FUSD mulls next step in chief search
By Leonor Vivanco, Staff Writer
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
FONTANA - Now that the deadline for applications has passed, school board members are set to meet later this week to decide how to go about choosing the next superintendent. There are 11 candidates for Fontana Unified School District's top post.
A closed-door meeting is set for Wednesday, in which board members will discuss their next course of action in choosing who will run the 43,000-student district.
The new superintendent will replace Charles D. Milligan and will be paid an annual salary of $180,000. After serving less than two years of his four-year contract, Milligan left June 16 to be superintendent of public schools in Tacoma, Wash.
"The association would like to see any group with a vested interest in the education of the students in Fontana to have some voice in the selection process," said Linda Young, president of the Fontana Teachers Association.
Although the board has not decided how it wants to proceed, board members Arlene Piazza and Laura Abernathy Mancha said they would like to have a community panel.
"It just gives the community more buy-in," Piazza said.
Another way to get the community and staff involved is for them to identify before or during the search the attributes and priorities they are looking for in the next superintendent, said Molly McGee Hewitt, director of executive search services for the California School Boards Association, based in West Sacramento.
The concern when a district uses a panel is the risk of names being released to the public before the new superintendent is hired, which could lead to candidates withdrawing, said Tim Quinn, director of the Broad Superintendents Academy. The academy is run by the Los Angeles-based Broad Center, a nonprofit organization focused on improving the management of urban school systems.
"It's in the board's interest really to do this as quietly as they can to make sure that the names of the candidates are not divulged because it creates problems for the candidates and their current place of employment if their employer learns they are seeking employment elsewhere," he said.
Of the 11 applicants for Fontana's superintendent position, two are already employees of the district, said Interim Superintendent Jane Smith.
The school board first agreed to limit the search to in-house employees and promote from within the district to bring stability to the post. Seven had applied.
But the board later decided to broaden the search, some members said, because of the district's size. They are also looking for previous experience as superintendent and in handling a large bond measure. Voters in June approved a $275 million bond for school construction and expansion.
Milligan succeeded Debra Bradley, who resigned after being with the district for one year. Both Milligan and Bradley were hired after outside searches.
Applicants do their research and it can be daunting for them if they find that the board has had a series of superintendents in a short span of time, Hewitt said.
"Candidates do check you out as much as you check out candidates," she said.
The top issue candidates have asked about has been about the board, and not salary or test scores, Hewitt said.
Quinn said it was important for the board to work together effectively.
"One of the biggest things that scares candidates away is if board members are involved in any significant amount of infighting among themselves," he said.