As the Santa Monica-Malibu school district prepares to name an interim superintendent, officials are also starting their search for a full-time replacement and trying to keep alive momentum on an equity initiative that began under Sandra Lyon.
The local Board of Education will meet in closed session Thursday afternoon to consider four interim candidates to take over leadership duties from Lyon, who on July 1 will start her new job as the top administrator in the Palm Springs Unified School District.
The school board might announce the winning candidate following the closed session, but the appointment would not be considered final until a contract is approved at the board’s June 22 or June 29 meeting. The list of four interim candidates was not disclosed.
“I’m excited by the field of candidates we have,” board member Craig Foster said. “Any of the people we’re considering will do a great job.”
It’s also possible that the district could end up hiring two interim superintendents. That’s because interim heads often come out of retirement, and the length of the district’s interim position could negatively impact a candidate’s retirement income.
“There are limits as to what in particular a retired superintendent can earn in a certain time frame,” SMMUSD spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said. “With this interim term likely to be about six months, those limits would be reached sooner than six months. So there will be consideration for that in the case of a retired superintendent.”
The closed session will be followed by an open discussion between board members and education reformist Pedro Noguera, who was hired by the district to address longstanding academic achievement gaps between minority groups and their peers.
The board will attempt to outline a roadmap for implementing Noguera’s recommendations and assessing their collective impact down the line.
“For over twenty years,” reads a report by Noguera’s consultancy, “SMMUSD has undertaken a number of initiatives to address and reduce racial and socioeconomic disparities in student achievement. However, for a variety of reasons, none of these efforts have reduced disparities in student achievement or produced significant or sustainable improvements in academic outcomes for African American and Latino students, English language learners, children with learning disabilities and low-income students … ”
Also Thursday, consultants from executive search firm Leadership Associates will hold public meetings to solicit input from community members regarding the search for Lyon’s long-term replacement. Spanish translators will be on hand for both sessions, which will be held concurrently at John Muir Elementary School and Malibu High School at 5:30 p.m.
Consultants are scheduled to meet earlier in the day with city and union leaders as well as district employees and committee members, Santa Monica College board trustees and other stakeholders.
The search firm is seeking input on the desired qualities in a future SMMUSD superintendent and the strengths and challenges in the district going forward. Comments will be shared with the board and the new superintendent.
Malibu-related issues, including environmental remediation and the possible creation of a separate school district, have cast a shadow over the district in recent months. But Foster said the district’s separation negotiations committee could be reaching conclusions as soon as next month and the lawsuit over chemical cleanup at Malibu schools could be wrapped up by the end of the summer.
“These issues are well on their way to resolution, and that resolution is going to be good for hiring a top-quality superintendent,” Foster said. “I think we have a great opportunity for a very high-quality superintendent to help us execute the Noguera plan and our vision for the future.”