long ways in many respects, but I also feel like we’ve regressed in other ways, in both our own community and in our society.”