SUPERINTENDENT SEARCH UPDATE
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.
- Oak Park USD Superintendent Position Description - Posted on February 12, 2021
- Executive Summary of Survey and Stakeholder Input Sessions
- Superintendent Search Stakeholder Survey Results
- Search Timeline
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Online Stakeholder Survey was open January 13, 2021 until February 2, 2021
MESSAGE FROM ALLEN ROSEN, PRESIDENT SENT ON APRIL 16, 2021
Dear Students, Staff, and Parents,
As I outlined in my previous update, over the past 30 days, the Board and Leadership Associates, our executive search partner, have been vetting and interviewing Superintendent candidates. Our first round of interviews, conducted on March 28, introduced us to 7 great candidates. The questions that were posed to the candidates were all highly influenced by the stakeholder input that we had received, as well as a specific question asked of all potential OPUSD employees crafted by our Diversity and Equity Task Force. After interviewing all 7 candidates, we eliminated 4 and planned a second round of interviews with the remaining 3 candidates.
The second round of interviews was conducted on March 29, after which the Board went through several rounds of closed-session deliberation to come to an agreement on which candidate we should move forward with. Although all 3 candidates were phenomenal and would do an excellent job leading OPUSD forward, we relied on the results of the stakeholder surveys to help us make our decision. From the surveys, it was clear that we needed someone who:
- Understands the challenges of running a high performing school district and will grow academic achievement for all students
- Understands the demographic of our community and student body
- Has extensive prior cabinet-level experience and secondary school experience
- Is a strong instructional leader and will continue to be progressive and visionary
- Will embrace and strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion in OPUSD
- Has the ability to listen and to be empathetic; is approachable and accessible
- Will be collaborative, inclusive, and transparent in decision making
- Will be visible in the community and accountable to all stakeholders
- Will place the highest priority on safe environments for students and staff
- Would ALWAYS put our students needs first
I am happy to report that all 5 Board members agreed that we should move forward with a single candidate. We are currently negotiating the contract and will announce and appoint the new Superintendent and approve the contract at our regularly scheduled Board meeting on April 20th. I encourage all of you to watch the live stream at 6:00 pm via this link: www.opusd.org/livestream.
I believe that I can speak for each of the Board members by saying that this was the most difficult decision that we have had to make, and it would not have been possible without your help. I want to thank you all for your participation in this process. We are all extremely excited for this next chapter in OPUSD’s history.
President OPUSD Board of Trustees
MESSAGE FROM ALLEN ROSEN, PRESIDENT SENT ON MARCH 19, 2021
Over the past month, Leadership Associates, our executive search partner, has been hard at work identifying superintendent candidates, matching candidate qualifications to our candidate profile, calling references, and vetting the candidates. The window for applications closed on March 1, and last week the Board was presented with a slate of eighteen candidates. The candidates spanned the gamut of experiences, tenures, types of schools, district sizes, and educational philosophies. Some are from California, while some are from outside of California, and as a whole, the group of candidates is very diverse. After the initial round of analysis and vetting, nine were identified as a potential fit for the Superintendent role at OPUSD.
On Wednesday, March 17, the Board met with Leadership Associates to review all of the candidates and select the candidates that we will invite for an interview. The first round of interviews will be conducted on March 28, where we expect to select finalists for the next round of interviews on the afternoon of March 29th. The interview questions were derived directly from the stakeholder input that was gathered in January and February, and we will continue to rely on the stakeholder input throughout the interview process.
After the second round of interviews, the Board will take some time to deliberate, and I expect to provide another update to you at or before the April 20 Board Meeting.
Thank you for your continued interest and participation in this process, and as always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
President OPUSD Board of Trustees
MESSAGE FROM ALLEN ROSEN, PRESIDENT SENT ON FEBRUARY 16, 2021
As mentioned in my update from February 8, the Candidate Profile has been completed, approved, and posted on this page. The candidate profile will be used by the applicants themselves (to determine if this is the type of position they are looking for), by Leadership Associates when they review the candidate applications to determine how well each candidate aligns with the district’s desired characteristics and by the Board to consider when reviewing the applications and developing interview questions. The stakeholder input that was gathered over the past few weeks (online survey and feedback from input sessions) will also be used to inform the Board during the interview process.
The next major step in the process is for the Board to receive and review candidate applications, which will occur in mid-March. We anticipate that Board interviews via Zoom will be conducted during the last week of March and that the Board will select a new superintendent by Mid-April.
If anything changes between now and mid-March when we receive the applications, I will be sure to let you know. Otherwise, please expect my next update to be sometime in mid to late March. Thank you for your continued interest and participation in this process.
President OPUSD Board of Trustees
MESSAGE FROM ALLEN ROSEN, PRESIDENT SENT ON FEBRUARY 8, 2021
As reported in my update from January 20, The Oak Park Unified School District Board of Trustees is working with Consultants from Leadership Associates, an executive search firm, to help with the search for our next superintendent. Per the schedule, between January 13 and February 2, Leadership Associates published an online survey so that all stakeholders could provide input into the characteristics that would be important in a new superintendent, and 862 people responded. In addition, they also conducted 38 Zoom-based community meetings with over 100 stakeholders attending.
The Board would like to share information that was collected from the surveys and community meetings. It is presented in the form of an Executive Summary from Leadership Associates and Survey Responses.
These results are being used by Leadership Associates and the Board to develop a candidate profile. The candidate profile (which will also be shared with the stakeholders when finalized) will be used by the applicants themselves (to determine if this is the type of position they are looking for) as well as by Leadership Associates when they review the candidate applications to determine how well each candidate aligns with the district’s desired characteristics. It is important to note that this is not a scientific process where the data received from the survey and interviews will be used to automatically include or exclude any candidates - the Board will receive all of the applications submitted. The data received and the position profile will be extremely helpful for the Board to consider when reviewing the applications and developing interview questions.
The next major step in the process is for the Board to receive and review candidate applications, which will occur in mid-March. We anticipate that Board interviews via Zoom will be conducted during the last week of March and that the Board will select a new superintendent by Mid-April. 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. Please also note that the Board has elected to make this a confidential search. This means that by law, none of the names of the candidates can be disclosed until the new Superintendent is selected. Paper screening, first round, and final round of interviews are all done in a closed session meeting with only the Board members and the search consultants. A confidential search will ensure that we will attract the largest, best qualified, and most diverse candidate pool possible.
On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank all who participated in the stakeholder input sessions and the survey. The Board is committed to the search for the next Superintendent of Oak Park Unified School District. I will continue to publish periodic updates over the next few months, reporting on the status of the search.
President OPUSD Board of Trustees
MESSAGE FROM ALLEN ROSEN, PRESIDENT SENT ON JANUARY 13, 2021
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 this page, but the significant dates are as follows:
January 13 - February 2
Online Survey open
January 25 - February 2
Leadership Associates confers with all stakeholder groups
March 1 - March 16
Background checks and candidate review by Leadership Associates
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:
- Take the online survey which you can find here(survey ended on February 2, 2021). Please also feel free to forward the survey link to anyone that you think may be interested.
- 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.
President OPUSD Board of Trustees
MESSAGE FROM ALLEN ROSEN, PRESIDENT SENT ON DECEMBER 22, 2020
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:
Through the End of February
Gather Board Input, Gather Stakeholder Input, Develop a Position Description, Place Ads & Recruit
End of February
Candidate Applications Due
Through Mid March
Reference and Background Checks
Review Applications and Select Finalists
End of March
Board Selects New Superintendent
End of April
Board approves Superintendent Contract
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.
President OPUSD Board of Trustees
MESSAGE FROM ALLEN ROSEN, VICE PRESIDENT SENT ON DECEMBER 11, 2020
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:
- Select the search firm.
- 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.
- Recruit and track applicants, evaluate applications, and perform reference checks.
- Select candidates to be interviewed.
- Conduct stakeholder meetings and candidate interviews.
- 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.
OPUSD Governing Board Member, Vice President
DECEMBER 8, 2020 SPECIAL BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING UPDATE
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
NOVEMBER 17, 2020 BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING UPDATE
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.
MESSAGE TO PARENTS AND STAFF FROM BOARD PRESIDENT, BARBARA LAIFMAN SENT ON NOVEMBER 13, 2020
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.
Oak Park Unified School District Governing Board, President
SUPERINTENDENT DR. TONY KNIGHT ANNOUNCES HIS RETIREMENT ON NOVEMBER 13, 2020
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