The Grade Blog

Wednesday, Jan 15 2014 05:48 PM

KHSD restricts superintendent search to insiders

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    By KHSD photo

    Kern High School Superintendent Don Carter plans to retire at the end of the school year.

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BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

The Kern High School District has decided to limit to internal candidates its search for a successor to retiring Superintendent Don Carter.

The five members of the board of trustees will act as the search committee, and will consider only current district employees, board members decided at a special meeting Wednesday.

Carter, 59, told the board last week that he will retire effective Aug. 2. Whoever replaces him will oversee 18 traditional high schools and six alternative education campuses, as well as 3,700 employees and nine collective bargaining units.

The board said it anticipates interest from KHSD's three assistant superintendents and a few principals who either have a doctorate in education or are in the process of obtaining the degree.

"We feel that the district does a good job of preparing individuals for the superintendent job, and the Kern High School District has a long tradition of hiring from within," said board member Martha Miller.

Former KHSD board member Ken Mettler said he was disappointed that the search was so narrow, insisting that the state's largest high school district should at least look statewide, or perhaps even nationwide.

"Otherwise you just have inbreeding and you don't get new ideas, which I think the district needs," Mettler said.

Kern County has seen a flurry of hiring of top school administrators in recent months. Among the school districts with new superintendents this year are the El Tejon Unified School District, Panama-Buena Vista Union School District, Standard School District, and the K-8 and high school districts in Wasco.

The Di Giorgio School District in Arvin also recently hired a new chief administrative officer.

Standard and Panama-Buena Vista hired executive search consultants to help them find new leadership.

Standard, which serves Oildale, plucked Paul Meyers from the South Bay Union School District on the northern California coast in Eureka.

For smaller districts, it makes sense to cast a wider net, said board member Steven Ruettgers.

"If you're a big district like Kern High School District, you have a lot more qualified candidates to choose from," he said. "We're a smaller district so we didn't necessarily have a high number to choose from. We wanted a bigger pool, so we had to look outside."

Standard's vacancy was created when Panama-Buena Vista in southwest Bakersfield hired away its superintendent, Kevin Silberberg.

Panama-Buena Vista paid Laguna Beach-based consultant Dave Long & Associates $28,500 to recruit and filter applicants.

Many board members have never hired a superintendent or at best have done so only once or twice in their careers. It's helpful to bring in experts who know what to look for in potential candidates and where to find strong contenders, said Panama-Buena Vista board President Linda Brenner.

Brenner is glad her district was open to outside applicants.

"I think it's smart for everybody to consider all the options that are out there," she said.

The district's consultants held a public hearing to ask the community what it wanted in a new leader, and made questionnaires available to anyone who wasn't able to attend. It also met with board members and district employees to get their feedback.

Executive search advisor Joe Condon, who works for Dave Long and Associates, participated in that process.

There are pros and cons to promoting from within, as well as looking outside, he said.

"It really depends on the circumstances and the history of the district," Condon said. "If the board likes the direction the district is going in and there are good candidates internally, some districts will hire us to vet only internal candidates.

"Other districts want a broader look at both inside and outside candidates, and if an insider rises to the top, so be it."

KHSD board member Bill Perry said he can see both sides. There is value in getting a fresh perspective and different experience, he said.

But "the one thing about people who are inside is they already know the culture and the politics and understand how we do things," Perry added. "If you go outside, the feeling is you're going to have to train them."

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