City Schools Scramble to Name Principals

That golden handshake created openings at 29 schools in San Diego, and now the district is racing to select some replacements as early as the end of the month.

A pool of about 150 qualified candidates have been identified by the San Diego Unified District. On Thursday, district spokesman Jack Brandais said Superintendent Terry Grier proposed a management level cut that would add candidates to that pool. Among the positions being targeted are one elementary school improvement officer and four chief school improvement officers, the small-high-school improvement officer and the director of the district's magnet and office-of-school choice program.

Despite the large pool of talent available, some parents are wondering how the district can interview the candidates and vet them, then match them to individual sites where their strengths would be best utilized -- all in a little more than two weeks. Officials said it was their goal to allow school communities that wanted to meet with candidates to be able to do so prior to the principals' appointments, if at all possible. City Schools Chief Human Resource Officer Sam Wong said it may be well into the summer before some principals are placed at schools.

The openings were created during the last week when the deadline closed on the district's buyout offer, in which employees were offered a year's salary to take the golden handshake.

Nearly 600 teachers took the offer last week -- short of the goal of 633, but the district extended the deadline this week in the hopes of fulfilling that goal. However, the target for administrators was exceeded: 91 took the offer, a bonus of 17 heads.

The district wants to move fast so that outgoing administrators can introduce and smooth the way for the new principals. A schools spokesman said that retiring principals will be on the job until the end of June, so while parents and students may not have the opportunity to meet the new school heads, there will be a transition period in which the two principals would overlap.

Brandais said that while some principals have announced their retirement to their schools, others have not. The district is advising all principals now to announce that a switch is imminent; otherwise the communities would be unable to be be involved in the selection of a replacement.

Once the district selects a candidate for a particular, it will still be up to the school board to confirm the appointment at a public meeting. The board typically schedules a regular board meeting every two weeks; it's next meeting is May 26.

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