Carmel Unified School District to hire search firm for new superintendent

Peninsula Premier Admin

CARMEL — After interim Superintendent Trisha Dellis announced last month she would be retiring at the end of June, the Carmel Unified School District board voted to hire a search firm to find a replacement.

The board voted unanimously on Feb. 2 to issue a request for proposals to find a licensed search firm and move forward in hopes of having a new superintendent in place before the start of the next school year. Dellis is the fifth permanent or interim superintendent to have served in the past five years. Her contract expires June 30, which will be her last day.

After the meeting started with a presentation by district staff on how their options for how to move forward including a sample timeline, members of the board said they wanted to follow the public’s lead from the public comment portion of the meeting to make an expedited process a priority.

“I think it’s important for us to really take a look at the timeline,” board Clerk Tess Arthur said. “There is a sense of urgency here and I do think we definitely have to tighten that up. I could not agree more with some of our callers (from the public comment period).”

During public comment, Sarah Miller said the time crunch could have been avoidable if the board acted sooner to begin a new search while adding she thinks an outside candidate is needed and the hiring should be done before negotiations with the teachers union in the summer.

“We cannot promote someone internally from within (the Carmel Unified School District),” she said. “Ms. Dellis’ short and tumultuous tenure demonstrates why we need to bring in someone from the outside. You can start fresh, make all stakeholders be fairly represented.”

Arthur agreed with members of the public, including Miller, who commented that candidates from previous searches should be revisited adding they should go through the vetting process again. One commenter noted concern that dozens of other districts in the state are already conducting searches for superintendents.

Board member Karl Pallastrini said a search firm will be the first to tell the district what the climate is like for candidates on a state and national level.

Craig Chavez, the chief human resources officer, laid out the high level of turnover at the position recently during the meeting.

“Marvin Biasotti retired on June 30 of 2015,” he said. “Following Marvin and using the search firm Leadership Associates, Scott Laurence was hired. His tenure was from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016, for the period of one academic year. The cost of that search was $24,950. Following Mr. Laurence, Karen Hendricks was superintendent as an interim from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017. She was promoted from the (district’s) human resources office but eventually not hired in the process of finding a superintendent. Hired in that same process on July 1, 2017, was Dr. (Barbara) Dill-Varga and she was employed in the seat until the spring of 2020 and the search firm of Leadership Associates was also used at that particular time. Due to the hiring process and the length of tenure of Mr. Laurence, there was limited cost in terms of the use of the firm at that time. The cost to the district at that time was $1,767.58.”

Dellis moved from human resources director to acting superintendent in May 2020 and later took over the role on an interim basis.

When announcing her retirement during the Jan. 20 board meeting, Dellis said she will continue in her role as the district works through the pandemic and the process of hiring a new superintendent.

“This has been in no way a reflection of the incredible teachers, staff and administrators that I have had the pleasure to serve with the last several months. The professionalism and the commitment of these individuals is unparalleled,” she said. “And I’ve been so honored and blessed to be here, especially during this really challenging time, as we have been walking through a pandemic and trying to make decisions as to what’s best for our students.”

Contributed by local news sources

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