Community input guides superintendent search



Search consultant Marilyn Shepherd listens as RHS staff members share qualities they would like to see in an ideal superintendent in a March 9 meeting.


With current RJUHSD superintendent Ron Severson set to retire on June 30, the district selected recruitment agency McPherson and Jacobson to aid them in the search for Severson’s successor. The company began holding meetings at schools within the district to gain input from students and staff on what they expect to see from the new superintendent.

Search consultants Bob Ferguson and Marilyn Shepherd conducted the meetings at each school site, covering what the attendees would want to see in the new superintendent. Those unable to attend the meetings can provide their input in an online survey linked on the district’s and each school’s website.

“This company really likes getting the voices of the people that are going to be served by the leader involved,” Shepherd said. “Their approach is to hear what they are going to have to say and then all that information is going to be made public.”

RHS English teacher Kelly Capell attended a meeting at Roseville High and feels the meeting provided a necessary forum of discussion but was limited by the number of participants.
“It’s a really good opportunity for us as teachers to be very clear about our hopes and expectations for this next set of leadership and it makes us feel more validated,” Capell said. “I wish more teachers had been able to attend, but I know that many teachers came to me and the other teachers to be a voice and ears in there.”

Ferguson and Shepherd will reach out to candidates that meet the district criteria, vet the applicants and from there draw recommendations for the district. They will then present the recommendations and outside input to the board on April 26, where they will finalize the rest of the timeline.

Currently, the company intends for the board to select from those applicants people to interview May 1 and 2, projecting the May 8 board meeting as the date to select a new superintendent.

“We want them to have four or five top quality people where they have a hard time deciding; then we’ve done our job,” Ferguson said. “If it becomes an issue of which one is the best match and you get arguments, at the end of the process we have someone who has risen to the top as the best fit for the job.”

Capell believes that experience with instruction as well as administrative roles would be valuable in the next superintendent.

“[Teaching experience] makes the teachers feel like this person can relate to them on that level,” Capell said. “Some experience in administration obviously, as a principal or in the district office even, would be very helpful.”

Severson has worked in the district for 23 years, with 40 years total in education. He opened Granite Bay in 1996 and served as it’s first principal after working on the design of the school the year before. In his position, Severson focused on encouraging student and staff contribution so the school could successfully function.

“When you open a school everyone has to pitch in so we tried to build a culture where everyone understood how important it was for people to trust each other [and] build relationships,” Severson said. “We had to rely on our kids to provide leadership that you don’t have in a more established school.”

Oakmont secretary Lisa Brown, who worked with Severson while he opened Granite Bay, believes he played a large role in setting up the school the year before it opened.

“That was back in the days where we ordered everything for the school, so he made all major decisions about the high school from interior colors to what athletic uniforms we ordered,” Brown said.

When Severson first began working at the district level he implemented a leadership academy, which he recently worked with departments in the district to replicate this year. The classes aim to instill leadership qualities in teachers and administrators.

“We bore so much fruit out of the first time we did that and this year was really the first time that we had the human time and resources to get it done,” Severson said. “Part of it was I was thinking about retiring and I really wanted to have one last chance to build leadership qualities into the folks that I work with every day.”

Executive director of personnel services Brad Basham worked closely with Severson in implementing the academies and gearing classes towards benefitting different staff members.

“Any teacher, counselor, administrator in the district who wanted to learn more about leadership, Severson has worked with different staff members to do different classes,” Basham said. “It gives some of us old administrators an opportunity to share some of the things we’ve learned over our time.”

During his first two years as superintendent, Severson dedicated his time to getting the Measure D bond passed in order to make improvements at existing sites within the district and begin construction of West Park High School.

Basham believes Severson’s work on the bond and motivating members at the district to gather support will aid the district in years to come.

“Severson charged all of us to make sure that we were working with our community to rally support for Measure D and how important it was for the future of our school district,” Basham said. “We don’t wanna be hampered by facilities that are getting run down or overcrowding so Measure D is going to set the district up for many years.”

After opening Granite Bay and aiding in opening Antelope, Severson became involved with plans to open West Park in 2006. Though the recession delayed the school’s construction, Measure D funds allow it’s completion. Severson looks forward to it becoming a reality.

“In a perfect world I would’ve been able to stay around until we opened the high school,” Severson said. “It was cool to see all these ideas we had back in 2006 on paper and getting ready to become brick and mortar and a real campus.”

In order to address differences in student achievement due to factors like race and socioeconomic background, Severson pushed for implementing Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS) and training staff on cultural, responsive, sustaining, humanizing pedagogy.

Severson feels, through programs like EOS, the district has made progress towards equal achievement.

“Our work with EOS and AP is really the first time where we actually close those gaps,” Severson said. “We have equity at the highest levels of our curriculum, so now how do we get equity everywhere else.”

Assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction Jess Borjon feels Severson’s push for equality has extended past academic programs.

“He values all students’ passion so whether you’re a theater arts student or you’re an AP student or you’re an athlete, he wants to provide an organization and a setting so that you can pursue your passion,” Borjon said.

In the future, Severson hopes the district continues to address inequity among students due to racial and socioeconomic factors.

“Not many places in the country have done this very well and we want to be a place that does that very well,” Severson said. “We want every kid in this community to have a chance to go compete and they can’t do that unless we afford them that opportunity.”