After getting a late start on the hiring process because of the unplanned retirement of Superintendent Bob Carter, OUHSD officials say they’ve got the field narrowed down to a talented group of three.
“It’s a great opportunity for the district, and I’m thrilled that we got such a strong response,” said Socorro Lopez Hanson, school board president. “With the state budget, we need some strong, dedicated leadership to see us through the next few years.”
In May, after Carter’s surprise April announcement that he would retire with one year left on his contract, the district hired Gary Davis as an interim superintendent to assist the board in finding a permanent chief of schools.
Because the superintendent hiring process typically starts in February or March, there was concern the district wouldn’t be able to recruit top applicants. In the end, the field of candidates couldn’t have been more experienced or capable, Davis said
“They’re very strong candidates and have an extensive background of experience in high school education,” he said. “We wouldn’t have gained any more or better applicants if the process started in March. We live in a great area, and the board developed a very competitive salary package.”
The district received 20 applications from 15 men and five women and through a resume screening narrowed down the list to nine people on July 5.
A 12-person panel, consisting of principals, trustees, staff, teachers and parents, interviewed the nine applicants in person on July 11 and reduced the field to five.
A second 12-person panel then eliminated another two applicants.
The remaining three will meet with district officials in a closed session on Sat., July 23 and the board will announce the new superintendent to the public during the board meeting on Wed., July 27.
The superintendent position, a two-year renewable contract, will pay about $190,000 per year and includes 21 days of vacation and $500 per month for transportation allowance.
Davis said one of the main criteria for the new superintendent is a strong background in high school education.
The district is unusual, he said, because it contains only high schools, whereas most school districts are unified and encompass kindergarten through 12th grade. OUHSD has eight high schools and 16,000 students.
“Being a high school district, we’re able to better focus on the population we serve,” Lopez Hanson said. “But one of the negatives is we don’t have any control on the foundation at the elementary school. That sometimes makes it challenging when we get students who are not fully prepared for the rigors of high school.”
Davis said the next superintendent would face challenging yet exciting projects in the district. Program development is important to the board, he said, because some of the schools are not performing at a high enough level.
The incoming superintendent will likely break ground on the district’s new high school in Camarillo and another in Oxnard, he said.
“You can live in a district and never get to build a new school. That’s a chance of a lifetime,” Davis said.
To better guide the interview process, the district asked for community input about what characteristics are most important in a superintendent.
On the district website, Davis listed 32 characteristics of an ideal superintendent as suggested by the California School Board Association and the Association of California School Administrators.
Of the 127 people responding, 60 percent were teachers, 13 percent were staff, 9 percent were administration, 9 percent were community members and 6 percent were parents.
The community’s top five traits in a superintendent are high integrity, the ability to create a climate of cooperation and collaboration, experience as a secondary classroom teacher, and the courage to make a decision that is best for the students despite controversy.
“The more input we receive, the better we’re able to use that information for our decision,” Lopez Hanson said.