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The San Diego Unified school board set forward an unusual plan for its superintendent search tonight, eschewing the headhunting firms it has used in years past to search out candidates.

So how will it find a new chief to replace Terry Grier? Instead of turning to an outside search firm, each board member will pick three people to sit on a search committee that will form in March. The group will get public input, screen resumes and narrow the field to three finalists.

Those three will be vetted by the public at open forums before the school board makes its final choice in July. Putting candidates through a public wringer has been tried elsewhere and cycles in and out of vogue nationwide. It makes the process more transparent, but it also can scare away candidates who might not want their current employers to know that they’re seeking out a job.

The plan passed narrowly with school board members John de Beck and Shelia Jackson dissenting. Jackson said the open search could give an unfair edge to “flashy” people who could sell themselves well or to the current interim superintendent, Bill Kowba, simply because people already know him.

“We vote for what we know,” Jackson said. “That is not the best way to pick a superintendent.”

Board President Richard Barrera said it was far better than relying on headhunters who, he said, had repeatedly failed San Diego Unified in the past. Why is the board looking at a different kind of superintendent search? How could that shape the kind of candidates they get? For more analysis, check out our article on this idea.

— EMILY ALPERT

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