News

Board mulls search for Skelly replacement

Board president to invite search firms to make presentations in March

Opening a search to replace Palo Alto School Superintendent Kevin Skelly, school board President Barb Mitchell said Tuesday she would invite three or four search firms to make public presentations to the board next month.

Mitchell polled colleagues on their search preferences Tuesday at the first board meeting since Skelly's Feb. 18 announcement that he plans to step down June 30.

Members agreed they wanted to engage a search firm rather than conduct a search themselves, and said they preferred to interview multiple firms before settling on one.

"Professional search firms have the ability to go out in a much wider way than we could in just doing advertising," board Vice-President Melissa Baten Caswell said.

Since presentations by each firm typically take at least an hour, they also agreed not to make them part of the regular March 11 board meeting but to find a date for a special meeting, preferably around the same time.

Though the meeting will be open to the public, board members said competing search firms should not be in the room during their competitors' presentations.

The board will ask the firms how they identify potential applicants, and whether they have unusual approaches for ensuring an adequate pool of good candidates.

Other questions on a list culled from the district's most recent superintendent search in 2007 include, "How would you tailor your search for the needs of Palo Alto?" And "What do you see as the biggest challenge for us in filling our superintendent position?"

Search firms also will be asked how they protect candidates' confidentiality, and what happens if a qualified candidate does not emerge.

Board members, as well as Palo Alto Council of PTAs President Sigrid Pinsky, stressed the need for a transparent search process that solicits a wide range of community opinion.

The board will ask search firms what they would do to ensure adequate participation from the community.

Among the firms board members said they hope to interview are HYA Executive Search, a national leadership recruitment firm; Leadership Associates, a Southern California-based consulting firm of former school district leaders -- including former Palo Alto superintendent Jim Brown -- that specializes in California superintendent searches; and Ray and Associates, an Iowa-based firm specializing in educational executive leadership searches.

The board also is considering inviting Proact Search, a national school leadership search firm.

Leadership Associates is the firm that recruited Skelly seven years ago and one of its partners, former Vista and Coronado superintendent Rene Townsend, has facilitated Palo Alto board retreats in recent years.

Tuesday's discussion on the superintendent search followed a round of praise for Skelly by board members, who credited him with leading the district through difficult financial years, executing a strategic plan, investing in teachers and staff development, focusing on social-emotional health of students and raising graduation requirements.

Chris Kenrick

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 26, 2014 at 10:31 am

No, this is all wrong, they need to do a search for a consulting firm to find a search firm after a 500 page report is generated. The Palo Alto way!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Revisionists
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 26, 2014 at 10:45 am

Focusing on social emotional health?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 26, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Wasn't it a search firm that produced Dr. Skelly? If the board needs a search firm to produce candidates, why exactly do we even need a school board, bearing in mind their astonishing passivity, meekness and inaction?

At this rate they will hire a search firm to recommend qualified search firms capable of finding candidates.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fed up taxpayer
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 26, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Get someone with professional communication skills and fire the costly PR lady. Impress us with your educational knowledge, business acumen, inclusion of ALL PAUSD students. Lock up costly IPads and other tech devices so they aren't stolen out of the schools (see past news reports). As a taxpayer, let me feel good about the money I lavish on you and the district.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Croatan Island
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Feb 26, 2014 at 3:09 pm

From all reports, the board did not even interview Skelly before he was hired. Apparently, a background check was never performed, other wise the Pomona District scandal would have surfaced then.

How about getting a well-educated and approachable person with good listening powers, good social and people skills, and a sense of honesty and truthfulness ( add on a little tact, top, for good measure). Then make sure this person has no racist bent, and has some compassion for physically and learning disabled children, and hopefully has some real experience with them. A scandal-free, clean, honest successful background and proven track record are a must.

Then, there will be no need for the over-priced PR person who does not do her job anyway. She can be sent packing.

Hopefully, Skelly has not too badly impugned the reputation of PAUSD, and someone credible, responsible, and qualified will actually want to be a superintendent here.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Unlike Skelly, get someone who *listens* and *responds* and has an up-front communication style. Get someone who puts students first, rather than someone who panders to unions, cuckolds the board and has a hidden agenda.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 26, 2014 at 3:41 pm

Last time it was too much PiE and too little CAC. Representatives from each Site should be identified to stakeholders by the Principals in some public way.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by no politicians
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2014 at 5:18 pm

What about a search firm which will have candidates which are not the usual political people who run up the ladder in public education.

Professional politicians are generally not good at anything else, but especially educators who think that an education degree means they know it all.

An old hand in education will likely think they know-it-all, and operate just moving pieces around to the limits of their preconceived ideas.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by no politicians
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2014 at 5:18 pm

What about a search firm which will have candidates which are not the usual political people who run up the ladder in public education.

Professional politicians are generally not good at anything else, but especially educators who think that an education degree means they know it all.

An old hand in education will likely think they know-it-all, and operate just moving pieces around to the limits of their preconceived ideas.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by all in
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 26, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Unlike Skelly, we really need someone who can stand up to bullies.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Poway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2014 at 8:25 pm

@Croatan Island: Actually, according to a news report at the time "The approval of the contract (for Skelly) came one day after the board and community representatives traveled to Poway for a "validation visit" that the trustees said confirmed their decision to hire Skelly.

Board President Camille Townsend said the Palo Alto group met with more than 50 people to discuss Skelly."

Sounds to me as if he was thoroughly vetted.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Let's do Better this Time
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 27, 2014 at 7:28 am

We can do better this time. Do not hire the same firm who made us get stacked with Skelly. This time take more parents in considerations, do not just ask what kind of super would you like to have as you did last time, you made us dream, and the wake up was horrible. It was a nightmare.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fed up taxpayer
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 27, 2014 at 9:03 am

Is hiring a search firm really necessary? Does PAUSD have a HR manager/office? Why don't they post the opening and manage the screening and interviews?
Why does the taxpayer always have to pay for excessive layers of bureaucracy (or "consultants," or "spokespersons" or "search firms," for that matter? Look how they are handling this, FIRST screening the search firms!
PAUSD is well known as one of the wealthiest districts in the state of California, it is also widely known to be very high performing, located in a very desirable area, and it seems to me - the humble taxpayer - that PAUSD should be capable of advertising and hiring a new superintendent without a costly middle layer of "consultants." Just the fact that these practices are entrenched makes me sick.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by What do you do?
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 27, 2014 at 9:13 am

Fed up taxpayer: when is the last time you heard of a company hiring a CEO without a retained search firm? With all these complaints about district mismanagement, don't you want a top candidate?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 27, 2014 at 10:44 am

The question is who were the 50 people? There was not much site-based discussion about the Skelly choice.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 27, 2014 at 10:50 am

Was the selection committee aware that he had sued special ed families in Poway? As if they don't have enough extra expenses as it is with doctors, tutors to keep up (not get ahead), educational testing to supplement the school district and all kinds of therapies from occupational to psychological. Getting someone who could reduce costs and stand up to unreasonable law suits is one thing. Sueing families who are hurting and dismantling successful programs is another. He was not fully vetted. The last committee needs to look for selective, compartmentalized callousness.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fool me once
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 27, 2014 at 11:04 am

Finalists should be flown in to meet with community groups, teachers, and site admins.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Sure. And visit every home in the district.

There will be a hiring committee and that's the extent of it.

Be realistic.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Skung
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2014 at 9:20 pm

There are a couple of other firms out there who specifically hire for superintendents. I don't have faith in Leadership Associates. They are basically a bunch of retired superintendents schmoozing with current and prospective superintendents a little too closely and then throwing out a bunch of candidates for $30,000 when a district needs one. The board seems either lazy or unable to try another firm in this case.


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