Alyssa Morin

In PV, it takes a village to find a superintendent

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Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District is taking a progressive approach in deciding its next phase of leadership.

In September of last year, Superintendent Walker Williams of the PVPUSD announced that he would retire as of July 1, 2015. Now the Board of Education is charged with selecting a replacement, and they have called in a consulting agency to help.

The district hired The Cosca Group, an educational consulting firm that specializes in recruiting superintendents. The firm not only assists in finding and vetting candidates, it also helps the school district establish what it is looking for in a new superintendent.

To that end, The Cosca Group led 30 meetings of PVPUSD stakeholders and two public forums in the month of April. In each session, the consultants asked participants to identify what they believed are greatest strengths and weaknesses of the school district and what characteristics they sought in the new superintendent. A similar survey was conducted online.

Superintendent Walker Williams of the PVPUSD announced that he would retire as of July 1, 2015.

Superintendent Walker Williams of the PVPUSD announced that he would retire as of July 1, 2015.

“The Board of Education makes the hiring decision,” said Assistant Superintendent John Bowes. “The Cosca Group is providing aggregate information about the community to help in that choice.”

On Friday, April 25, in a special meeting of the Board of Education, the firm reported its findings.

“We have never seen such a response to surveys and meetings like we did in your district,” Steve Goldstone of The Cosca Group told the Board of Education. “That says something very positive about your staff and your school district.”

About 220 people attended the meetings and 245 people completed the online survey. At the April 25 meeting, the firm integrated the community responses with the results of a school board brainstorming session.

“You want us to recruit someone who can build on the strengths and work on the needs,” Goldstone told the school board. “We want to figure out what characteristics the right person would have.”

Overwhelmingly, the data pointed to a need for stronger leadership, more accountability and consistent programming across the district.

In terms of characteristics in the ideal candidate, data showed that the district wants a change agent, an exceptional communicator and someone highly visible and accessible on campus and in community.

“This is the criteria that will be used in our brochure, our review of the candidates and establishing questions in the interview process,” said Frank Cosca of The Cosca Group. “The most common thing I heard, which meant a lot to me, was that your district wants a leader who can bring a vision to this district. And I really do believe that is what you want.”

The Cosca Group will finalize their recruitment brochure by May 2. The first advertisements for the PVPUSD Superintendent position will be posted on May 5 and applications will close on June 6. From there, the firm will bring the applications to the Board of Education for review, conduct background and reference checks on worthy candidates and assist the board with the first round of interviews on June 23.

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