Opinion/Letters to the Editor October 2021
Oct. 8 issue:
SDUHSD needs to delay its superintendent search
Texas-based search firm JGConsulting held a series of town halls recently to solicit community input on San Dieguito Union High School District’s search for a superintendent. After attending four meetings I was heartened by the united voice of attendees. Our community’s desires are clear: a superintendent who supports teachers and students; understands California public education; has meaningful classroom experience; implements policies of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and unites our district’s stakeholders.
At the final meeting, CEO James Guerra reflected on the consistency he heard across 70 meetings. However, when asked if that meant that we would be sure to get a superintendent who meets these criteria, he hedged. The ultimate choice lies with board trustees. Guerra admitted he has little influence on whether they choose a candidate who matches the community’s priorities. The public will likely not know whether or not the board chooses from his list of recommended candidates.
Furthermore, Guerra touted the use of videos in the selection process which are subject to the risks of implicit bias. Our board has a track record of hiring white men, and this history must be interrogated. A decision based on race, white or otherwise, does not guarantee a candidate will successfully implement policies of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Only a proven record of experience and evidence-based knowledge of equitable education practices can serve as qualification.
These facts deepen my grave concerns about this search. The rushed timeline of five weeks is unusual and suspect. It ensures that the choice of our district’s executive leader will be made without the full input of three key areas: area 5 residents whose board seat is currently vacant; area 4 which is recalling their current representative; and area 1 whose trustee will likely soon have a change of residency.
Community outreach has also been limited. Only in response to community pressure was the survey translated into Spanish and a last-minute forum in Spanish announced (after JGConsulting’s departure). Teachers were invited to meet during school hours at the district office and therefore unable to attend. Students were notified of the survey half-way through the week. Only a handful of student leaders were invited to meet with the firm, and student affinity groups whose voices are already so often excluded were not consulted.
This district, one of the finest in the country, is already paying a year’s salary for a failed superintendent replaced last spring. The choice of our next superintendent is too vital to undertake without ample time, full transparency, and outreach to all stakeholders in the community. This search must be halted and replaced with one that includes all voices and allows the time necessary to do our district justice.
Kathy Stenger (she/her), co-lead
Equity in Education Group
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