Past top officials in the Capistrano Unified School District will help CUSD find a new superintendent.
Previous CUSD Superintendents Joseph Farley and Suzette Lovely now work with Educational Support Services—a consulting firm the CUSD Board of Trustees selected on Wednesday, Feb. 1, to help with the superintendent search.
CUSD is looking to recruit a new superintendent after trustees decided to terminate former Superintendent Kirsten Vital Brulte’s contract during a special closed-door meeting in December for an unexplained reason. Clark Hampton is serving as interim superintendent.
ESS was one of four firms under consideration, the other three being Leadership Associates; Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates; and The Cosca Group. The four firms gave presentations to the board on why they should be selected during another special meeting on Wednesday.
“I do think that, coupled with the part where they’re the law firm we do a lot of work with, ESS has that real deep knowledge of our district—the pros and cons of our district—and can help us navigate through this process a bit better than the rest,” said Trustee Michael Parham, who made the motion to pick ESS.
The vote for ESS was 4-3. Trustees Krista Castellanos, Gary Prichard, Amy Hanacek and Parham voted for ESS. Trustees Gila Jones, Judy Bullockus and Lisa Davis voted no, with Jones instead preferring Leadership Associates.
In a letter sent to trustees before Wednesday’s presentations, ESS said it has been affiliated with the law firm Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo since 2006.
“Our focus is to provide non-legal solutions for TK-14 school systems around human resource needs, labor relations, leadership development, fiscal management, board governance, and executive coaching,” the letter said.
Farley further explained the scope of the firm’s work during the live presentation.
“What distinguishes us from the others is we have significant credibility in the region and district because we’re former leaders of CUSD,” Farley said. “This is important because we can assure the candidates that this is a really good place to work and that the superintendent will be happy and productive and supported here.”
ESS can tout CUSD’s history of excellence to candidates, Farley said.
“Most importantly, we fully conceptualize and understand the strengths, complexities, leadership needs and issues of your district,” Farley said. “We will enhance that knowledge through our extensive focus groups and surveying of your district’s stakeholders.”
ESS will spend as much time as it takes on the search, provide trustees weekly updates and sit in on candidate interviews to help assess their fit, he said. The search will be confidential, fair and unbiased, Farley said.
“We’ll also prepare the final candidate as they transition into his or her new position,” he said.
Lovely said they contact listed and unlisted references during initial applicant screenings.
“We get a really true picture of an individual and what they may or may not bring to the role,” Lovely said. “We hire a social media analyst to audit the online presence and digital footprint of the board’s candidate slate. This is to ensure no unfavorable headlines or news stories emerge after someone has been interviewed by the board.”
ESS also taps a third-party background screening company to look at other aspects of candidates.
A timeline set forth by ESS proposes to post the superintendent job in March, review applications in April, interview candidates in May and approve employment in May. The selected superintendent is then projected to start in July.
ESS’s total fee is $28,500.
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