The Board of Education of the Oak Park Unified School District is in the process of conducting an Executive Search for purposes of hiring the District’s next Superintendent. Dr. Peggy Lynch and Dr. Fred Van Leuven of Leadership Associates, an executive search firm, were selected to advise the Board in this important process.

    Please check this webpage for ongoing updates and important announcements regarding this process.


    On January 12, the OPUSD School Board convened a special meeting to begin the process of selecting a new Superintendent for the district.  In this meeting with our search consultants, Dr. Peggy Lynch and Dr. Fred Van Leuven from Leadership Associates, we finalized the selection process and schedule, began identifying the desired characteristics for a new superintendent, identified the groups whose input we will seek to help shape the candidate profile and finalized the online survey through which any stakeholder or interested parties can let us know what they would like to see in a new superintendent.

    The process to find the new superintendent starts with developing a candidate profile. Development of the profile is probably the most important step in the process and will require input from all of our stakeholders.  Specific stakeholder groups have been identified (and listed here), but anyone with an interest in providing input to the Board in selecting a new superintendent is considered to be a stakeholder.  Leadership Associates will gather input from all of the stakeholders via Zoom meetings and our online survey.  From the input they receive, they will develop a proposed candidate profile, which the Board will review along with all of the underlying information and data that was collected.  The Board will finalize the profile, and it will then be published and presented to the candidates applying for the position. Leadership Associates will also use that information to help the Board determine how well each candidate aligns with the profile

    Once all applications are received, Leadership Associates will perform background checks on the candidates, and analyze their background and experience.  When that is complete, the candidates will be presented to the Board, along with their background checks and notes regarding their alignment with the profile.  The Board will then review the candidates, select several for in-person interviews, conduct the interviews, and make a final selection.

    The detailed timeline can be found on the Superintendent Search Webpage, but the significant dates are as follows:

    January 13 - February 2

    Online Survey is open

    January 25 - February 2

    Leadership Associates confers with all stakeholder groups

    March 1 - March 16

    Background checks and candidate review by Leadership Associates

    March 17

    Candidates are presented to the Board

    March 28 - March 29

    Board Interviews (Zoom)


    Board selects new Superintendent

    Note that depending on the final list of candidates, the availability of the Board, and the state of COVID-19, we may opt for an in-person meeting with the candidates as well, but this will not be decided until late March. The Board has also opted to make this a confidential search.  That means that none of the names of the candidates will be disclosed until a new Superintendent is selected.  This will ensure that we will attract a large, qualified, and diverse candidate pool.

    Now, we need your help. There are two ways that you can assist the Board in the Superintendent Selection process:

    1. Take the online survey which you can find here.  Please also feel free to forward the survey link to anyone that you think may be interested.
    2. Participate in stakeholder group meetings.  We are currently organizing these meetings, and please be on the lookout for additional information.

    In the next few weeks, once we have the results from the survey and stakeholder meetings, we will publish the survey results along with the candidate profile. In the meantime, please take the survey!  We are excited about this search process and continue to look forward to working collaboratively with all of our stakeholders in the search for a new Superintendent.

    Allen Rosen
    President OPUSD Board of Trustees


    The OPUSD School Board held a special board meeting on December 16 to interview the four superintendent search firms who responded to our Request For Proposal.  You can review their presentations below:

    The Board held a second special board meeting on December 21 to deliberate and select a search firm.  Although all four search firms were extremely professional and fared well in our interviews, I am pleased to announce that we selected Leadership Associates to assist the Oak Park Unified School District in our search for our new Superintendent. 

    Leadership Associates is a well established, California-based search firm that has conducted over 550 searches since 1996 and has placed 25 superintendents in 2020.  They have an 85% 5-year retention rate (meaning that 85% of their placements remain in their position for five years or more), and they offer a guarantee to perform a new search should the selected candidate leave within two years.  They also offer some transition services once a new superintendent is placed.  

    We are very excited to begin working with Leadership Associates and, in particular, our lead consultants for our search, Dr. Peggy Lynch and Dr. Fred Van Leuven.  Both Drs. Lynch and Van Leuven reside in and have been superintendents in Southern California.  Additionally, they offer a wealth of experience and knowledge in the superintendent selection process and have worked on well over 60 searches.

    The formal contract with Leadership Associates is currently being finalized, and the Board expects to approve it at a Special Board Meeting scheduled for January 7.  After that, we will begin the selection process in earnest.  Leadership Associates uses a 9-phase methodology to select a new Superintendent, and although exact dates still need to be finalized, the generalized schedule looks like this:

    Phases 1-4

    Through the End of February

    Gather Board Input, Gather Stakeholder Input, Develop a Position Description, Place Ads & Recruit

    End of February 

    Candidate Applications Due

    Phase 5

    Through Mid March

    Reference and Background Checks


    Review Applications and Select Finalists

    Phases 6-8

    End of March

    Finalist Interviews


    Board Selects New Superintendent

    End of April

    Board approves Superintendent Contract

    Phase 9

    July 1

    New Superintendent Begins

    Please note that these dates are tentative and may change significantly based on multiple factors.  A finalized schedule will be published after our initial meeting with Leadership Associates on January 12 at a Special Board Meeting.

    In the next few weeks, we will have more information on how stakeholders can participate and what that participation looks like. We look forward to working collaboratively in the search for a new Superintendent that is the right fit for the unique and special qualities that encompass OPUSD.

    Allen Rosen
    President OPUSD Board of Trustees

    As you heard last month from Board President Barbara Laifman, OPUSD’s Superintendent, Dr. Tony Knight, is retiring at the end of June and the Board of Education is now beginning the process to select a new Superintendent. One of the most important functions of a school board is to hire the district Superintendent. Although the selection of the superintendent is a decision that rests with the Board, we are fully committed to making this a collaborative and transparent process, with the overall goal of bringing forth the best possible candidate.

    Although districts are free to manage the entire process internally, we have decided (as many boards do) that we would be better suited to hire a search firm to lead the selection process.  In support of this, an RFP (request for proposal) was sent out in November, and we have since received responses from 5 search firms.  The firms that responded all have significant experience with superintendent searches and have all submitted detailed proposals.  The Board held a special meeting on December 8, 2020, during which it was decided to ask each of the firms back to present and interview at a special meeting on December 16, 2020 at 5:00 pm. One of the firms asked for their proposal to be withdrawn. The firms that will be at the December 16th meeting to present and interview are listed below, and you can review their proposals by clicking on each name.

    If you are interested in watching the Board Meeting on the 16th, you can watch it live at www.opusd.org/December16. On December 21, 2020 the Board will hold another special meeting to select a search firm and approve the contract.  We anticipate that the search firm will begin work in January.
    Although each of the firms has a unique process and schedule, the steps involved are basically:

    1. Select the search firm.
    2. Work with the Board and all stakeholders (staff, teachers, students, parents, and other community members) to establish the desired characteristics of the new superintendent. This will be accomplished in a number of ways including in-person or virtual focus groups, individual interviews, and online surveys.
    3. Recruit and track applicants, evaluate applications, and perform reference checks.
    4. Select candidates to be interviewed.
    5. Conduct stakeholder meetings and candidate interviews.
    6. Select the new Superintendent.  

    The specific steps involved and the overall schedule of the search process will be determined jointly by the selected search firm and the board in January and will be communicated to all stakeholders.

    Please know that this will be the first of many communications you will receive to provide timely updates on the search and to request your participation at the various stages of the process. We look forward to working collaboratively in the search for a new Superintendent that is the right fit for the unique and special qualities that encompass OPUSD.

    Allen Rosen
    OPUSD Governing Board Member, Vice President

    Five executive search firms submitted proposals in response to the RFP. The Board of Trustees met at a Special Meeting held on December 8, 2020 to reviewed the proposals. After discussion it was decided to invite all five firms for presentation and interview at a Special Meeting to be held on December 16, 2020 at 5:00 pm. The Meeting will be viewable live at www.opusd.org/December16

    The Board of Trustees formally accepted Dr. Knight’s retirement at this meeting. The Board discussed putting out a request for a proposal from search firms to help guide this process. The request for proposal went out on November 18th, with the due date to submit the proposal by December 2. The Board will review the proposal from the search firms at a special meeting and invite selected firms to present their proposal to the Board at the December organizational meeting. Once the Board selects a search firm, the firm will guide the process for the next Superintendent, including input from students, staff, families, and the community to find the most qualified and best candidates for our District. The new Superintendent will begin on July 1, 2021.

    On behalf of the Board of Education, I would like to thank Tony for his many years of service to the Oak Park Unified School District. Tony has led with loyalty, integrity, and dedication, always attuned to the best interests of our students, staff, and community. Tony is a teacher at heart. In all he does, he is patient, compassionate, and nurturing. The qualities that make him an exceptional teacher have contributed to his extraordinary leadership. Tony has a “sixth sense” about education, which allows for a sensitivity to the academic needs of our students and a program which is forward-looking. During Tony’s career in OPUSD, the quality of the educational experience has blossomed, with a tremendous gain in the academic achievement of our students. Tony has also prioritized the social, emotional, and physical well-being of our students and has incorporated his love for nature, the environment, and animals into many aspects of our district. Tony has provided an ongoing commitment to support employees, not only because he knows their work touches the heart of OPUSD’s purpose in service to our students, but also for his inherent care for the staff. Tony often states that it is important to “do well,” but more important to “do good.” Tony has done so much good for the benefit of our district, community and larger world, regularly working well beyond that for which he has been tasked, and has within him those intangible qualities that have enabled him to lead with grace, diligence, and a high moral compass. While Tony’s retirement will be a great loss to OPUSD, we hope you will join us in wishing him well in his next steps. The Board will immediately begin a search for OPUSD’s next Superintendent with an inclusive model that allows for a smooth transition. We will keep the community informed of the search process and progress in our quest to find a new leader that is the right fit for the unique and special qualities that encompass OPUSD.

    Barbara Laifman
    Oak Park Unified School District Governing Board, President 

    I have informed the Board of Education that I have decided to retire on July 1, 2021.  It’s tough to write this letter, but after 42 years in public education, 39 years in Oak Park, and 17 of those years as your superintendent, it’s time! I have been blessed to have worked in Oak Park for the near entirety of my career in education, and I am so grateful.  Oak Park has always been a unique place where people are valued and respected and where students are first.  I learned that after my first week teaching here. I am so thankful to all of you and for this most extraordinary opportunity.

    I want to thank the Board of Education for their confidence all these years.  I have known every Board member that has served in Oak Park since the start, and I can say that we have always had the most dedicated community members step up to this work. Each has been focused on the students we serve, the well-being and support of our staff, and the continuous improvement of our schools. 

    The Board will begin a process to select the next superintendent of Oak Park, our seventh.  I have had the privilege of knowing all of our previous superintendents since the forming of the school district.  Each leader brings a new perspective to things and a refreshing change.  The Board will design an inclusive process that will lead to the selection of an outstanding new leader.  The Board desires a smooth transition, and I will work hard to ensure that the new superintendent is ready on day one.  

    Now, there is no doubt that this year is probably the most difficult year any of us have experienced, but that’s not why I have decided to retire. Challenges abound every year.  This is not easy work even in a ‘normal’ year. It is also not easy to leave a place where you have put down deep roots. It’s not easy to leave our students, families, and colleagues after all these years.  This is no different than what anyone feels when they leave the school environment.  It is unique, I believe, and something which I know people who work in education can relate to. When someone retires, it is essential to know what you are retiring ‘to’ rather than ‘from.’ I feel a great passion for setting to work in areas that require tremendous attention in our society.  There is work that desperately calls for helping hands related to climate change, preserving what we have left of the natural world, nature-based education, animal welfare, and social justice and equality. I would also like to go sailing, scuba diving, and hiking more, and my wife and I would like to visit our daughter, who lives in Seattle, more frequently.  

    July seems light-years away in this unique year.  We have a heavy-lift to complete before we reach the end of the school year.  Please know that I am 100% focused on the work at hand, and I will work tirelessly to ensure the safety of all students and staff and that our students are well educated and cared for throughout. 


    Dr. Tony Knight