Hart District Superintendent Vicki Engbrecht is set to retire in June 2020, and during Wednesday night’s governing board meeting her deputy superintendent, Mike Kuhlman, was named as her successor on a unanimous board vote.
Engbrecht’s move to retire prompted district trustees to consider the appointment of a new superintendent Wednesday, to facilitate a seamless transition when Engbrecht steps down on or before June 30, 2020, according to district officials.
“Earlier in 2019, after our wonderful Superintendent Vicki Engbrecht established her retirement date … the board decided to conduct an internal search for superintendent-elect,” said board President Bob Jensen. “This person will also work closely with Ms. Engbrecht until such time as she retires.”
The action Wednesday night was to “appoint a superintendent-elect because Mrs. Engbrecht is still the superintendent, and her contract runs through June 30,” Jensen said.
“When you’re a large school district like we are, it only serves the students, parents, school district personnel and community to have a transition period where you choose a superintendent-elect prior to the current one retiring, so there is continuity and they have time to adjust to the work,” Jensen said.
”Once we have the appointment made, then it will be up to the superintendent-elect, the current superintendent and the board to decide how everything will come into play as far as what the superintendent-elect will do and how they’ll interact with the personnel of the district,” Jensen said.
The board, according to Jensen, has been going through a process just like it would with a principal or assistant principal because they valued having a successor named during the transition.
“Qualified applicants were invited to apply, the board then conducted an interview process and then conducted a selection process,” said Jensen.
At the end of the process, the board decided to name Kuhlman for the district’s top job.
“I’m honored to be considered for this opportunity,” said Kuhlman. “I’ve thought about the future of the Hart District as one that presents challenges and opportunities, and I am optimistic and hopeful about what we’re going to be able to do together because of the wonderful people that we have from students, to teachers, to administrators to my colleagues to the board all give me hope for a positive future for the Hart District.”
The district sought applications for the superintendent position a few months ago, in accordance with state law, according to district officials.
When asked how many applicants submitted applications for the position or were interviewed for the process, both Jensen and Engbrecht declined to comment Wednesday. Engbrecht did say that the district chose not to conduct a national search. It can cost around $50,000 to do that kind of search, but the board was “confident that we had the right people, the best people, most qualified people right here in Santa Clarita.”
“We invited all qualified applicants to apply … and we would consider principals, district office directors, cabinet members,” said Engbrecht. “I can tell you the pool of eligible candidates was 15 to 20 applicants.”
Both Engbrect and Jensen joined with the rest of the board members Wednesday and said they are very optimistic about the future under Kuhlman’s leadership.
“Mr. Kuhlman is an outstanding individual and he will do a great job in continuing with the excellence of the Hart School District and seeking improvement in outstanding service to our students for years to come,” said Jensen.
“I’ve obviously worked with Mr. Kuhlman for a number of years … and he’s been my right hand and he understands every aspect of running a school district,” said Engbrecht. “He’s a man of the highest integrity, and he’s super well respected among our administrators and teachers that know him.”
“I’m following in some big shoes with Mrs. Engbrecht,” said Kuhlman. “But I know I’m in a good spot because I know we have an outstanding superintendent who is still superintendent and I have plenty of time to keep learning under her.”