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Glendale Unified board selects firm to conduct superintendent search

Glendale Unified board selects firm to conduct superintendent search
Glendale Unified board vice president Jennifer Freemon spoke highly of the executive search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, otherwise known as HYA. The board voted, 5-0, to select the group to conduct a search with a deadline of June 1 to find a new superintendent. (Raul Roa / Glendale News-Press)

The second time proved to be a charm for an executive search firm when it was selected this week to help in the search to find the 18th superintendent in Glendale Unified’s 100-plus-year history.

The Glendale Unified school board voted 5-0 during a meeting on Tuesday to select Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, known as HYA, at a cost of $29,650 to find a new superintendent by June 1.

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“For potential superintendents watching this meeting, we’re eager … They see this body working together because, when we do have a new superintendent, it’s going to be a team of six,” board president Greg Krikorian said.

HYA was selected after having been passed over in 2015 when the Glendale Unified board — basically the same group before Shant Sahakian won a seat on the board after former board member Christine Walters decided not to run in 2017 — voted 3-1-1 for the search firm McPherson & Jacobson, L.L.C., which ultimately recommended hiring Winfred B. Roberson Jr.

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The board opened the application process for a search firm from Feb. 6 to to 13 and received five proposals.

HYA, the Cosca Group and Leadership Associates were selected as finalists, and the board invited each to make 10- to 15-minute proposals on Tuesday, followed by a question-and-answer session, board debate and eventual vote.

The board initially held two straw polls, first asking members to select their top two candidates.

In the first poll, Leadership Associates, which has former district board president Jim Brown as a partner, received four votes.

Cosca, represented by former Mountain Avenue Elementary principal and district veteran Joel Shapiro and one-time Burbank Unified Supt. Jan Britz, and HYA received three votes.

When board members were asked to vote for just their No. 1 pick, Krikorian, vice president Jennifer Freemon and Sahakian were in favor of HYA, while two votes were cast for Leadership Associates by Armina Gharpetian and Nayiri Nahabedian.

As for the official vote, a reluctant Gharpetian did not stand in the way of a unanimous 5-0 vote.

“With HYA, I appreciated the sense of resources that they had,” Freemon said. “We have a chance of staying here in California or going nationally or a hybrid of both.”

Rudy Castruita, one of two HYA presenters, said the board members will be very involved throughout the search.

“This is going to be a transparent process, or your community will not be satisfied with this search process,” said Castruita, a former 24-year superintendent who recently took part in the Los Angeles Unified superintendent search.

HYA’s David Cash said part of the firm’s process will be to hold a couple of town hall meetings and also gather community feedback through surveys, which will be conducted in various languages.

“I can’t emphasize enough that this is really your search,” Cash said. “We’re not going to bring to the search a stable of candidates, a list of candidates.”

Cash added, “We’re going to wait and hear from the board and the community, ‘What are the characteristics that you would like to see for the next superintendent of Glendale?’”

In choosing HYA, the board selected the least expensive of the three candidates as the firm’s $29,650 bid was less than Cosca, which offered a $33,864 proposal, and Leadership Associates, which came in at $35,500.

One issue brought up by every board member was how long a new superintendent would stay with the district.

The average Glendale Unified superintendent has kept his job for 8½ years, though the last three, Michael Escalante (six years), Richard Sheehan (five years) and Roberson (three years), fell significantly short of that mark.

Roberson’s tenure was one of the three shortest ever for a Glendale Unified superintendent and briefest since Norman Whytock, who held the post for 10 months in 1937.

Castruita said his firm boasts an 83% five-year staying record with its superintendents.

“I challenge you to ask anybody else about that,” Castruita said. “What that says to you, hopefully, is that we bring together a match you are looking for.”

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