Poll to Be Taken to Aid in Choosing New School Chief

Times Staff Writer

The Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education is polling teachers, district employees, school organizations and parents to find out what qualities they would like to see in a new superintendent.

The district is searching for a replacement for Supt. George L. Caldwell, who announced in December that he will retire from his $69,500-a-year job sometime between now and the time his contract expires next June. Caldwell, 60, has not yet given the exact date he will leave, nor has he announced his plans, officials said.

By asking interested parties to give their views, the district hopes to achieve a community consensus on the selection of the new superintendent, said board President Connie Jenkins.

When Caldwell was selected to head the district 10 years ago, she said, public participation was not widely recognized as an important issue, and district employees were not asked their opinions. Since then, there has been a growing recognition of the need for "democratic management processes" in which various community interests are represented, she said.

Jenkins said that the board agrees unanimously on the need to hear from all sides, especially in an issue as important as the selection of a superintendent.

She said that participation in the decision-making will mean that these groups also will share in the responsibility for the choice.

"Once a person is selected, we can say, 'You've chosen (the superintendent) too,' " she said. Although only the board can vote, she said, "This is the way to share the responsibility (for the decision) . . . to make it an act of consensus."

By specifying that public participation be encouraged, the district is also sending a message to whoever is hired that he or she will be expected to be attentive to issues raised by the various constituencies, Jenkins said.

Involving the employees and other groups, she said "is a way of starting things off right from the beginning when a new person is hired."

On Monday, the board received comments from representatives of four employee organizations.

Comments also have been sought from PTA presidents, school principals and district advisory committees, and the public may speak at hearings Sept. 16 at district headquarters in Santa Monica and Sept. 18 in Malibu.

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