School board’s search for new principal draws from community feedback

April 2, 2019 — by Edwin Chen and Aaria Thomas

“What personal and professional characteristics are most important? What strengths are most essential?”

This was one of the questions asked on a survey the district emailed out on Feb. 26. As the district searches for the person to fill principal Paul Robinson’s shoes, students, parents and staff have been asked to evaluate the essential qualities they would like to see in a new principal. The survey closed on March 12.

“The next person would have to be somebody who really loves supporting students where they are,” Robinson said. “It’s about finding that person that enjoys every aspect of a comprehensive high school.”

When Robinson was hired in 2012, the district used a similar survey method to gather information. The district then interviewed Robinson, at that time working as a principal in San Diego, to see if he fit the profile of what the community was looking for.

“Whenever we interview staff coming to our school, we want it to be a really good fit,” Robinson said. “Not everyone that applies and has great experience is a really nice fit.”

In addition to using surveys to gather information, the school board conducted input sessions with students from different grades. Students who participated included freshman Anouk Yeh, sophomore Neeti Badve, juniors Alena Jarrett and Payton Stokes and seniors Dermot Gleeson, Matthew Graham and Phoebe Wang.

According to Jarrett, the input sessions were open discussions between multiple students and two members of the school board. The discussions covered topics such as what they want the new principal to be like, what they should know coming into Saratoga and changes they should consider making here.

“I think it was really good,” Jarrett said. “People were really honest and they seemed to really value what we were saying.”

The school board received a total of 159 responses on the survey and met with 49 individuals. The results of both the survey and the input sessions have been used to create a leadership profile of the desired qualities for the new principal.

According to the portfolio, some of the desired traits include showing genuine, sincere concern for others, being visible at school activities and in classrooms and follow-through on actions.

The portfolio states the strengths the school has, such as student diversity and excellence in academic achievement, and the challenges it faces, such as academic pressure and mental health concerns. The complete portfolio can be found on the district website.

“Based upon both the job description and the leadership profile, we will screen applicants to identify those to be interviewed and the job description and profile will be used as part of the criteria as we work through the interview process,” said Jane Marashian, the assistant to superintendent Michael Grove.