TURLOCK -- "Hiring a superintendent is the most important decision a school board can make," Felica Renshaw, president of the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees, said recently.
And with four of seven board seats up for grabs this fall, it's a decision that could fall to fresh faces. Jonna Baughn, Eileen Hamilton and Yolanda Perez are challenging incumbents Loren Holt, who has seven years' experience, Frank Lima, with six years' experience, Victor Pedroza, with 14 years' experience, and John Sims, with nine years of experience.
After the election, the board's first order of business likely will be working with a search firm. Superintendent hunts usually work two ways, Renshaw said: The spot is opened to internal applicants only or a search firm is hired to conduct a nationwide query.
William Gibson, Turlock's current superintendent, was found by a search firm almost 16 years ago. He was hired away from Oroville Union High School District north of Sacramento. Because Gibson has been in Turlock so long, the board is hiring a search firm to find outside talent, Renshaw said. Internal applicants still will be considered, she said, but no one to her knowledge specifically has been groomed for the job. In Modesto, Arturo Flores was hired through the same process when Jim Enochs retired after 21 years.
"This allows the process to be very open, very transparent," Renshaw said.
The school board has selected four possible firms, all with ex- perience filling executive school positions, and will hold inter- views Tuesday with each, Ren- shaw said. A firm likely will be hired by the end of November, leaving the newly elected board to highlight traits and experi- ences they're looking for in a new top educator.
Asked how the search should be conducted and what qualities they're looking for, all the incumbents and challenger Baughn recommended using a search firm. Hamilton recommended posting the position online and with educational journals, something a search firm will likely do. Holt, Lima and Sims stressed holding community meetings to find out what qualities the community is looking for in a superintendent.
BAUGHN: "First and foremost, the Turlock Unified School District needs to have an instructional leader with a proven track record of building rela-tionships between the district, parents and community members. Along with the ability to build and maintain relationships, we need a leader who will make tough choices in terms of accountability."
HAMILTON: The new hire "must be knowledgeable about cur- rent community issues and resources and continually strive to improve our educational system. They should take time to have meaningful discussions and develop a good rapport with the school board, educators, students and parents."
HOLT: In the hiring process, "it is important to be able to include various stakeholders, including staff, parents and community members in the process of determining what we are looking for in a superintendent. Our next superintendent (should) exhibit the qualities of a leader, be able to work together with the governance team in setting policy and have experience in a K-12 district working with curriculum or finance."
LIMA: "A qualified superintendent should be able to engage, inspire and lead our existing community of highly qualified teachers, administrators and staff. Our public schools are integral to the quality of our community. Our superintendent should become part of our community and have the ability to engage and collaborate with all stakeholders to ensure that our students have every opportunity to become good citizens and achieve academically."
PEDROZA: "Hiring a new superintendent is probably the most important thing a board member can do. The board must first come to an understanding and consensus as to what direction the district will take in the future. Once that has been accomplished, we will hire a search firm to recruit potential candidates to fill our position."
PEREZ: The new superintendent needs to "understand the growth of the city and the need of adding more to our schools, bringing in more technology, working with every side of the town, not just one side. In hiring the superintendent, we need to find someone that can work close with the board, and the teachers and the community. They can't separate themselves from the community. They need to be accessible to everyone."
SIMS: "The next superintendent must have a vision of schools that emphasizes academic choice and personal responsibility. He or she must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills, be visible in the community and accessible to the community, provide the board of trustees with sufficient information to make informed decisions, and be skillful leading and serving as a member of work teams."
Bee staff writer Michael R. Shea can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2391.