Tempe Union High School District Superintendent Kenneth Baca says this will be his last year. He did not indicate his future plans, but has dated his resignation June 30, 2018, to give board members enough time to find his replacement.
Special to AFN

The Tempe Union High School Governing Board has opted to find a new superintendent from within the district’s ranks.

The board last week unanimously voted to look in-house rather than spend upward of $50,000 to find a replacement for Superintendent Kenneth Baca, who is leaving after the 2017-18 school year.

Baca, who has been leading the district since 2011, submitted his resignation last month but gave no reason for his decision to leave June 30, except to say it was time to move on.

During last week’s meeting, board members discussed four options for picking a superintendent, including two using search firms, looking within the district’s ranks and holding a community forum to get public input.

“I think we can find one here at our district on our own,” said board member Brandon Schmoll, the only Ahwatukee resident on the panel. “I don’t know it would be that hard of a search to find a good qualified candidate who meets our requirements.”

Added Michelle Helm: “No cost, smooth transition, time here to work with Dr. Baca through the school year to adjust and take over. I just don’t see any negatives.”

Schmoll indicated that some board members may already be eyeing a candidate, although all five will have a chance to name administrators they like and bring them in for closed-door interviews.

Several board members said it would be a waste of tax dollars and appIicants’ time to hire an executive search firm when there were likely superintendent candidates already working for Tempe Union.

But Baca cautioned the board that it needs to vet any candidate to make sure he or she holds a state certificate qualifying them to be a district superintendent.

“The advantage of looking inside is you know the strengths, you know the weaknesses, you know they know Tempe Union and to me that’s a big plus,” said board member Sandy Lowe.

Board member Bernadette Hodge said she thought “we should open it up to anybody in the community” and that “I want to hear the community’s point of view on it.”

But Lowe said it was important that the board not inadvertently mislead the public by indiscriminately seeking input that it had no intention of taking into consideration.

“I’m not sure when to involve the community,” Lowe said. “I want to be very honest and transparent when we do that.”

Noting she has been approached informally by people at the supermarket and other places in the district about their ideas for Baca’s successor, Helm added, “I think we’re getting community input right now.”

Baca made it clear that he had no dog in the hunt.

“This is one where, folks, you’re on your own,” he told the board.

Board members indicated that despite their preference to both post the position within the ranks and approach specific Tempe Union administrators, reaching out to someone outside the district ultimately could occur.

But more than one member also pointed out that Tempe Union had a number of potentially strong candidates to succeed Baca.

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