Shoreline commences superintendent search

David Briggs
After being hired by the board of trustees, Scott Mahoney has commenced a search for a new superindendent for Shoreline Unified School District.

What qualities should the next leader of the Shoreline Unified School District possess, a consultant began asking families and staff this week.

In written surveys mailed Tuesday and four scheduled meetings with Scott Mahoney, the consultant recommended by Marin County Office of Education and hired by trustees last week, stakeholders are providing input about what past work experience and personal attributes are the most important qualifications for next year’s superintendent. From the answers to more than 30 questions, Mr. Mahoney will distill a job description for an ideal superintendent and craft specific questions for candidates to address in their interviews.

This input aims to provide a multifaceted picture of the district’s needs: whether necessary job experience includes being a teacher, principal or superintendent; whether the candidate should speak Spanish; whether the next superintendent should be most experienced in applying for grants or writing ballot initiatives, drafting budgets, implementing Common Core, negotiating employee contracts, improving curriculums or raising test scores; whether the person has a sense of humor and how long he or she plans to stay in the district.

Similar to the recent superintendent search for Lagunitas and Bolinas-Stinson School Districts, applications will be accepted using the online company Edjoin starting from this Wednesday until June 3. The posting currently lists the salary as negotiable, but the board indicated they wanted a candidate who could work three-quarters of full time at a salary of $140,000.

From there, Mr. Mahoney will ask a panel of six current superintendents from Marin and Sonoma Counties to rank prospective candidates based on letters of recommendation and the criteria the district expressed in the surveys. A narrower field of candidates will be invited to interviews in mid-June before two committees, the first of which will likely include three teachers, two staff members and one staff manager and three parents. The other committee will include three trustees, the three principals and an employee of the district office. “The goal is to have a new candidate selected and vetted for employment July 1 or as soon as possible thereafter,” Mr. Mahoney said in an email.

Yet for many, these survey results will be inconsequential at best, and a costly distraction at worst. At the last two board meetings, dozens have made their preference clear: parents and teachers feel they already have a superintendent who has been a strong and communicative leader in Tom Stubbs, who resigned on April 10 when the board made it known they would not renew his contract for another year. 

At last week’s special meeting at Tomales Elementary School, the school board decided to move forward on two distinct fronts, asking County Superintendent Mary Jane Burke for legal advice on how to rescind Mr. Stubbs’s resignation and asking Mr. Mahoney to initiate the superintendent search—for a flat $9,500 fee or $100 an hour if the search is cut short. Many audience members called on the board to hold a special meeting this week to deliberate and vote on renewing Mr. Stubbs’s contract for another year, but board president Jane Healy chose to wait until the regular meeting next Thursday, May 15. 

A provision of the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state law regulating public meetings, that took effect in January 2012 prohibits calling a special meeting regarding salaries or compensation for local agency executives. Some lawyers have interpreted the new rule to mean a superintendent’s contract must be approved or ratified in a regular meeting, but it’s unclear whether the same rule would apply to rescinding a resignation, which effectively renews the contract—and by extension, its salary provisions—for another year. 

Ms. Healy did not respond to five emails sent over the course of a week asking what she had learned about the legality of rescinding Mr. Stubbs’s resignation at a special meeting. Ms. Burke also deferred any questions to Ms. Healy.

In a letter to employees and families announcing the search, Ms. Healy did not mention the possibility of Mr. Stubbs retaining the job for another year. “We understand that this is an emotional and difficult time for all,” she wrote. “As we work together as your trustees to resolve the challenges that currently exist in our district, we must at the same time move forward with our search to attract the best candidates in advance of the start of the 2014-15 school year.”

Although there was not a special meeting this week, all the board members, with the exception of Ms. Healy, met with the teachers at West Marin School. The certificated staff appreciated the board taking additional time to listen to their thoughts, but they are anxious to see how the board will decide to move forward. 

“It’s very unsettling not knowing what’s going to happen,” Erin Montoya, a Spanish teacher at West Marin School, told the Light last week. “We’re five weeks away from school being over and we don’t know who our superintendent will be next year.”


Scott Mahoney will hold a session for parents and community members on Tuesday, May 13, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at West Marin School.