The Oakland supe search: How closed should the door be?

I’ve heard from other education reporters that Ray and Associates (the Iowa search firm hired to help OUSD find a permanent leader) requires most school districts to withhold the names of its superintendent candidates until the final selection is made — except in states such as Florida, which have more open public records laws.

image of then-Cal State East Bay presidential candidate Mo Qayoumi by Bea Ahbeck

I understand why the district wouldn’t want to announce everyone who had applied for the position, as it might discourage top candidates from applying. But what about the finalists? I observed an interesting process at Cal State East Bay in 2006, before the CSU trustees settled on Mo Qayoumi.

The first few months were very hush-hush. The selection committee was pledged to secrecy about who had applied, and who they had interviewed, for the very reason I described above. But then four finalists were announced, and the process opened up — wide. Each candidate took the stage, gave a short talk, and fielded questions from professors and students about. Throughout the day, they mingled with faculty and student leaders, who sized them up and gave their assessments to the selection committee.

It was fascinating to watch. You can find the story here.

Do you think such a process could work for the Oakland school district? As I mentioned in a previous post, the process will be established tonight, at a 6 p.m. public board meeting in the district office.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • TheTruthHurts

    I guess my question would be, did their previous employer know they were looking for a job? Did the finalists not chosen keep there existing employment unscathed? I’d like an open process, but I’d also like the best candidates to apply. I willing to let the experts determine what that balance is because I don’t know.

  • Katy Murphy

    Good point.

    I can look into the others, but one of the three unsuccessful Cal State East Bay candidates, Judy Sakaki — once in the UC Davis administration — appeared to have landed on her feet.


  • http://www,mikemcmahon.info Mike McMahon

    The best thing the Oakland school board can do is firmly and decisively made a commitment to a process before Ray and Associates start the search. If they change the rules during the process they run the risk of having to start all over.

    One area that the Board should consider is how “open” would open be? Is it just disclosure of finalists before the Board interviews? How would disclosure of the finalists influence the interview as blogs, interest groups and others weigh in on what they could dig up on the finalists candidates?

    Would “open” mean the inclusion of a second committee that interviews the finalists? If so, who decides how many and who would serve on the committee? If there is a second committee what role would they play in providing feedback to the Board? What happens the committee disagrees with the Board’s final decision?

    In my opinion, whatever process the Board of Education elects to use, I believe it should ensure the greatest degree of accountability.