The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) took one step closer to finding a new superintendent last week when the Board of Education unanimously voted to hire Leadership Associates to help conduct the search at their Feb 16 meeting.

The vote initiates a process which will play out over coming months with the goal of the selected candidate beginning as soon as July 2023.

The Board chose Leadership Associates over the two other executive search firms that submitted applications due to their emphasis on gathering community input and experience and familiarity with the superintendent search process and the district itself.

Leadership Associates worked with SMMUSD to select the district’s two previous superintendents and Board members expressed confidence that they are again the right choice.

“Having been on the Board for 12 years, our work with Leadership Associates and our experience has been great,” Board member Laurie Lieberaman said during the meeting. “I feel like this proposal and in fact meeting with them that they’ve only enhanced the tools that they have and that they have and that they use for finding superintendents.”

The search will be led by consultant Peggy Lynch along with partners Rich Thome Chavez and David J. Verdugo, all of whom previously worked as superintendents themselves and have been involved in a combined total of over 100 superintendent searches across California.

Lynch said she was directly involved in previous SMMUSD superintendent searches and that she feels her firm has a solid grasp of the district’s history and its current needs, to which Board Member Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein agreed.

“I just truly believe that Peggy and team know who we are and have delivered with the two previous [superintendents],” he said.

The next step in the process, outlined by Lynch during the meeting, is to gather input from community stakeholders through surveys and public meetings about what they are looking for in the new superintendent. This includes parents, teachers, staff and students in addition to board members.

From there, Leadership Associates will put together a position description that will be posted on their website, SMMUSD’s website as well as advertised in trade publications and sent out to potential candidates across the country.

Lynch said she and her team will then check candidate references and backgrounds and conduct individual interviews with each one before meeting with the board to discuss the applicants and help select five to six to bring in for interviews.

She expressed assuredness that this process will yield a diverse and quality group of applicants.

“Despite challenges, it’s an attractive district – you’re successful in lots of things that you do and you’ve got incredible support around your community from parents and those kinds of things – so it’s an attractive job” she told the board.

The board could meet with Leadership Associates again as early as next week to discuss potential candidates and identify community groups to reach out to for input.

Avatar photo

Grace Adams

Grace Adams is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University where she studied Spanish and journalism. She holds a Master’s degree in investigative journalism from City, University of London. She has experience...