District begins supt. search with community input

SDUHSD has launched its search for a new superintendent, enlisting the consulting firm Education Support Services Group to lead the process.

Following the SDUHSD Board of Trustees’ unanimous decision to terminate the previous superintendent, Dr. Cheryl James-Ward, in June 2022 for controversial comments correlating the academic success of Asian students to wealth, Tina Douglas was appointed as the interim superintendent through June 30, 2023.

Beginning their search in late 2022,, the board hired the Education Support Services Group in a 3 to 2 vote on Jan. 31 to assist in the superintendent selection.

Since then, the consultant service has met with various stakeholder groups, including district office staff and senior cabinet members, to identify their needs for the next superintendent.

“People are sharing that there is a lack of a strategic plan and focus with the instability of leadership in the district,” Suzette Lovely, one of the firm search advisers, said. “We have heard of strained relationships between the parents, the community and the school board that need to be healed.”

Per the board’s request, they also held two town hall meetings for community feedback on March 7 and 14 at San Dieguito High School Academy and Pacific Trails Middle School.

“The board wanted to make sure that we had open-ended town hall forums so that if someone — a parent, community member, staff member or teacher — wanted to give input, they would have a venue to do that,” Lovely said.

The first meeting divided attendants into discussion groups to consider the desired qualities of the incoming superintendent and the challenges they may face in the job. In the second meeting, participants anonymously contributed their views on the online platform, Padlet.

“This selection process is an important one. It allows the people of our school board to know what everyone has in mind, what is valuable to us,” Marcel Chambers, an attendee and a parent of SDUHSD students, said.

Many attendees reiterated the request to find a superintendent to fill the position long-term.

“I am very concerned about the next superintendent [staying long- term]. This is going to be the sixth superintendent in six years,” Marci Strange, a community member, said. “Superintendent is the most important position of any school district.”

Recognizing this importance, many of the town hall attendees asked the search firm to look for open-minded candidates who will focus on closing gaps in student achievement.

“I like seeing more focus on bettering student education. We should be offered more classes that can help us in the future to help modernize the education system,” Darmin Tarasewicz (10), who attended one of the town halls, said.

Others proposed more transparency and communication between parents, students and the district regarding topics like Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, district budgeting and college counseling services.

“I hope that the superintendent is someone who will listen to not just parents, but also teachers and students. It’s important when there are decisions made by the district for students from different backgrounds to share their opinions,” TPHS Student Board Representative Julia Liu (12) said.

On March 23, the search firm presented a Leadership Profile to the board summarizing the collected stakeholder input. From now until May 17, when the new superintendent will be appointed, the board will review and interview applicants. The new superintendent will begin their assignment on July 1.

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