The Los Angeles Board of Education met behind closed doors for 13 hours Saturday but did not announce a new superintendent for the nation's second-largest school system.
Instead, the seven-member board scheduled another meeting for Jan. 5.
Board President Steve Zimmer, hoarse from a cold, offered an upbeat message shortly after 9:30 p.m.
"The board is absolutely on track, working extremely hard and I am confident that we will be able to reach a decision within the first month of the school year," Zimmer said. "And the conversations are absolutely appropriate to the weight and significance of the decision."
He added: "I am very proud of this board. Every one has brought their best selves and kept their best selves even through these marathon sessions."
The board has held four lengthy meetings over the last seven days as it tried to make its most important hire. Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, 83, left the school system Dec. 11 but is reachable on an emergency basis until Jan. 1.
The district's No. 2 administrator, Michelle King, will serve in place of Cortines, but will not receive the title of interim superintendent. King already effectively has those duties because Cortines is on vacation until his retirement.
No board action is required for King to take on the senior leadership role on a temporary basis, said district general counsel David Holmquist.
Holmquist too seemed to be suffering from the long sessions and the stress of the task. He attended Saturday's session despite a case of pneumonia, against doctor's orders.
King has experience serving for short periods as acting superintendent, especially when she worked under Cortines' predecessor, John Deasy, who was frequently out of town.
Last week, she oversaw the staff presentation at a board meeting over a sensitive topic: the temporary closing of two schools because of a natural gas leak in the northwest San Fernando Valley.
King is among the finalists for the job of schools chief. Other names that have emerged as under consideration or who have been recruited are: Fremont Unified Supt. Jim Morris, a longtime L.A. Unified senior administrator; San Francisco Supt. Richard Carranza; and Miami-Dade County Supt. Alberto Carvalho, who said publicly that he did not want the L.A. job.
Other individuals have been under serious consideration as well.
Cortines came out of retirement after Deasy resigned under pressure 14 months ago. A veteran administrator who ran the district twice previously, Cortines had agreed to serve only until a permanent replacement could be found.
The board had divided sharply over the type of leader needed for this watershed moment, especially over whether to choose an insider or an outsider.
Both would possess knowledge and experience to deal with the district’s unique challenges from Day 1. But board members had to consider whether either would have the strength and vision to carry the district forward and to creatively confront or cajole its critics.
Some board members have stressed the value of choosing a leader who is representative of district students. Like some other candidates, Carranza is Latino, as are three-quarters of district students. Carvahlo, who is Portuguese, learned to speak English after arriving in the United States. More than 164,000 L.A. Unified students are learning English.