Principal search inching forward

The search for a new principal continues, with hopes that a final group of candidates will be presented to the PAUSD-organized Principal Selection Committee by the end of the month, according to Sandra Pearson, the school’s interim principal.

Though she did not know the exact count of candidates, "There have been numerous applications, whether it be 15 or 50 I don’t know," Pearson said, adding that she was confident that "at least a couple qualified candidates have been found."

The job of finding candidates was entrusted to the Chicago-based headhunting firm of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, with expectations of a finished screening by early February, after beginning to advertise the position in January, according to Pearson. So far, very little that has been publicly released has come of the search.

When contacted by The Paly Voice, the firm declined to comment on both the status of the search and the number of qualified candidates for the position.

The members of the Principal Selection Committee have been left in the dark. "No one’s been contacted at this point," said Katherine Lawrence, instructional supervisor for the science department and committee member. "We have received very limited information."

"The committee hasn’t contacted any of us teachers yet," said math teacher and committee member Arne Lim. He went on to say that the committee members have received no new information after being elected to the committee last year.

Amid questions over retirement policy and Pearson’s eligibility to return for another year, some teachers are afraid that "the superintendent will just install whoever the hell she wants," according to one anonymous teacher.

Despite the growing concerns, Pearson is confident that even if the search should fail in time for the next scholastic year, she will be available to continue on as principal indefinitely. "It is a year-by-year decision, and I feel that I could return next year, if necessary, so don’t worry about having no one to fill the spot next year," Pearson said.

According to Pearson, her eligibility to return is not in question because she fulfilled a two-years-of-work requirement, so she can safely continue to work as principal and retire at any time with her original benefits.

Pearson is undaunted by the difficulty that the current state of the California budget as well as the cost of living in Palo Alto add to the search.

"I don’t think Palo Alto is much of an issue," Pearson said. "If we try to recruit from similar communities around the nation, with good school systems and comparable costs of living, we should be able to find a candidate that is able and willing to make the move."

Despite Pearson’s confidence, some are skeptical.

"Our location poses some problems such as housing and living costs," Lawrence said. "The condition of the budget in California is also an issue."

A May 2002 Evans/McDonough phone poll of registered Palo Alto voters revealed "cost of living/housing too expensive" to be "the most important problem in Palo Alto today" with 19% and "Education/underpaid teachers" in a close third with 9%.