Special to the Village News
As the community continues to express opinions at board meetings about the process of trustees selecting a new superintendent for the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District, there will be plenty of opportunities for others to express their views in the next couple of months.
Trustees met with the consulting team, Leadership Associates, at a special board workshop on March 22 to establish the timeline to have a new leader of the district in place by July 1.
An online survey to identify the most important attributes for the trustees to look for in the new hire is expected to be available on the school webpage prior to the spring break, April 3-7.
Leadership Associates was selected at the March 13 board meeting to assist and direct the board to replace Dr. Candace Singh, who resigned in November. The $25,500 contract with the firm was officially completed at the March 22 meeting.
Rich Chavez and Peggy Lynch of Leadership Associates answered questions at that meeting and when asked what the board members were looking for in a superintendent, Lynch took notes of various qualities. Three of the board members – Dr. Stacey McRae, board president, Mary McBride and Diene Sebalj – were elected in November and seated on Dec. 12.
At the same December meeting, Cindi Martin began serving as interim superintendent.
“We’re all learning still,” she said at an interview March 22 in her district office. “We’re all on a learning curve. I supply the board with information for them to make decisions.”
The interim superintendent said McRae’s experience as a middle school teacher is a valuable asset and adds to the effectiveness of the district leadership.
Martin has worked for the district for 19 years from the business side, first as director of accounting before being promoted to assistant superintendent of business services. Asked if she wanted the position of being superintendent, she expressed reservations about making a formal application.
She is experienced and considers herself local, two of the qualities the community and board have identified as being important. She lives in Menifee but has brought her children to Fallbrook for their education. One of her children is still a student in the district and another works for the district as a library technician.
“I’ve never been a teacher or principal, but I know what they need,” she said. “When they ask for something, I’ll look at requests closely and find a way to make it happen.”
Martin said being interim superintendent could be seen as an evaluation for the job, but added, “I don’t want to board to think that way and for it to interfere with the work of the board.”
“The district is running well,” she said. “Dr. Singh had a good structure in place and there’s nothing really new. The cabinet runs effectively as a team. There’s a great leadership team – it’s not my leadership. I know what I don’t know and rely on experts to contribute to their areas of expertise. Together, we can do a lot of great things.
“Out of respect to the ethics of the process, and not wanting the board to feel awkwardness, I’m not going to apply. I will be pleased with whatever the board approves.”
Looking at the timing set by the board and consultants, decisions will be coming quickly. The consultants are working on finding applicants through various means and will then review the qualifications and submit a list of top candidates for the board to consider at a meeting on May 11 at 5 p.m. Then on Saturday, May 20, the finalists will be interviewed in an all-day meeting that should lead to someone being offered the job.
Once the top candidate is selected, the consultants help on the contract offer. Chavez noted that they are not attorneys, so the district legal representative would have to fine-tune the contract.
Leadership Associates will also schedule meetings with the numerous community groups, teachers, staff, union representatives, many others in coming weeks.
At the March 13 board meeting, during the open public session, several community members addressed the important attributes they would like to see. The message from one of the speakers resulted in a reply at the March 22 special meeting by Leticia Maldonado-Stamos.
“I normally don't like to respond to previous comments made by other members of the public at these meetings,” she said. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but sometimes things just can't be left out there without challenge. Some things must be countered, lest you think that everyone has the same opinion.
“I have been disappointed in what some people have said and how they believe the new superintendent search should proceed. I'm frankly aghast at what one man said at the last meeting when he made the statement that degrees and levels of education should not be given as much weight in considering the qualifications of a superintendent. To make such a statement is wholly irresponsible and selfish. I believe that a person would only make a statement like that for one or more of three reasons.
“Number one, the person making the statement is looking to have a specific individual considered and that individual doesn't have the credentials or earned advanced degrees. Number two, the person making that statement isn't at all concerned about the leadership this district deserves and thinks our children and community can do with less. Or number three, the person making such a statement isn't knowledgeable. Given the choice, no one here would take their family members to just any medical doctor for care and treatment. You would want someone with the best education degrees and experience available.”
There will be plenty of additional comments in coming weeks as trustees seek to achieve what they have said is the most important decision of their tenure.