Search continues for local school district superintendent

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The Berkeley Unified School District’s Board of Education announced May 31 that it would be broadening its search for the new district superintendent despite its original plans to have selected a candidate by the beginning of June.

The board decided to extend the search because they were not satisfied with the candidates they had originally interviewed in May. Though current district superintendent Bill Huyett’s retirement will officially take effect June 30, he has agreed to stay in the position until the board chooses a new candidate later this year.

According to board director Karen Hemphill, the consulting firm hired to conduct the search which specializes in superintendent and principal selection — Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates — is not charging any additional fees for the extension of the search.

Board president John Selawsky said that in a special closed session meeting on May 2, the board had decided to interview six candidates out of a total of 57 applicants, but were still unable to find the best candidate for the district following the interviews.

“We need to find a match for Berkeley, and we didn’t feel like we did,” Selawsky said.

Hemphill agreed with Selawksy and said the board is looking for someone who can continue improving the district’s education system by building on the district’s three priorities: literacy, truancy and reducing the disproportionality among students of color.

“I think this was a community process, so it wasn’t just with the board. There was an overwhelming (community) response,” Hemphill said. “We want someone who is a strong educational leader, someone who can build on what we have built, and strengthen academic achievement particularly for students of color.”

The consulting firm originally met with community members and also conducted an online survey so students, administrators, parents and current and former board members could assess what qualifications they desired in the new superintendent. According to the firm’s report regarding the search for the superintendent, the community’s primary concerns were to find someone with previous success in closing the achievement gap and who can increase the number of teachers of color in the district.

Huyett said that he trusts the board’s decision to extend the search and hopes the new superintendent, “carr(ies) on the good work the board and the administration has done in closing the achievement gap and particularly in serving those students not served as well in the past. That is really the vision of the board.”

Selawsky said the search will continue for the foreseeable future until board members can find a candidate with the stated qualifications they can all agree upon.

“The hope is that we find someone before September, but (the search) could extend well until the fall,” he said.

The district’s website provides current updates and links regarding information about the process involved in choosing the new superintendent.