HDESD Superintendent Search 2024

A Message from Board Chair Matt McGowan (4-17-24)

As you know, the Board has been engaged in a search for the next Superintendent of High Desert ESD since January.  We have participated in a series of selection activities and have sincerely appreciated the input of staff throughout the process. 
The Board of Directors is very pleased to announce that we have reached an important milestone in the search for our agency’s next leader.  A virtual special board meeting will be held Thursday, April 18, 2024 at 6:30 pm to introduce and approve the hiring of High Desert’s next Superintendent. Board Meeting – April 18, 2024 – 6:30 pm
The Board welcomes you to join the meeting if you’d like to hear this announcement, and to have you meet our next leader who is poised to join with all of us as we take this next step in HDESD’s continued success. 


A Message from Board Chair Matt McGowan (3-14-24)

 The High Desert ESD Board of Directors would like to update you on the progress of our Superintendent Search.

 First, the Board would like to extend their gratitude to everyone that applied to participate in the lottery positions for the Community Engagement Interview Panel. This panel of 12   individuals (some assigned and some now selected by lottery) will have an opportunity to meet finalists in a virtual interview panel, and provide valuable insight to the Board in their   decision.

 Second, the Board met in executive session on Monday, March 11 with Human Capital Enterprises to review applications received. From the applicants, candidates were selected for first round interviews with the Board. Those interviews will take place on March 18 and 19th, also in executive session. At the close of those interviews, the Board will select candidates to move forward to the Community Engagement Panel on April 3, and to finalist interviews with the Board in executive session on April 11 and 12.

The Board anticipates acting on the sole finalist contract and appointment of our next Superintendent in an open Special Board Meeting to be scheduled prior to May 1.

At that time, the Board will make a public announcement naming the next Superintendent of High Desert ESD. You can access a complete timeline of the Superintendent

Search and other information about the process on the district website.

A Message from Board Chair Matt McGowan (2-21-24)

On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to share a quick progress update on the search for our next Superintendent. 

The recruitment window for applications will close on February 24, 2024. In the following weeks, the Board will review applications, references, and preliminary interview transcripts and will convene on March 11th in executive session to select semi-finalists. They will be invited to interview virtually with the board on March 18th and 19th. From those interviews, the Board will select finalists. 

A group of 12 internal and external partners, the Community Engagement Interview Panel, will interview the finalists on April 3, 2024. This confidential panel will provide feedback to the Board regarding the finalists. The Board has determined the composition of the panel, which will be facilitated by our search consultants, Human Capital Enterprises. It will include:

  • Four Superintendents (component school districts) or their district-office level designee
  • Two licensed staff (one selected by the association, one selected by lottery)
  • Two classified employees (one selected by the association, one selected by lottery)
  • HDESD Chief Financial Officer (assigned)
  • HDESD Executive Director  of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (assigned)
  • One additional HDESD Administrator (selected by lottery)
  • One parent 

If you are interested in participating on the panel, please complete this panel participation application form no later than 12:00 noon, Wednesday, March 6, 2024. You must be available to participate all day (8:00am to 5:00pm) in virtual interviews with candidates on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. Those selected by lottery will be notified on Friday, March 8, 2024. We hope that you’ll consider playing a role in this critical process for High Desert ESD. 

A Message from Board Chair Matt McGowan (1-22-24)

On behalf of the High Desert ESD board of directors, I am pleased to share the criteria and qualifications that will guide the search for our next superintendent. This guiding document was developed by our executive search firm – Human Capital Enterprises – with extensive input from key stakeholders, including staff, education and district partners, and community members. Thank you to all who participated in the survey and focus groups to help us get here as we launch our recruitment efforts to attract a pool of outstanding candidates. Your input has helped us identify HDESD’s strengths, challenges, and the personal and professional qualities, attributes, skills, and experiences desired in HDESD’s next superintendent. 

The superintendent search now enters the recruitment phase.  The vacancy is posted at  Human Capital Enterprises and linked on the HDESD website.  Additionally, the job posting will be advertised through Oregon Coalition of School Administrators, Washington Association of School Administrators, California EdJoin, the national Association of Education Service Agencies, and released nationally through HCE’s 40,000 listserv subscriber network.   The application closes on February 24, 2024. 

small wooden tiles on a board with one being placed in a lead position

Search and Selection Process

Planning Phase: Completed

The first step was to select a search consultant, finalize a search timeline and process. The Board has selected Human Capital Enterprises (HCE) who will help HDESD’s Board of Directors with the process and will conduct a nationwide search for candidates.

Stakeholder Engagement Phase: Completed

The next step was to determine the qualities, skills, and experiences we want in our next superintendent. These will be central to the screening and interview process. Engaging our staff and community in the development of a profile of the ideal candidate is critical.  Board, staff and community input has been used to develop a summary of our “Next Superintendent Criteria” that the search firm consultants presented to the Board for consideration during a special Board meeting on January 19, 2024. The Board has adopted the final profile as the Next Superintendent Criteria.  The district has announced the vacancy, advertised nationally, and HCE has begun the recruitment phase. 

Recruiting Phase: January 19 - February 24, 2024
In hiring a search firm, school boards not only want a trusted partner who can run a process, but who can also identify and find exceptional talent – and in High Desert ESD’s case, to entice great leaders who match the Next Superintendent Criteria to consider this remarkable opportunity. HCE will activate their national networks to attract a pool of candidates that fit the adopted leadership profile, including targeted recruitment of candidates who may not be looking for the next opportunity, but are a unique “fit and match” for HDESD.
Transition Phase: May 1-July 1, 2024
Although the Superintendent successor’s official start date is July 1, 2024, HCE will advise the board on transition activities which may include on-boarding days at the ESD prior to the start date.  The Board’s vision is to build a transition period for deliberate succession planning between the current superintendent and successor superintendent, to support HDESD in the best possible way. 
Selection Phase: March 4 - May 1, 2024

There are several steps to this phase, including preliminary interviews of top tier candidates by the search firm consultants, Board consideration and deliberation of an initial slate presented by the firm, first round interviews, and finalist interviews. Finalist interviews include two components — Board interviews and a stakeholder panel interview. HCE and Board members will also conduct expansive telephone reference checks, while an investigative agency will conduct comprehensive background checks.  The Board anticipates deliberating to determine the sole finalist in mid-April 2024.  Contract negotiations will then begin with a formal public announcement shortly thereafter.


How does the search process work?

The Board is working with Human Capital Enterprises to conduct a rigorous, nationwide search. The Board will seek, receive, and review all input from HDESD staff, our education partners and our community supporters; review all candidate applications; interview candidates determined by the Board; and select the new superintendent.


When will the new Superintendent be hired?

The Board has set a timeline to recruit, interview, and hire the new Superintendent of HDESD  to begin their term on July 1, 2024.

How and when do staff, parents and other education partners weigh-in?

The Board has been soliciting public input on the characteristics, experience, and skills desired in the next superintendent through an online survey and in-person focus group sessions.

When will the District share the collected input with the public?

All information gathered through focus groups and the Superintendent Search Survey will be compiled, summarized, and incorporated into the “Next Superintendent Criteria”, The Board will approve a final copy of the criteria document in a January 19, 2024 special board meeting, which will serve as an additional opportunity for public testimony.

Who will make the final selection?

By law, the Board is solely responsible for hiring the new superintendent. The Board will seek, receive, and consider all input from the HDESD community, review all applications, interview those candidates determined by the Board, and select the new superintendent.

Can we find out who is applying?

All application materials, including the names of applicants and any other personally identifiable information are confidential.

How does this search differ from previous High Desert ESD superintendent searches?

Historically, superintendent searches culminated in a process whereby finalists (typically two or three) are introduced to the community through a series of public events. Stakeholders  – whether staff or community members – weighed in and provided feedback regarding the candidates. The Board then deliberated and selected their preferred finalist to be the next Superintendent of the HDESD.

 For this search, the Board has chosen to engage with the community through focus groups, an on-line community-wide superintendent search survey, and a panel of internal and external stakeholders who will interview the finalists with the intention of seeking high-level, high-leverage input from our stakeholders. This process does not include a public pronouncement of finalists, which as we discuss below, can create a serious impediment to attracting the most exceptional talent. At the same time, it augments rather than reduces the quality of community feedback regarding the finalists.

What is the rationale for taking a different approach in this search?

  1.   Quality of Pool

Top-tier, experienced superintendent candidates are shying away from superintendent search processes in which their names are surfaced publicly prior to selection. This has always been problematic – but in the current era, where superintendents of great talent are in higher demand than ever before – top-drawer candidates are increasingly selective. Many successful superintendents will opt out of a search process where they will be publicly identified as finalists for a job that they may not ultimately get.

Recent superintendent searches from districts where finalists’ names are publicly revealed evidence that experienced superintendents are opting out of this kind of a process.

    2.  Quality of Community Feedback

Although there is sometimes a tendency to think that more feedback is better, in actuality that’s often not actually the case. Large-scale qualitative feedback is very difficult – if not impossible – to turn into usable feedback for the Board in the short turnaround time that is required. Other areas of concern, such as feedback from stakeholders who may have only watched a single candidate – or who have a strong bias toward a candidate and a large network of friends and colleagues – creates some complexities. Quantitative feedback on finalists in a superintendent search is of some, but limited, value. 

  1.   Equity

In searches where there is a large-scale amount of feedback, it can feel overwhelming to board members to make sense of the various voices providing feedback. When that happens, it is not atypical that we, human beings that we are, elevate the voices most proximate to us to a higher level of influence: our spouses and partners; our neighbors; our kids; our friends; our colleagues. Members of our close circles will have observed finalist processes and they will have their opinions that they eagerly share with us. Because their opinions matter to us, we are influenced by them.

But in a search where a finite number of individuals are providing feedback – individuals who for the most part are not identifiable and represent a broad and diverse array of stakeholders – the Board will truly hear the diverse voices of a representative sample of the community.

 Has this been done before?

Yes, in many places. Recent searches in Medford, Beaverton, Portland, Willamette ESD, San Francisco, and Salem-Keizer all employed a similar path.

How can the public follow this process?

Updates regarding the superintendent search process will be posted here. The Board will also provide updates at its regularly scheduled board meetings and future press releases.