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Fallbrook search for superintendent on schedule

Village News Staff

The search for a new superintendent for the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District is moving along, step by step, to replace the position vacated by Dr. Candace Singh in November. School trustees met Monday, May 1, and discovered there were 28 applicants to lead Fallbrook’s largest employer.

“It’s a rich field of candidates,” said Rich Chavez of Leadership Associates, the company hired as consultants to help the board find the right person to lead the district and be on board by July 1. Chavez said the process is on schedule.

The number of applicants was more than he expected, the consultant said several days before the May 1 meeting. The application period closed on April 21, so Chavez and his team have been busy completing comprehensive reference and background checks on the applicants.

The board will meet in closed session on May 11. The consultants will provide reports about each of the applicants, ranking who they feel are the primary 5-7 contenders to be interviewed. At the meeting, the board will select the finalists to interview in person.

Those interviews will be held on May 20 in closed session. The board is expected to meet all day and select the new superintendent. With assistance from Leadership Associates, the board is expected to approve the superintendent’s contract and introduce the educator at its regularly scheduled board meeting on June 5 – and then be on board by the July 1, deadline established by the board.

During the May 1 meeting, the board discussed having a community panel also interview the candidates. If the board decides to go that route, Chavez said one way to handle it was to have two interviews going on at once on May 20 – one with the board and the other with the panel – in order to save time.

If there is a panel selected and it meets at the same time as the board interviews, Chavez would consolidate the panel’s input and report to the board. There was discussion of a mix of school and community members on the panel, with one or two appointed by each of the five board members. Acting Superintendent Cindi Martin said there was a special board meeting on May 4 and the details of a community panel could be decided then, a suggestion the board approved.

Chavez has said he has been pleased about the relationship with the board and its approach in the selection process. His team has met with numerous civic, educational and community groups to create an information sheet – approved by the board – for applicants to know what attributes the board is looking for. The qualities are posted on the consultant’s web page,

“The applicants are highly qualified,” Chavez said, including superintendents, experienced superintendents, a couple of former superintendents, an associate superintendent, deputy superintendent, area superintendents, assistant superintendents of resources, and human resources directors from the district level, a principal, a credentialled superintendent who's not a superintendent now, and a high school teacher.

The teacher is apparently Chris Clements, who has secured strong local grassroots support. He said he formally applied for the position two days before the April 21 deadline and has been “campaigning” for weeks. At the monthly board meeting on April 17, 10 individuals (including Clements) spoke during the public hearing period about their support for the board to seriously consider Clements. The speakers included Pastor Mel Svendsen of Riverview Church in Bonsall.

“I’m as Fallbrook as you can get,” Clements told the board, explaining that he grew up in Fallbrook, attended local schools, was a coach, and teacher for 14 years. He is a teacher at Fallbrook High School but doesn’t have the educational degrees or administrative experience of many of the applicants. However, he is local and understands the Latino community since he married an immigrant from Mexico City. He is also a third-generation Fallbrook resident and has two young children.

At the May 1 meeting, several community members spoke during the public comments segment against the board interviewing someone not experienced as a professional administrator. There was a petition submitted with about 200 online or personal signatures to that effect.

Board members Dr. Stacey McRae (president), Suzanne Lundin, Mary McBride, Ricardo Favela and Diane Sebalj have said the selection of the right superintendent is the most important decision they will make as trustees.

Leadership Associates was awarded a $25,500 contract to help the board select Singh’s replacement at the board’s March 13 meeting.


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