Familiar face to lead Hart district superintendent search 

The sign in front of the William S. Hart Union High School District administrative office. Katherine Quezada/The Signal
The sign in front of the William S. Hart Union High School District administrative office. Katherine Quezada/The Signal

The governing board of the William S. Hart Union High School District has tabbed Leadership Associates as the search firm that will find external candidates to fill the district’s impending open superintendent position. 

The decision was made during the board’s regular meeting on Wednesday following a two-plus-hour special meeting held earlier in the day to hear from Leadership and two other potential firms. The meeting was originally scheduled for last month, but it was canceled after only two board members were present, leaving the board a member shy of having a quorum and therefore business was unable to be conducted. 

Mike Kuhlman announced earlier this year that he will be leaving his post as superintendent effective June 30. 

According to Leadership’s proposal, the cost of the search to the district will be no more than $29,500. 

There was little discussion among the board members before Leadership was selected unanimously. Board member Joe Messina said that due to the district having worked previously with Leadership, he felt it only made sense to go with the company that they know. 

The district had a workshop in 2020 led by Dennis Smith, managing partner at Leadership, to help the board and the cabinet “focus on the practices of smart and healthy organizations, the establishment of clear goals for the organization, the importance of communication and the need for and appreciation of a diversity of viewpoints,” according to the agenda item approving that agreement. 

“I wasn’t enthusiastic about doing it to begin with, just being honest about it, but he made it painless and brought us together,” Messina said. “What I loved about it is how he pulled out of us what we want, what we saw as our legacy for the district, what was going on with the district, what have you. He took the time to ask the right questions.” 

Board member Cherise Moore concurred with that sentiment. 

“I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing, but I do in some ways still feel connected to Leadership Associates because, when I was board president, that was who we hired to work through that process,” Moore said. “And I guess because I felt that that was successful, I trust them, and I believe that they will do a good job for us.” 

Board President Linda Storli said she was torn between which of the firms she liked best, but that Leadership “seems to check off all the boxes.” 

Smith is set to part of the search team along with David Verdugo, senior partner, and Blanca Cavazos, partner. 

A superintendent at five school districts across 26 years, including four in California, Smith, who joined Wednesday’s meeting virtually, has helped to conduct more than 85 superintendent searches over the past 12 years. He said Leadership has associates across the state who will help to recruit candidates from a wide range. 

“We think we have a deep pool to draw from in terms of the richness of our consultants and making sure that we bring candidates that match what you’re looking for in your next superintendent,” Smith said, adding that the company also has contacts throughout the rest of the country to make it a national search. 

The search process typically takes two to three months, Smith said, though it can be longer depending on what type of stakeholder input the district desires. The district’s tentative timeline outlined at a previous meeting had a new superintendent in place on July 1. 

Messina said he wouldn’t mind appointing an interim superintendent to get the most information on candidates as possible as well as get as much input from the community as possible. 

“If you have an interim, it would be a whole different time frame because maybe the stakeholder input, you might want to do in the fall or when school starts,” Smith said. 

The board declined to create an ad hoc committee that would have consisted of two board members who would be tasked with dealing with Leadership throughout the process, with Messina saying, “We all got elected to make this decision.” 

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