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Search firm hears from 253 in survey of what public wants in new school superintendent

Pleasanton school board holds brief meeting to hear results

In a brief public meeting Tuesday night, the Pleasanton school board heard an update on responses to a public survey about qualities the community would like to see in the next superintendent.

A public survey was sent out to various stakeholders on the matter, five public forums were held and members of the search firm McPherson & Jacobson met with community groups to get varying opinions. All told, the search firm received 253 responses, which search firm member Don Helms said was larger than he usually receives.

During a roughly 45-minute public session, search firm representatives Don Helms and Molly Helms went over the responses, which the board members will consider when narrowing down candidates. No action was taken on the matter, and board members went into closed session after the responses were read to discuss contracting matters.

The district is searching for a new superintendent to take the reins this summer. Former superintendent Parvin Ahmadi resigned last spring, and former Amador Valley principal Jim Hansen is currently interim superintendent.

In general, the responses were unsurprising. The survey found the school district has strong ties to Pleasanton's community, and any new leader will take on the empowering and the challenging aspects that come with that responsibility.

However, Don Helms said he was surprised how emphatic responders were about diversity issues in the city. He said most of the school district's minority population is the Asian community, and members of that community want a leader who will recognize and respect their needs, too.

Molly Helms said other community members also wanted to make sure high-achieving students got the extra boost they needed, and others emphasized making sure low-income students weren't left behind the pack.

The district survey was broken into four parts: the strengths of the city, the strengths of the district, the challenges the next superintendent should be aware of and qualities the community wants to see in the next school district leader.

In general, members of the public said Pleasanton's strengths are that it is a great place for families, it is safe, it has a highly educated population and it is a well-maintained municipality, among other qualities.

When asked about the district's strengths, stakeholders said it has strong parent involvement, it has high-quality teachers, it has strong instructional coaching and it has many programs committed to diversity, among other qualities.

Some of the challenges mentioned were the ongoing debate about the district's instructional calendar, administrative turnover, the district's consideration of a bond measures and challenges with Common Core transition.

Community members said they want a superintendent who is transparent, a strong leader, an ambassador for the school district and highly present in the community, among other traits.

Don Helms said stakeholders said they want a leader who is "out there and talking and listening to everyone."

In other school news:

The school board also appointed Josh Butterfield as an interim vice principal at Foothill High, and Beth Patock as a part-time interim vice principal at Mohr Elementary.

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