With the 2016-17 school year about three weeks away, Santa Monica High School is deeply engaged in its search for a new principal.

But as top officials in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district work to find a replacement for Eva Mayoral as soon as possible, they said they wouldn’t necessarily have the position filled by the first day of school.

A recent letter from interim SMMUSD co-superintendents Chris King and Sylvia Rousseau informed Samohi parents that they won’t rush to have a long-term principal in place by the time students arrive Aug. 22.

“Because we do not want to appoint a principal hastily, without adequate deliberation, we will continue a rigorous interview and search process until we are confident that we are able to appoint the person who can guide Samohi to equity and excellence in the years ahead,” the letter reads.

Applications for the position closed July 19 and are currently under review, according to district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker. The first interviews with an SMMUSD panel were expected to begin this week, with the best candidates likely to return for follow-up interviews next week.

Interim deputy superintendent Mark Kelly met with parents and teachers from the high school July 19 to solicit input on the qualities and characteristics they’d like to see in the next Samohi principal.

It’s possible that an interim principal will spearhead Samohi operations. Interim principals are typically recommended by district leadership and formally approved by the school board, Pinsker said.

SMMUSD officials are working to “ensure that procedures are in place for an orderly and successful school opening,” the letter reads.

The transition comes after Mayoral announced her resignation following three years as Samohi principal and 21 total years as an employee in the district. She left to be closer to her family in Florida, officials said. A farewell dinner was held July 25 at California Pizza Kitchen in Santa Monica.

The leadership shakeup at the local high school comes as SMMUSD searches for a long-term superintendent following the departure of Sandra Lyon, who started last month as the top administrator in the Palm Springs Unified School District. King and Rousseau were recently selected to serve as interim superintendents through the end of the calendar year.

Officials hope to find someone who will build on Mayoral’s work to improve disciplinary procedures, bolster participation in Advanced Placement classes and increase support for teachers.

“From our conversations with her, as well as students, teachers and parents, it is clear that she has put into place numerous policies and practices that have enhanced all students’ opportunities to learn,” the interim superintendents’ letter reads. “Even as you experience disappointment about Ms. Mayoral’s departure, the good news is that she has left a foundation of good work upon which the school can build and continue to grow.”

Samohi also had its share of issues during Mayoral’s tenure, including disruptive behavior at assemblies, a scuffle between a teacher and a student, a hiring controversy in the baseball program, a measles outbreak and a brawl following a varsity basketball game.

“The district is committed to appointing a person with demonstrated commitment, knowledge and skill to lead as principal of Samohi,” the letter reads.

jeff@www.smdp.com