The Santa Monica-Malibu school district is still months away from naming a new superintendent, but its search for Sandra Lyon’s successor now looks much clearer.

In a special meeting Saturday morning, the local Board of Education crafted a timeline for the hiring process that will bring a full-time replacement to the district by January.

SMMUSD plans to have an interim superintendent in place by July 1, when Lyon begins her post as the top administrator of the Palm Springs Unified School District.

On June 16, the school board will interview candidates for interim superintendent in closed session from 2 to 4 p.m. The selected candidate will be appointed officially at the board’s June 29 meeting, according to SMMUSD spokeswoman Gail Pinsker, although it’s possible that the interim superintendent will be announced after the board’s closed session June 16.

That day, consultants from executive search firm Leadership Associates will hold meetings with stakeholders and community members in Santa Monica and Malibu to solicit input on what traits are desired in the next permanent superintendent. Times and locations have not yet been determined. A survey seeking community input will be posted online in mid-June.

Then, over the next two months, Leadership Associates will conduct a broad search for Lyon’s long-term replacement. Applications for the job will be due in September, according to Pinsker.

The school board plans to interview qualified candidates in mid-October and approve the new superintendent’s contract at a November board meeting. The district’s incoming leader will start Jan. 1.

In the coming weeks, district officials and consultants will gather input from senior staff and site principals as well as Classroom Teachers Association and union representatives. Leaders from the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation and PTA Council will also be consulted. District committee members, City of Santa Monica officials and Santa Monica College board trustees are expected to contribute as well. The aforementioned meetings will serve as an outlet for parents and community members to share their thoughts.

On Saturday, school board members began discussing the characteristics they’d like to see in a new superintendent and weighed the challenges facing the district.

The board is seeking a successor with a track record of effective leadership in education and someone who has had “success with working with a diverse group of people and diverse interests while maintaining student-focused goals,” Pinsker said. The ideal candidate will also have “strong experience with parent engagement.”

Board members want a superintendent who will close academic achievement gaps and guide the district through the strategies being outlined by education reformist Pedro Noguera.

“We will be looking for a proven educational leader to help us continue the work begun by Sandra Lyon and to guide the implementation of our ‘Equity through Excellence’ plan,” board president Laurie Lieberman said in a statement.

The hunt for Lyon’s replacement comes at a critical juncture for the district, which is dealing with a protracted battle over chemical cleanup in Malibu and the possible creation of a separate Malibu district.

Board member Craig Foster said he’s enthusiastic about the search.

“I think we have a great story to tell a new hire,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for the district.”

jeff@www.smdp.com