Cosca Group Searches for Superintendent

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Cosca Group Searches for Superintendent

By James Finn & Marina Furbush

Dr. Steve Goldstone, a representative of the search firm The Cosca Group, spoke at a Tamalpais Union High School (TUHSD) Board of Trustees meeting on March 3 to outline the process of selecting a new superintendent. On a February 24 meeting the Board hired the Cosca Group to conduct the search for a new TUHSD superintendent in the wake of Superintendent Laurie Kimbrel’s announcement on January 12 of her resignation, which will take effect on June 30.

At the meeting, Goldstone said that The Cosca Group will begin its search for a new superintendent by learning as much as possible about the district. “What we want to do is…to come in with kind of a clean slate, Goldstone said, “….and [not] bring any preconceptions into this process, and to learn as much as we can from as many people as possible [about the district]…as we learn about your school district, that makes our efforts that much more effective.” They have met with as many as 65 distinct stakeholder groups in previous searches.

Trustee Bob Walter stressed the importance of talking with various stakeholders at the February 24 meeting. “In our particular situation we have a large number of feeder districts that come into the Unified High School District,” Walter said. “We’re sort of a mini United Nations here in terms of territories that are all coming together here.”

Goldstone said that increased knowledge of specific school districts helps his firm effectively analyze prospective superintendent candidates. “When there’s a perfect marriage between a board and a superintendent, that superintendent has been selected because he or she meets the needs of [their] school district,” he said. “What we want to do is provide the board with the candidates who will best meet the needs of the school district.”

Goldstone went on to outline a search plan that involved an analysis by the board during the meeting of the district’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the qualities each board member will look for in a new candidate to fill the position of superintendent. Each board member provided Goldstone with information pertaining to each of these categories in an open-discussion format between Goldstone and the members of the board, which includes Chuck Ford, Laura Anderson, Cindy McCauley and Michael Futterman. Walter, the board’s fifth member, was not present for the March 3 meeting.

Mary Buchanan, a science teacher at Drake, made a public comment at the February 24 meeting. “I am here as a representative of many people on the Drake staff that have written you a letter…to express what’s going on at Drake and our hope that we can be part of the process in this opportunity to find some new leadership,” said Buchanan. “…The greatest feeling I got [when talking to staff members] was one of sadness, that we’ve lost some of the cohesiveness that we had in our community at Drake….We need help, we need leadership that can help bring us together and help us feel like our voices are heard and we’re part of the process.” Buchanan declined to share the Drake letter.

Goldstone also stressed the importance of community stakeholders, teachers, students, administrators, and other members of the TUHSD community, as integral to the selection process at the March 3 meeting. “What we would plan to do on March 23 and March 30… is to have stakeholder meetings,” Goldstone said. “We want to be sure that we notify people in time. ….On the seventh of April we will come back to [the board] and bring to [them] all of the information from the various stakeholder groups.” Goldstone went on to say that they would create a survey, which is available on the district website along with information on community input meetings.

Goldstone praised the involvement of parents, teachers, and other members of the TUHSD community thus far in the process of selecting a new superintendent. “Of all the presentations we’ve given, we’ve never had as many people as we had in the audience [at the Board meeting on February 24] which is fantastic,” Goldstone said at the March 3 meeting. “If there’s anything that often frustrates us, it is to go through this process [and] arrange for a lot of community stakeholder meetings…and [have] very few people show up….I have a feeling that this will not be a disappointment in your district.”

The Cosca Group and Dave Long and Associates, who were not hired, presented at the February 24 meeting. Leadership Associates, the third firm invited to make a presentation withdrew their proposal because of a lack of personnel. Dave Brown and Goldstone, the principal consultants from The Cosca Group, both have PhDs in education. They were superintendents for 25 and 24 years, respectively, along with prior administration experience.

“When [The Cosca Group] talked about the questions being [asked] I was curious what that was actually going to look like [off of paper],” McCauley said at the February 24 meeting. “The way that they described it, it became very real. I thought that to me is a process that we as a district…could really benefit from…This is the kind of conversation that I’ve been hoping to have for a while and…maybe this is the time and the way.”