The search is on.
A few weeks following the announcement that Sandra Lyon will step down as the Santa Monica-Malibu school district’s superintendent, officials are getting the ball rolling on finding her successor.
The district is paying Leadership Associates up to $27,000 to help conduct the search for a new superintendent, according to an SMMUSD report. The La Quinta-based firm specializes in California superintendent searches.
The local Board of Education will meet on Saturday morning with advisors from Leadership Associates to discuss the search process, finalize a timeline and spell out desired qualities and characteristics of a future top administrator for SMMUSD. The school board will also aim to identify staffers and community members who might have input on the search.
The administrative shakeup comes as the district faces numerous key issues, including a protracted battle over chemical cleanup in Malibu, the possible creation of a separate Malibu district and attempts to close longstanding academic achievement gaps.
Leadership Associates has assisted more than 350 school districts and organizations in California since 1996, according to its website.
The local school board’s special meeting will be held at 9 a.m. June 4 at district headquarters, 1651 16th St., in Santa Monica.
In early May, Lyon announced that she had accepted an offer to become the top executive for the Palm Springs Unified School District starting July 1. News of her departure came less than a year after she signed a contract extension with SMMUSD through the 2017-18 school year.
Lyon will make an annual salary of $259,000 in her new position in Palm Springs, where she is replacing retiring superintendent Christine Anderson. That’s a roughly 8-percent raise on the $239,200 she’s making in SMMUSD.
Lyon is going from a district with about 11,000 students in 16 schools to a district that serves some 23,300 students in 27 schools in the Coachella Valley. More than 80 percent of PSUSD students are considered socioeconomically disadvantaged.
In 2011, the district hired consultants from Leadership Associates to conduct a search that yielded Lyon as the winning candidate to replace then-superintendent Tim Cuneo.
At the time, community meetings were held to gather information from stakeholders on the personal and professional qualities they sought in a new top administrator.
Leadership Associates employs Mike Escalante, a former superintendent in Glendale and Fullerton who once served as a vice principal at Santa Monica High School.
There’s still work to be done at Edison Language Academy.
At its regular meeting Thursday evening, the school board is expected to approve an additional $79,000 to Swinerton Builders for parking lot accessibility, a modified driveway approach and drains at the Virginia Avenue elementary school.
In 2011, Swinerton won a $32.8-million contract for major construction at Edison. Additional work over the last five years has raised the total cost of the project to $36.4 million.
Escarce on leave
The school board on Thursday will also consider approving a leave of absence for Jose Escarce.
The longtime board member will be out of the country for work between June 28 and Sept. 24, according to an SMMUSD report.
Escarce has missed several meetings this school year due to medical appointments and procedures.