Sequoia Union High School District governing board members had an important question for the search firm that helped find its last superintendent, who resigned earlier this fall after calls for her firing: "How do we do this differently for a longer-lasting result?"
The school board on Nov. 10 interviewed three consulting firms that could conduct the hiring process for a new superintendent to replace Mary Streshly, including Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (HYA), which helped the board hire Streshly three years ago. Streshly departed after the district's teachers union and most of its top administrators called for her ouster.
Trustee Chris Thomsen HYA asked what he called "an empirically awkward question."
"Our superintendent (Streshly) served a shorter time than we (the board) expected," Thomsen said. "Do you have any reflections on the last search (process)?"
Carolyn McKennan, a vice president for HYA, said district officials perhaps could have offered Streshly more coaching or "honest feedback" early into her tenure that could have helped her better adjust to the district.
"(Streshly was) coming from one environment that wasn't quite as metropolitan, but that's hindsight," McKennan said. "Beyond that I didn't have contact with her after she joined the district. … Sometimes the match was just not there; maybe we could have done nothing better."
The firm said that its superintendent selections generally are longterm hires, with 85% staying with a district for five years or more. HYA helped the Portola Valley and Las Lomitas elementary school districts select their most recent superintendents.
William Huyett, a consultant for McPherson & Jacobson, L.L.C., promised his firm could find the district a longterm leader.
Shawneece Stevenson and Rich Ginn, Sequoia district school board candidates who are on track to win seats in the Nov. 3 election, according to the latest results, attended the meeting and asked questions.
In July, the district's teachers union and 22 principals and top administrators called for Streshly's firing, accusing her of mishandling the district's COVID-19 response and said she has a history of ineffectual leadership.
After weeks of closed session meetings about Streshly, the board said she resigned in September "to fulfill critical care responsibilities with her family."
Streshly became Sequoia Union High School District superintendent in July of 2017, signing on with a salary of $240,500 per year.
Assistant Superintendent Crystal Leach is filling in as interim superintendent until the board hires a replacement for Streshly.
The newly seated school board will likely select a search firm at its Dec. 16 meeting, board President Allen Weiner said during the recent meeting.
The board will need to decide how it will conduct interviews virtually or in-person, given the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each of the firms vying for the contract would expect the district to have a finalist for the role selected by spring 2021.
HYA's proposed timeline has the board hiring a new superintendent around April 2021.
McPherson & Jacobson said it could have a superintendent finalist by March 2021.
The third search firm the board interviewed, Leadership Associates, estimates it could have a finalist for the position by mid-April.
• HYA: $21,500. HYA also offers additional superintendent transition services, which include: a board governance workshop at $1,000 per day; board goal-setting and a superintendent evaluation at $1,000 per day; and comprehensive first year coaching and support for $5,000 per year.
• McPherson & Jacobson: $16,000. Expenses are limited to $3,150 for a total of not more than $19,150 and include: online meetings; media advertising; video interviews for five candidates; copying, postage and phone expenses; travel and associated consultant expenses.
• Leadership Associates: $26,000. Services include recruitment of candidates and background checks; gathering of community and staff input and providing the board with a written report, including an online survey, and organizing interviews.