The Tehachapi Unified School District board discussed a path to hiring a new superintendent at its May 1 meeting, but made no decisions beyond agreeing to take up the matter again May 8 in the hopes of voting then to post the position.
Board members posed several questions, and it became clear through their comments that time is of the essence.
Among the questions board members asked at the special meeting: Why has the search waited until now? Should we look for a new superintendent ourselves or use an outside source? When should the job be posted online? What are the goals for the district? Can other stakeholders from the district be involved? How can relationships between board members be improved?
“We are not making a quick decision," board member Carrie Austin said.
She added, “We need to start the process, whatever it is, choosing the entity we are going to use, advertising immediately — advertising later. It’s got to start. That’s what we have to come to a consensus on that tonight. I feel we haven’t started and that it has to begin.”
Current Superintendent Susan Andreas-Bervel submitted a letter of resignation to the board on March 13; her contract ends June 30. The discussion on a search for new superintendent or interim was first put on the board agenda April 24.
The board can post the job description online through edjoin.com, a posting tool hosted by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office. There was also discussion of considering hiring other entities such as the California School Boards Association, KCSOS, and Dave Long and Associates to help filter and bring in applicants.
Some members had different opinions on a path of choice to begin looking for a new superintendent.
“I still think we can post and see what’s out there,” said board member Jackie Wood. She added, “I would like to approach it differently this time. I’m not into a big huge firm doing it. I’m looking at a smaller scale.”
Wood commented that stakeholders such as an ad hock committee should also be involved.
Board member Paul Markham added that he would like to see a votable action item next meeting inviting entities to help in gathering candidates, so that the board can ask questions on how they can help in defining the timeline, qualifications of the superintendent, and other information.
Board memberJoe Wallek advocated for hiring an interim superintendent and at the special board meeting on April 24, suggested Paul Kaminski, principal of Jabobsen Middle School, for the position. Kaminski was present at the May 1 meeting, but did not comment.
Wallek said, “I am absolutely stunned we are discussing this, this late in the year.”
President Leonard Evansic and board member Mary Graham had similar opinions.
“I really feel we really need to have a good search...We need to figure out what the goals are going to be for the next person," Evansic said. He added, “I want to have the district function well and I want a good person in this spot.”
Graham added that if an outside entity was to be used, they have to define more goals for the district.
Board member Jeff Kermode said a “solid interim” would be a good idea, a search should not be done directly by the district and that a date should be set for the next steps.
There was also discussion that the board should work together to resolve differences in order to attract a good superintendent.
Austin said, “If I were a prospective candidate, if it were me, I would listen to our most recent board recordings to get an idea of how the district functions and to be completely frank, that would stop me from applying at this time. I believe we need to be unified in the direction we want the district as a whole to go and set aside any of our past frustrations or agendas.”
Members of the public also had an opportunity to speak, even though that request to speak was initially denied by board president Evansic.
“I am very concerned as a parent of a student within the district, as a community member and a taxpayer. I feel things are not getting done in a timely manner,” Tehachapi resident Peggy Horn said. She added, “I feel like some of the board members need to give up a little bit of power. I feel like some people are being stubborn wanting to do things their way and they are using delay tactics as a way to slow down the process.”
Tracey Cunningham, who spoke as a resident, said, “Our district is at a crossroads.”
“If you are looking at somebody to be an interim superintendent who wants the best for the district, I don’t think you have somebody better," Cunningham said. "I agree looking in different places is a good idea in the long run, but in the short run you need somebody who understands where we are coming from and wants the best for the district.”
Even though brochures and a posted draft of a document, speaking about the qualifications for the superintendent were listed on the agendia, an in-depth discussion did not follow.