Superintendent position open with impending departure of Scott Cory

By Janene Scully

Noozhawk North County Editor | @JaneneScully

The Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District Board of Education has started plotting a path toward finding a new superintendent, agreeing to first solicit proposals from three headhunter firms to help lead the search.

During a special meeting March 25, board members voted 5-0 to use a consultant to spearhead the effort, appointing a committee of Jan Clevenger and Tory Babcock to solicit proposals for the board to consider. 

But the topic veered away from the agenda item with extensive discussion about whether the high school district needs a separate superintendent and principal, and if it should join with the Santa Ynez Valley’s six elementary districts to form one large agency. 

Superintendent Scott Cory announced last month he had accepted another job, but did not identify the position or district. His last day officially will be June 30. 

Clevenger, the board’s president, suggested seeking three proposals from firms to lead the search before choosing one to lead the effort.

“What do you see as the mission of any search firm we would retain? Is their mission merely to present us with viable candidates, or is it to go to the next step and make all but the final decision on who would be the next superintendent?” Board member John Baeke asked. 

Superintendent search firms typically handle advertising the opening, soliciting candidates, and narrowing the field down for the board’s consideration and eventual interviews. 

“They’re going to bring us whatever we ask for — three or four viable candidates,” Clevenger said.

“We need to share with them and identify what desirable characteristics we’re looking for in a superintendent,” Clevenger added

“I would hope that whatever headhunter firm we ultimately award this contract to will not be married to California applicants, because let’s all face it, on so many metrics, California nationwide compared to the other 50 states ranks 49th or 50th,” Baeke said, calling for getting “new blood into our school district.”

Clevenger said the board can emphasize it wants a nationwide search. 

Board member Stephen Luke questioned why the high school district doesn’t unify with the elementary districts to end the redundant positions such as multiple superintendents. 

He also questioned if the high school district needed a superintendent or could combine the job with the principal position.

“Can we have the discussion about combining? Maybe talk to some other school boards.” Luke said.

Cory and Clevenger said unification discussions have occurred multiple times and never been successful, in part because of a desire to retain local control. 

School funding formulas also can provide an incentive or disincentive for combining some districts due to the effect on revenue, Cory added.

The agenda for Thursday night’s meeting called for selection of a consulting firm to assist the board with the search for a superintendent.

Prolonged discussion on items not on the agenda — it lasted more than 15 minutes — and action are not allowed under the state’s Ralph M. Brown (Open Meetings) Act aimed at transparency and ensuring members of the public can participate in discussions.

At one point, both Cory and Clevenger noted the discussion had veered from the agenda item, but that didn’t deter Luke.

“Before we rush off and hire another superintendent, I’m asking should we even be doing that and why I backed it up with the unification discussion,” Luke said, asking for topics of consolidation and review of district administrators to be placed on the agenda for a future meeting.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at