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Next SRCS Leader

The San Rafael City Schools Board of Education is in the process of conducting a search to hire the District's next Superintendent. Leadership Associates, an executive search firm, is advising the Board in this important process. 

Superintendent Position Description


Board Session and Online Survey

March 28, 2019 Update


The Leadership Associates consultants were in San Rafael on March 26 - 27 to facilitate several sessions with various groups in our community to receive input about the desired qualities and characteristics of the next Superintendent. Additionally, they met with the Board during a special open session on March 27, during which they reviewed the search process, protocols and community engagement and input. They discussed the search and selection timeline, and determined that the Board will interview finalist candidates on May 29. Click here for an overview of the timeline. The Board members also briefly described their own feedback on what they would like to see in the next Superintendent; they will have individual sessions with the consultants in the near future. 

In addition to the community sessions, the Board and Leadership Associates emphasized that the online survey is a valuable tool for input and is available for all stakeholders until April 5 (NEW DATE) at 5 pm to give feedback on the desired qualities and characteristics of the next Superintendent.
    •    Survey in English: www.surveymonkey.com/r/TJSPYG3
 Survey in Spanish: https://es.surveymonkey.com/r/TS3GLFY

Please stay tuned for more information as the search progresses.

Upcoming Community Forums

March 19, 2019 Update

San Rafael City Schools invites you to assist with their search for the District’s next Superintendent.

The San Rafael City Schools Board of Education is in the process of conducting a search to hire the District’s next Superintendent. The consultants Rich Thome and Kent Bechler of Leadership Associates were selected to advise the Board in this important process. They will be in our District from March 26 - 27, 2019 to facilitate several sessions with various groups within our District’s community to receive input about the desired qualities and characteristics of the next Superintendent. This input will be a valuable contribution to the recruitment and selection process. 

The Board is soliciting responses to the following questions: 

  1. What personal and professional qualities for an incoming superintendent will be a match for the San Rafael City Schools? 
  2. What are the strengths of the District, and what are the challenges you see for the District in the coming years?

In addition to the various sessions, the District will be hosting Open Forums, which are open to all the public. No appointment is necessary to participate. The Open Forums are an opportunity for the public to provide input and to hear more about the search process. They are scheduled at various schools throughout the District, but all Open Forums are open to parents, teachers and staff from any school. The Open Forums will be held at: 


Sessions for Teachers and Staff
3:00 – 3:30 PM San Rafael High School Library
4:00 – 4:30 PM Davidson Middle School Library
3:00 – 3:30 PM Terra Linda High School Library



Sessions for Parents, Guardians and Community Members

Spanish interpretation provided

7:00 – 8:00 PM Bahia Vista Elementary MPR
7:00 – 8:00 PM Sun Valley Elementary MPR
8:15 – 9:15 AM Venetia Valley School MPR
9:00 – 9:45 AM Coleman Elementary MPR
5:15 – 6:00 PM Terra Linda High School Performance Hall 
7:00 – 8:00 PM San Rafael High School Cafeteria 

Additionally, an online survey is available until April 5, 2019 (NEW DATE!).

You may also send your written responses to the two questions to Leadership Associates or request to speak with a consultant by sending an email to ppyle@leadershipassociates.org.

Board Selects Firm to Support Search Process

March 12 Update
At its meeting on March 11, the Board selected Leadership Associates, an executive search firm, to advise the Board in the process to identify and select the District's next superintendent. Rich Thome and Ken Bechler, Ph.D. will be the lead consultants. Click here to view Leadership Associate's proposal. Leadership Associates and the District will collaborate to ensure that the greater SRCS community is informed and engaged throughout the process. Stay tuned for more information.

Next Steps in Selection of a Superintendent

March 5 Update
At its meeting on Feb. 11, the Board voted not to grant a one-year extension of Superintendent Michael Watenpaugh's employment agreement, which expires on June 30, 2019. At the next meeting on Feb. 25, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Amy Buster Baer presented the Board with options for next steps in securing new leadership for the District, which include beginning the process of using a search firm to conduct a superintendent search or appointing an interim superintendent and conducting a search at a time later identified by the Board. 

Ms. Buster Baer highlighted what a search firm could provide to the District, such as support to the Board in developing the criteria and qualifications and the facilitation of the process for the input and engagement of to community – students, teachers, staff, parents, community members and others. The option of appointing an interim superintendent for the 2019-20 school year was also discussed, with the understanding that the Board would begin the search process for a superintendent during the next school year. At a follow up meeting on March 1, the Board continued to discuss the options and an updated timeline for a superintendent search was reviewed. Click here to download the presentation, which includes the original and updated timelines.  

The Board authorized the District to begin the process of selecting a superintendent search firm. They also emphasized that while the process to select a firm will begin immediately, they want to ensure that SRCS finds the best person for the role and for the District. This means the Board has the option to decide, if the search process is not on track to find the right leader, to appoint an interim superintendent and conduct and/or complete a search next year. To help lead the process for identifying the District's next leader, the Board appointed Board Vice President Maika Llorens Gulati and Trustee Linda Jackson to serve on a Board subcommittee. 

At its next meeting on March 11, during a special session from 5 - 6 pm that is open to members of the public, the Board will hear presentations from interested search firms and consider selecting a firm. If the Board were to select a firm and move on to the next steps, the firm and District will collaborate to ensure that the greater SRCS community is informed about the process and has the opportunity to provide input on what qualities and characters are desired for the new superintendent. 

Board Moves to End Superintendent's Employment Agreement at Close of 2018-19 School Year

Feb. 12 Update
At its meeting on February 11, 2019, the San Rafael City Schools (SRCS) Board of Education took action with a 3-2 vote to not grant a one-year extension of Superintendent Michael Watenpaugh's employment agreement, which expires on June 30, 2019. In their comments at the meeting, Board members shared that they made their decisions about the superintendent's performance evaluation and employment agreement based on the best interest of the District and our students. Dr. Watenpaugh has served as SRCS superintendent since 2007.

"I am so proud of the many successful initiatives and accomplishments that we as a SRCS community have achieved together to positively impact our students and families," said Superintendent Watenpaugh. "Serving as the superintendent for the past 12 years has been the highlight of my professional career and I am grateful to the Board of Education for providing me the opportunity to work on behalf of the students, families, teachers, staff and San Rafael community."

Over the next few months, the Board will determine their next steps in identifying the process and timeline for the recruitment and selection of SRCS's next leader.

"We are grateful for Dr. Watenpaugh's work on behalf of our students and families," said Board President Greg Knell. "He has brought powerful solutions to the unceasing challenges required to educate all our students. Under his leadership, SRCS has become the model of effectiveness and the proving ground for dozens of innovative programs designed to improve our educational outcomes."

He added, "As we begin the process to hire our next superintendent, we will be looking to find the best leader who can continue our path of innovation and excellence. We will be reaching out to engage every sector of the SRCS community to help us define what we will need to continue the outstanding achievement we expect from San Rafael City Schools."

The Board action follows the completion of a mid-year performance evaluation of superintendent Watenpaugh. The Board sought community input regarding the superintendent's performance and progress, and noted they are grateful for all the feedback they received from so many who are vested in SRCS. The Board also expressed their gratitude to the Marin County Office of Education for their support throughout the evaluation process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is responsible for hiring the Superintendent?
Public school boards in California are responsible for selecting and employing a superintendent. The superintendent is the Board of Education's only employee.

Why is the Board utilizing a search firm?
Finding the right candidate to lead SRCS is one of the Board of Education's most important task. Throughout California and across the nation, school districts rely on search firms to provide them with process expertise and access to the best candidates. At its meeting on March 11, the Board selected Leadership Associates to advise the Board in the recruitment and selection process. Leadership Associates is a California executive search firm with a national reach that specializes in helping California school boards find new superintendents. Founded in 1996, Leadership Associates has assisted with 385 searches, more superintendent searches than any other search firm working in California. Approximately 90% of all new superintendents placed by Leadership Associates have remained in their positions for more than five years. Rich Thome and Kent Bechler, Ph.D. are the lead consultants for SRCS. 

The search firm is helping to:

  • Gather input from across the community
  • Develop a position description
  • Identify candidates through existing networks and advertisements in relevant publications
  • Bring forward candidates for consideration
  • Support the interview process

Click here to view Leadership Associate's proposal for more details.

Utilizing a search firm best enables the Board of Education to leverage a vast network to find the right candidate that best meets the position description developed for San Rafael City School's Superintendent.

Who is on the Board Subcommittee? 
To support the process while abiding by the Brown Act, the Board has appointed Vice President Maika Llorens Gulati and Trustee Linda Jackson to serve on a Board subcommittee. Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Amy Buster Baer is the staff liaison for the process. 

What is the timeline for the search process? 
The Board of Education is going to take the time necessary to ensure the selection of the best leader for SRCS. At this time, the Board has established a timeline that has interviews of finalist candidates scheduled on May 29 and tentative contract approval in June for a July 1 or mutually agreed upon start date. Click here to download the timeline, which is subject to change. Furthermore, the Board has the option to decide, if the search process is not on track to find the right leader, to appoint an interim superintendent and conduct and/or complete a search next year.

How can I be involved in the process?
The Board of Education believes that the involvement and engagement of the entire SRCS community is critical to the success of the search and they are using a variety of approaches to involve the greater community in the process. 

Focus Groups and Community Sessions
On March 26 - 27, Leadership Associates facilitated 27 sessions, including focus groups and Open Sessions, to receive input about the desired qualities and characteristics of the next Superintendent. There were sessions in English and Spanish throughout the District for students, teachers, staff, families, labor management leaders, District English Learner Advisory Committee (DELAC), community partners and others.  

Online Survey - Closes April 5
There is also an online survey that is available for the greater community until Friday, April 5 at 5 pm to give feedback.
    •    Survey in English: 
    •    Survey in Spanish: 


Direct Communication
Members of the public can also send written responses to Leadership Associates or request to speak with a consultant by sending an email to ppyle@leadershipassociates.org.

What comes of the information collected in the community engagement?
Leadership Associates gathers data from all the input and feedback collected in person and via the online survey. They prepare a thorough report containing the comments from each group, individuals and the survey, and send it to Board members. Furthermore, they closely review the data, looking for trends and synthesize the results to create a Leadership Position Description, which is reviewed by the Board. The Leadership Position Description is used widely in the advertising and recruitment process. 

How are applicants screened?
After Leadership Associates actively recruits and receives applications, they will engage in an extensive and thorough review of each applicant's qualifications and references. They pay particular attention to how applicants match the profile the School Board developed based on community input. Leadership Associates then meets with the School Board to review and discuss all applicants using an executive summary specific to each candidate. Leadership Associates will recommend candidates to be considered by the Board for an interview that are believed to be excellent matches for San Rafael City Schools. The Board of Education will make the final decision on which candidates will be interviewed. 

Who will be interviewing the finalists?
The five members of the Board of Education will serve as a panel in interviewing all finalists. The Board has chosen to gain further input from the greater San Rafael City Schools community by inviting a representative cross-section of stakeholders to serve on a community panel to interview finalists. To ensure the confidentiality of the applicants, all panelists will sign confidentiality agreements. Panelist names will not be made public, but the constituency they represent will be shared. 

The community panel interviews will coincide with the interviews that the Board is conducting, on the same day and at the same location to maximize confidentiality. The panelists will share their feedback with the Board. The School Board is responsible for selecting the next superintendent.

How is confidentiality being handled?
Leadership Associates strongly believes the quality of the applicant pool is directly dependent on the confidentiality of the process. The Board has greatly considered Leadership Associates' experience and expertise and has decided to conduct a "closed," confidential search. Leadership Associates will not divulge the names of interested applicants to any party other than the Board within Closed Session. As previously described, those participating on the community panel for finalist interviews will sign confidentially agreements.

What if the search doesn't yield a viable candidate?
In the event that the School Board decides that the initial search did not yield a viable candidate, the Board has the option to appoint an interim superintendent and continue the search for a candidate who is considered a match for the position. This rarely happens. San Rafael City Schools is considered to be a great opportunity for superintendent candidates and we expect a very competitive group of candidates to participate in the interview process.