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Zimmer sets LAUSD board meeting to begin superintendent search

Mike Szymanski | July 22, 2015

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Steve ZimmerThe LA Unified board has scheduled a special meeting next week to initiate discussions on how to conduct the search for a successor to Superintendent Ray Cortines, who has expressed a desire to step down by December.

“The board will meet on July 30 to start just the technical part of the [search] process,” board president Steve Zimmer said in an interview with KPCC.

“I can’t say for sure what the calendar will be until the board meets and is able to discuss it together,” he said. “But I can, in broad strokes, outline that there will be a period of listening, there will be a period of search, there will be a period of winnowing down from that search.”

Just after Zimmer was elected board president last month, he tried to schedule a meeting with all the members for some time in August, well before the first regular meeting of the new school year, on Sept. 1, but there were scheduling conflicts that needed to be accommodated.

Zimmer has stressed that finding a new superintendent is the most important task facing the board for the upcoming school year. He insisted that there was no “shortlist” of candidates for the position.

“There will be the deliberation over the group of finalists, all of whom I hope will be consensus builders, collaborators, and will have the proper balance of urgency and periphery to understand that to move forward it has to be all of us together,” Zimmer said in the radio interview. “There’s no shortlist.”

He also said that he has not yet set a schedule for when the new superintendent will get chosen.

“I don’t have hard and fast deadlines,” he said. “What’s really important to me is that we kind of listen to the soul of the process, that we’re not thrust forward artificially but that we are exacting in our work, that we are professional and that we understand the urgency at hand.”

The district has no real blueprint for how to select a new superintendent. Since 1937, 15 men — and all have been men, by the way — have served in the position, including three separate terms for Cortines.

The replacement process has been done with large-scale community input, as the case with David Brewer, who was hired in 2006. His hiring culminated an eight-month process that the district said included “extensive outreach to thousands of parents, staff, and community leaders to identify the qualities they wanted to see in the next superintendent.”

A search committee of community and business leaders, elected officials and faith-based representatives interviewed candidates and winnowed the list to a group of five candidates that were presented to the Board of Education, from which Brewer was selected.

On the other hand, as Cortines was stepping down after his second period as superintendent in 2011, the board eschewed a national search in favor of elevating a Cortines lieutenant, John Deasy. It was a decision not universally appreciated.

“Our concern is that the school board did not go through a transparent process of doing a national search,” Judy Perez, then the president of Associated Administrators Los Angeles, told the LA Daily News at the time. “This was done behind closed doors.”

He said he would like to be at “a final stage” by early 2016, adding, “If we’re able to arrive there sooner, we’ll know it. If it feels that we need more time and we’re truly listening while moving, we’ll know it.”

Zimmer has not made public his preference for how the search should be conducted. But he told KPCC he favors transparency in the process.

“I expect that the type of transparency we’re hoping to have will lend a certain confidence to finding the right mix of velocity and care,” he said.

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