Principal Selection Community Input Meeting Notes – 6/21/18

On June 21, 2018, SJUSD held a community input meeting for the selection of Booksin's new principal. Our BESCA president was there and took notes for the community who weren't able to attend. 


Dominic Bejarano, Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services, SJUSD
Cindy Urenda, Booksin School Secretary
7 parents of kids enrolled at Booksin

Principal Hiring Process

Dominic talked through the process for selecting a new principal. That process is as follows:

  1. Meeting with staff to collect input on traits they would like to see in next principal
  2. Meeting with community to collect input on traits they would like to see in next principal
  3. Dominic does first round of interviews to screen candidates
  4. Candidate pool of 3-5 people is formed based on first round of interviews
  5. Interview panel formed made up of 3 certificated teachers from Booksin, 2 classified staff from Booksin, and 3 community members from Booksin (SSC President, SELAC President, BESCA President)
  6. Dominic creates interview questions for the panel based on input meetings (# 1 & 2 above)
  7. Interview panel interviews candidates
  8. Interview panel recommends 2-3 candidates for principal
  9. The candidates recommended by the interview panel move on to another round of interviews with the superintendent
  10. Superintendent submits choice to Board of Education for approval



After going through the process, there was a lot of dialogue and questions. 

Is it possible that we may have an interim principal appointed?

Yes. If there isn’t a candidate that emerges as a clear fit for principal, the district will appoint an interim principal for a year and will resume the interview process as qualified candidates emerge. Interim principals are selected from people currently serving as an Assistant Principal at another school in SJUSD.

Are there any candidates in the pool yet?

Yes. We have at least 1 internal (within SJUSD) and at least 2 external candidates identified that will go through the interview process outlined above. 

When will the interview process happen?

The first round of interviews are being conducted now. The staff already completed their input meeting and the community meeting is happening now. The interview panel (#5 above) will interview candidates next Wednesday, June 27. If the interview panel has 1-2 candidates to recommend, they will meet with the superintendent on Thursday and be submitted for board approval Thursday evening. 

What are you screening for in the first round of interviews?

  • Instructional expertise – ability to successfully identify strengths and weaknesses in instructional approach and provide feedback on how to improve
  • Strong skill set to lead
  • Ability to manage high parent involvement (elementary typically has higher involvement than secondary positions)

It seems like we are in the position of hiring a principal at Booksin frequently. How do we compare to other schools in the district?

In the past 10 years, Booksin had 7 principals. The average tenure for a principal in SJUSD is 3.8 years. The average tenure for a principal at a high performing school (like Booksin) in SJUSD is 3.8 years. The average tenure of a Booksin principal is 1.4 years. 

Why is our turnover rate so much higher than other schools in the district?

Every principal leaves for his/her own reasons. In the case of Peter Park, it was a very unique situation, as the principal spot opened at Leland, where Peter had spent his career as a teacher and AP. Because of his history with the school, it was a unique opportunity for him. Without that, he would likely have returned to Booksin. There are 3 main areas that contribute to the difficulty of a principal’s job: Unruly students, staff challenges, and challenges with the community (parents). Booksin has extremely high participation from its parents, and sometimes that can put a significant drain on the principal’s time. Dominic shared from his experience going to Bret Harte middle school, where the parent community is also highly involved, that in his first year, his AP spent 2 months of the year in parent meetings. Once they set consistent expectations and communicated them to the community, the time spent in parent meetings dropped to 2 weeks in the 2nd year. The principal’s number 1 focus is in the classroom, guiding teachers and their students towards growth. 

How can we as a community better support a principal so that they want to stay at Booksin for more than 1.4 years?

There was much discussion around this topic…here are a few of the highlights:

  1. Support the principal doing his/her job – Their focus is in the classroom and they need to have the time and space to do that in order to be effective.
  2. Give them time to adapt – Transitioning into a new school is challenging and requires building relationships with the staff, students, and community. They may make some mistakes early on as they adapt to the new culture…give them some room and don’t jump on every issue. It’s ok to offer advice, when it’s done respectfully and with the intent of helping the principal succeed.
  3. Reduction of parent meetings – As parents, one of the best things we can do is to respect the principal’s time and where their focus needs to be. Parents should always feel comfortable meeting with the principal or communicating with the principal, but it shouldn’t be over every detail of what happens at the school. We need to trust the principal is acting in the best interest of our students and give he/she space to do their job.

What characteristics do you think are the most important in a candidate for Booksin’s specific situation?

Communications is extremely important for Booksin, as it is for all schools with high parent participation. The ability to set expectations early, communicate them to the entire community, and apply them consistently, is also important in a leader for our school. 

Is the district doing anything to help recruit a candidate that is willing to commit to more than a year at the school?

Yes. Last year when the principal job was opened, the district posted the position with a model/master stipend. Internal candidates with 3 years of experience as a principal willing to make a 3 year commitment would receive a $10K stipend/year. This year, the posting has the same stipend for internal candidates that meet the criteria and are willing to commit to 3 years as a principal.