Saturday, April 15, 2023

Questions from the Press, April 15, 2023.

Today, Sonoma Valley Unified's board held a meeting to discuss its Superintendent search. Because I generally get questions shortly after meetings from the Sonoma Index-Tribune and the Sonoma Valley Sun, I took the time during the session to write down what I thought happpened, and my meeting notes are below. Also, the photograph included is of my daughter Siena, a lacrosse player for Sonoma Valley High School, of whom I am very proud. 


The public portion of the meeting concerned the findings in the Leadership Profile Assessment conducted by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (HYA) for the Superintendent position. The data was collected from virtual interviews, focus groups, and an online survey involving various stakeholder groups, conducted between March 10, 2023, and April 7, 2023. The purpose of this assessment was to assist the Board in determining the desired characteristics in the new superintendent, as well as to identify the district's strengths and upcoming challenges.

Participation in the data gathering process included a diverse range of stakeholders, with 621 respondents to the online survey, which was offered in both English and Spanish. Parents and support staff were well represented, with 325 individual responses. Sonoma Valley Unified School District's strengths include community partnerships, a value for diversity and inclusion, and talented, dedicated staff. Challenges and concerns facing the district include a pervasive sense of mistrust towards the district, a high rate of superintendent turnover, a need for improved governance practices, and addressing student mental health needs.

The focus group meetings allowed participants to build upon each other's comments and respond to questions regarding stakeholder values, current and future challenges, and desired characteristics in a new superintendent. The search team thanked all the participants and the SVUSD staff for their assistance, and particularly Kyra Sherman for organizing the stakeholder scheduling.

The data presented summarizes the participation of various stakeholder groups in personal interviews, focus groups, and an online survey conducted for the Sonoma Valley Unified School District Superintendent search. The key insights from this data were:

1. A total of 95 stakeholders participated in personal interviews or focus groups, while 621 stakeholders responded to the online survey.

2. The online survey had broad participation from different stakeholder groups, with the highest participation from parents (269), followed by support staff (56), students (22), and community partners (10).

3. Among the interviewed stakeholders, site level administrators had the highest participation (20), followed by teachers (103), and central office administrators (5).

This data indicates that there was considerable engagement from various stakeholder groups, particularly parents, support staff, and site level administrators, during the data gathering process for the Superintendent search.

The profile was essentially that SVUSD is seeking a Superintendent who: 

• Is Visionary and has a student-centered approach, emphasizing instructional focus, special education, and balancing district strategies with classroom innovation;

• Fosters trust, respect, and a positive climate among stakeholders, with an emphasis on relationship-building and engaging with the Latino community;

• Collaborates with the Board, supports teachers and staff, and seeks input from educational specialists in decision-making;

• Involves all stakeholders in strategic planning and implementation, maintaining a track record of positive working relationships and approachability across the community;

• Demonstrates experience in managing enrollment, reconfiguring schools, strong financial acumen, and commitment to biliteracy and biculturalism.

The trustees, before entering closed session, reviewed the analysis of the survey data from HYA. The data revealed a significant disparity between the opinions of administrators and community members, with no clustering observed on the State of the District. In contrast, more clustering was found in the weighted Leadership profile. Interestingly, "understanding and being sensitive to the needs of a diverse student population" ranked within the top concerns for both community members and students. Indeed, the two highest priorities of students were that the superintendent be visible throughout the district while actively engaging in community life, and understanding and catering to the needs of a diverse student population.

The trustees then entered closed session. The closed session adjourned at 12:20, with no action reported.