School board launches new superintendent search

The Berkeley Unified School District has moved into new headquarters at 2020 Bonar Street, right near University Ave. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

The Berkeley Unified School District has started a new search for a Superintendent after a failed attempt in 2012. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

The Berkeley Unified School District board has launched a new search for a superintendent, following the failure of two attempts to appoint a new head last year. The board has engaged Ray & Associates, an executive search firm that specializes in education, to lead a nationwide search for a new superintendent. The job posting cites a “tradition of excellence rooted in a vibrant community.”

As part of the new search, the board is planning to issue a survey this Friday, and will hold community forums for input on Feb. 28, Mar. 1 and 2. The intention is to interview semifinalists for the post at the end of March. 

Caption here

Part of the two-page flyer issued by BUSD in the search for a new superintendent

Since last August, the BUSD has been run by interim co-superintendents, Javetta Cleveland and Neil Smith. Bill Huyett, the previous superintendent, announced his retirement in December, 2011, and extended his tenure until the appointment of Cleveland and Smith. A superintendent search launched at this time last year failed twice: first in the spring, when the board deadlocked over two candidates, and then in September when Edmond Heatley, the unanimous board choice as sole finalist, withdrew his candidacy following controversy over his role in a pro-Proposition 8 memo. Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, another specialist executive search firm, advised the board through those failed efforts.

A two-page flyer from BUSD details 24 criteria for applicants, ranging from “advocate, address and articulate the needs of ALL students based upon the whole child model through teaching and learning”, to “articulate deeply held passionate beliefs about inequalities and closing the achievement gap”, to “reflect the unique qualities of Berkeley and become an active member of the community.” The 24 points were created as part of what the BUSD calls its “leadership profile”, which was drawn up as part of the 2012 search process.

When the BUSD board set out to find a search firm this year, it originally intended to hire two groups of consultants: one to perform the search, the other to do the vetting. According to BUSD board president Leah Wilson, improved vetting was a primary lesson from last year’s failed searches. At the moment, Ray & Associates is being entrusted with both roles.

“We were a little concerned about the quality of the vetting we received last year,” said Wilson. “But Ray & Associates have a completely separate team that does the vetting. And we haven’t precluded the possibility of hiring a separate consultant if we need it.”

Wilson said the board understands that failing to find a superintendent last year could be damaging for the reputation of Berkeley schools for potential candidates.

“It doesn’t look so good for a board to fail to find a candidate and to have a candidate withdraw,” she said. “But Berkeley is a very prestigious district and one which many administrators want to come to.”

The BUSD board is maintaining a dedicated page devoted to the superintendent search, which includes dates for public meetings.

School board forum displays strong anti-Broad views [09.28.12]
BUSD board vows to be more inclusive in new chief search [09.20.12]
Heatley withdraws candidacy for BUSD superintendent [09.18.12]

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  • Guest123

    Third time’s the charm?

  • PragmaticProgressive

    The bullet list reveals much.

    On one hand, we want a leader who uses “evidence-based best practices” and data to prioritize and measure performance.

    On the other hand, we want a communicator who “articulates deeply held passionate beliefs.”

    What happens when the data and best practices don’t align with the deeply held passionate beliefs?

    If past is prologue, the deeply held passionate beliefs will lead to selective uses of data and careful avoidance of anything and anyone that would undermine the beliefs or trigger reexamination of the priorities.

  • Chris

    There ya go being all rational again…