It still is early in the process, but it appears the Fresno Unified School District Board of Trustees has several good ideas on hiring a successor to longtime Superintendent Michael Hanson, who is leaving the district this summer.
Trustees told The Bee’s Mackenzie Mays for her Jan. 8 article on choosing Hanson’s replacement that they are leaning toward a national search and want the public to have a say in the process.
We back this approach.
As the trustees represent the district’s students, families and taxpayers, those stakeholders must have a legitimate opportunity for their voices to be heard. This can be done by holding community meetings at each of the district’s high schools.
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The board also should appoint an advisory committee to aid in the search. This committee should include representatives of public agencies and nonprofits that work closely with the district, and community members who have a strong background in education.
It is important that the district cast as wide a net as possible and not simply look for local or in-state candidates. In addition to being California’s fourth-largest public school district, Fresno Unified faces the challenge of educating students, many of them English-language learners, who come from impoverished families.
The district’s next superintendent must be an extraordinary leader who can align the district and community in a single direction: graduating more students who are college or job ready – or both.
One important question that has arisen is about the degree of transparency the district should embrace in the superintendent search.
Trustee Carol Mills warned that “some qualified candidates won’t apply if the vetting and names of candidates are public or disclosed. ...”
However, we would note that many colleges bring their finalists for the position of president to their campuses for community conversations, and they don’t appear to suffer a dearth of qualified applicants. Moreover, once a candidate has become a finalist, it’s likely that he or she will have told their current employer.
The board has many big decisions ahead. We urge the trustees to focus their thoughts and energy on how to proceed, and get the ball rolling as quickly as possible.
Once the process is in place, however, the trustees and the community must not get ahead of themselves. Remember, the No. 1 objective is for the district to hire the person who best fits Fresno Unified’s needs at this time and for the next five to 10 years.