The school board was expected to select its top choice for the new superintendent this week -- PUSD's fifth leader since June 2015 -- after private interviews last week and closed-session discussions Monday and Tuesday. A visit to the candidate's current district and successful contract negotiations were still to come.
Pleasanton stakeholders, though, won't know who it is until the board's vote on the final appointment June 13.
In other words, the families who rely on PUSD to educate their children, the people who are footing the bill for this recruiting process and the payout for the "not-a-good-fit" superintendent of six months, Rick Rubino, and everyone enduring the financial and emotional consequences of a revolving door in the superintendent office will not know who the top candidate is until the board announces its hiring decision.
Been there. Done that. This is the process the board used when Rubino was hired last spring. It didn't work.
Still, the board insists on continuing the failed process.
When we asked board president Joan Laursen to explain the rationale, the district's public information officer, Patrick Gannon, emailed a statement to us for her that read:
"The Board determined from the start that our process would be a confidential one, based upon the recommendations from the various search firms we, and the search firm panel, interviewed. It is widely believed that confidential searches result in a better pool of candidates. Until all the steps have been successfully completed in securing a finalist who is the best fit for Pleasanton Unified, the process will remain confidential."
We agree that keeping names of candidates confidential at the outset is vital to finding the best pool of candidates, so qualified applicants aren't hesitant to apply out of concern their current district might find out, among other personal and professional considerations. This is true even when the pool is narrowed to top finalists.
However, when the board narrows the list down to one preferred candidate, Pleasanton residents should know who that person is before the appointment is made so proper public vetting can occur before the contract is signed. In addition, if that person is not willing to openly go on record with interest in the position, perhaps he or she is "not a good fit" for our district.
A highly regarded school district to our north -- the San Ramon Valley Unified School District -- was looking for a new superintendent at the same time Pleasanton was recruiting last year.
District officials there released the name of their top candidate for the job publicly to their residents once he was identified, but before the final employment offer was made. Rick Schmitt was formally hired weeks later and has been the superintendent since July 2016.
We think the Pleasanton school board should follow the San Ramon Valley's lead.
The next PUSD superintendent needs to embrace transparency and work with the trustees to rebuild the trust with the community in the wake of the board firing Rubino -- for undisclosed reasons and without cause -- after only six months as superintendent.
The public needs to know the trustees embrace the idea that, as elected officials, their job is to facilitate transparency and accountability, not obstruct it. If as much time was spent on involving and engaging all stakeholders as is spent citing case law in response to requests for records and preventing the release of pertinent information to the stakeholders, perhaps there wouldn't be a pervasive lack of trust.
The definition of insanity is to do the same thing repeatedly expecting different results. Let's stop the insanity by doing something different and begin public vetting of the top superintendent candidate now, because PUSD can't afford to be in this same leaderless position again next year.
The children and families of Pleasanton, PUSD employees and the district as a whole need stability at the top. They are counting on the school board to hire the "right" superintendent this time. Let them help.