Search for new exec moves forward
January 24, 2022
The search for ACSA’s next executive director is well under way — the position has been posted and interested applicants have already begun inquiring about the job of leading the nation’s largest school administrator association.
Nearly 700 ACSA leaders, members and staff provided input to help develop the job description and desired characteristics for this crucial role.
“This is not a process that occurs frequently — it’s only occurred twice in the last 25 years,” said ACSA President Charlie Hoffman. “The last time this process occurred was nine years ago when Wes Smith was hired. We have paralleled the exact process that was created at that time.”
The task of finding ACSA’s next executive is being led by an Interview Committee comprised of the ACSA Executive Committee (five officers plus board members Maria Thompson and Shawn Tennenbaum) and board members Julie Vitale and Gina Lynch. The search process began in mid-October with a request for proposal being sent to four of the major superintendent search firms used by California schools. The Interview Committee selected Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (HYA) on Nov. 3 and ACSA entered into an agreement with the search firm on Nov. 17.
“We bring the expertise on search and the executive committee brings the expertise about the organization, and we blend those and merge them to create a process that works for everybody,” said HYA Associate Jim Negri.
HYA began its work by developing an online survey, which was open to all ACSA members through Dec. 15. Participants were asked to identify the state of the association and questions were based on goals from the current ACSA Strategic Plan. Nearly 600 members took part in this survey that identified the current state of ACSA.
“The biggest highlight to me is an overwhelmingly positive response to ACSA’s adaptability and adaptation to COVID and the conditions in education,” Hoffman said. “In reading the summary, that was the overwhelmingly most positive thing that I saw was ACSA’s responsiveness to the needs of districts, brought on by COVID as well as ACSA’s ability to adjust its operations to continue to serve the members.”
HYA also scheduled 50 online focus groups, which took place between Nov. 29 and Dec. 13. These meetings included representatives from the ACSA Board of Directors, Leadership Assembly, 17 of ACSA’s Councils and Committees, Region leaders and staff. Approximately 125 individuals participated in the one-hour focus groups, which asked participants to identify ACSA’s strengths and challenges, as well as the qualifications, experience and characteristics that a new Executive Director should possess.
“HYA was able to retrieve a robust sense of the desires of our members for our next Executive Director,” said ACSA President-elect Erin Simon. “We truly appreciate the support and participation of our members through the focus groups and surveys to ensure we have enough information to move forward.”
Data from the survey and focus groups were compiled into a Leadership Profile Report and a Survey Report. The Leadership Profile Report was used to develop two other documents, Desired Characteristics and Job Description, which were presented to and approved by the Executive Committee on Jan. 5.
The Desired Characteristics will be the key document moving forward. It will be used to paper screen candidates, develop interview questions and evaluate candidates in the interviews.
Negri and fellow HYA Associate Carmella Franco said they have begun reaching out to potential candidates whose names were mentioned by focus group participants. The position has been posted on HYA’s website and in EdCal’s CareerConnect section and online job board, and will appear in EdWeek, as well other associations, including CAAASA and CALSA. The deadline to apply is Feb. 28, 2022.
“We’re getting calls already, so we know there’s great excitement about this position,” Franco said.
Once applications are received, HYA will conduct paper screenings, reference checks and virtual screening interviews with applicants. HYA plans to present a slate of vetted candidates to a new Interview Committee the week of March 21. This Interview Committee will include the Executive Committee plus four board members that will be determined at the February ACSA Board Meeting. The Interview Committee will then make a final decision on which candidates to interview.
Interviews are scheduled for April 4-6 to coincide with ACSA’s Legislative Action Day, when many school leaders will already be in Sacramento. Two rounds of interviews will be conducted: the first will be a formal, structured interview of 5-6 candidates and the second will be an in-depth interview with a narrowed list of finalists. At the end of the second round, the Interview Committee will select the finalist. Negri and Franco will facilitate the Interview Committee in narrowing the pool of candidates and selecting the finalist.
Since the entire process is confidential, the names of the candidates are not shared publicly at any point in the process.
Simon said the committee would like a new executive director in place by July 1. She thanked HYA for their in-depth work at a time when many ACSA leaders are busy meeting the daily demands of running their schools.
“This is why you hire an executive search firm — to help you pick out the cream of the crop. It’s their job to bring those qualified candidates to the board for consideration,” Simon said. “It’s a lot of work.”
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