After San Diego Unified came up with three relatively low profile candidates through its open superintendent search, several critics have questioned whether the process really got the school district the best and the brightest.

Doug Dawson wrote to the Union-Tribune:

Is this truly the best we can get for our district? I see limited and almost no experience in a district of our size, complexity and challenges. Surely there are outstanding potential candidates across this nation who possess the education, skills and relevant experience to manage our district.

Out of the three candidates, only one, Dale Vigil, has been a permanent superintendent before, albeit in smaller districts. The others have worked in lower positions in school districts: Debbra Lindo used to oversee a group of middle schools in Oakland Unified and now runs a nonprofit, and Bill Kowba is the current interim superintendent, who has formerly overseen its logistics and finance departments.

Airing the names of the finalists — an unusual step for San Diego Unified — could have dissuaded candidates with big names from applying. Some candidates may have decided not to throw their hats in the ring because their current employers would find out that they were shopping for a job.

Others say the school district was too passive in its search. Matt Spathas, a technology advocate who sat on the superintendent search committee, said the district merely took applications and didn’t recruit. Putting out an ad and waiting for resumes is very different than phoning respected superintendents and wooing them — the way that former superintendent Terry Grier said he was lured to Houston.

“I think we lost candidates due to not having an aggressive search firm out recruiting,” Spathas said.

But the school board has said it wants a different brand of superintendent anyway, one that may not be on the star circuit of superintendents with big names and long resumes.

What do you think? Was the new search a success or a flop? Post your comments here on the blog.


Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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