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San Dieguito picks firm to lead search for next superintendent

The San Dieguito Union High School District board has tapped JG Consulting, a national search firm based in Texas, to lead its superintendent search. Following consultant interviews at a special board meeting on Sept. 9, the board approved an agreement for JG’s services not to exceed $25,000. The decision was not unanimous, with trustee Katrina Young voting in opposition.

The first input session with a district stakeholder group was anticipated to be held on Tuesday, Sept. 14. Town halls are planned to be held at every school site throughout the duration of the executive search, which has an Oct. 14 target date to hire the new superintendent. The town halls will to be available to the public both in-person and virtually.

Public outreach will also include an online survey.

At the Sept. 9 meeting, the board interviewed three of the five firms that had submitted proposals in open session including JG; McPhearson and Jacobson; and The Costa Group. One firm, Education Support Services (ESS), withdrew its bid prior to the meeting.

SDUHSD Vice President Melisse Mossy considers the candidates during the Zoom board meeting.
(Karen Billing)

During public comment, community members continued to express criticism and suspicion about the board’s “rushed” timeline.

“Let’s not reduce the superintendent search, which is the most important decision a school board can make, into a farce,” said Duncan Brown, president of the San Dieguito Faculty Association. He said members of the public felt ignored when they asked the board not to cut the process short by two months and to take adequate time to advertise and gather stakeholder input.

During his interview, James Guerra, president & CEO of JG, acknowledged the concerns he heard from the public.

“I do think what we can offer can offset some of the angst or anxiety that comes with searching for a superintendent,” Guerra said, noting their process invites community input through methods like a town hall meeting and an online survey. “I think this is a good time to rebuild that trust and help with the healing process, all the while recruiting a successful superintendent for the long term.”

Guerra said engaging the community is their goal and they want to include all voices in the process of shaping a leadership profile.

JG has 35 retired superintendents on its faculty with diverse skillsets and experiences, he said. San Dieguito’s search will be led by Guerra, who comes from a background in the educational technology field and retired superintendent Jose Leyba. Leyba, a Phoenix resident, has experience in the Los Angeles Community College District and is a former executive director of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents’ Leadership Academy.

In selecting the firm, Trustee Michael Allman said he believed the firm was “head and shoulders above” the other applicants. He and Vice President Melisse Mossy liked their track record of successful placements, the focus on healing and stakeholder input, and their use of a technology platform that allows the board to review candidate interviews and profiles.

In her vote in opposition, Young’s concern was that the Texas-based firm was not as experienced in placing superintendents in California and that the two states’ school systems are very different.

JG’s proposal was in the mid-range of the three firms considered with Cosca Group’s coming in the lowest at $23,500 and McPherson and Jacobson’s coming in the highest at $28,700.

All board members and the representatives from all three firms interviewed stated they had no contact or communication prior to the meeting.


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