Los Angeles school officials have promised a "transparent" search for the next superintendent of schools, but got that process off to a murky start by the listing of a faulty address for a Sunday morning board meeting.
The business of the day was to discuss the desired qualities in a superintendent and how to go about finding one. That discussion was set up to occur in private. Then, in a later public portion of the meeting, the board was scheduled to vote on a search firm to locate candidates for the top job.
Board President Steve Zimmer envisioned the Sunday gathering as a retreat, but under state law, a gathering of a board majority has to be treated as a meeting that must convene and conclude in public.
The listed address for the meeting, at the Point Fermin Outdoor Education Center in San Pedro, took visitors to a district-owned complex that includes a mammal-viewing area. But the Board of Education was not to be found there—nor were there instructions on how to locate them from that point.
Board members had migrated up the hill, a winding drive away, to a location that they apparently were familiar with--so neither they nor other district staff members spotted the issue with the address. Two members of the public and two reporters found the actual location of the meeting, which was marked with a green sheet of paper on a fence and a small poster on a stand.
As it turned out, the number of school police officers—at least four—outnumbered the members of the public with sufficient interest and perseverance.
Five firms submitted proposals to lead the search: La Quinta-based Leadership Associates; Hamilton, Rabinovitz & Associates of Carmel; Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates of Rosemont, Ill.; McPherson & Jacobson of Omaha; and Ray & Associates of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The firm would be paid up to $250,000 plus expenses.
The first board member to arrive Sunday morning was Richard Vladovic, but all arrived before the scheduled 10 a.m. start time, according to district spokeswoman Barbara Jones. Supt. Ramon C. Cortines arrived at about 10:45 a.m., wearing shorts.
Cortines, 83, came out of retirement to take the top job in October after John Deasy resigned under pressure. Cortines has said he would prefer to leave by the end of 2015, but has not set a firm deadline. His contract runs through June, and board members have praised his performance.
Also present was general counsel David Holmquist, who has said his duties Sunday included making sure the board does not discuss matters in private that it should undertake in public view. On Friday, he declined to say what advice he'd given the board on how to separate the public and private discussion.
Zimmer has said the public would have ample opportunity for input over the course of the lengthy selection process.