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Possible candidates emerge in LAUSD superintendent search

The search for Los Angeles Unified’s next superintendent enters a new phase this month as recruiters reach out across the country to approach qualified candidates.

After the LAUSD’s school board decides on the type of candidates it wants to interview, the search firm it hired will begin calling people who could be a good fit to run the second largest school district in the nation.

Although recruiters for the firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates won't reach full tilt for several more weeks, there are already names of potential candidates floating among those who have active interest in the search — and they have opinions on the kind of leader the district should seek.

“They need to find a person who is tough, and compassionate, who is fiscally responsible,” said former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

That’s the reputation Yaroslavsky himself earned in nearly 40 years in elective office. So does he want to be the next LAUSD superintendent as some have suggested?

He laughed. “I have not gotten a call from a recruiter. I’m in a new phase of my life and very happy about it,” said Yaroslavsky, who stepped down as county supervisor last year and has his own public policy institute.

Yaroslavsky said he gave LAUSD the names of several potential candidates when the school district asked him for help. He wouldn’t say which names he gave them.

But former Fountain Valley superintendent Marc Ecker did share his short list.

“Mike Hanson from Fresno Unified School District, another very successful superintendent. There’s a new superintendent in Oakland, although he’s only been there a couple of years,” he said.

Also on Ecker's list are the school superintendents in Pomona, Long Beach, and Fremont in Northern California. Ecker’s opinion has weight because he’s a partner with Leadership Associates, a large search firm that bid on but lost out on a contract two months ago to search for LAUSD's next superintendent.

Ecker said if he was running the search, he’d call his friend, San Francisco schools superintendent Richard Carranza, one of the rising stars in California public schools.

“Richard is an extremely dynamic individual, he’s extremely bright. He’s the superintendent of a large urban school district, L.A. Unified is a large urban school district. And Richard Carranza is a Latino,” Ecker said.

But does Carranza even want to be LAUSD superintendent?

“I’m so busy doing the work I’m doing in San Francisco that, you know, I haven’t even thought about that,” Carranza said.

Since his appointment in 2012, Carranza said San Francisco schools have improved academically, and now parents are choosing his district’s traditional schools over charters and private schools.

That is a situation that LAUSD would like to be in, given dropping enrollment and the challenge facing the district from charter school advocates.

People from LAUSD who he would not name talked to Carranza about the superintendent search at a conference in Long Beach last month. He said they told him “just how important they saw the leadership of the district, how important they thought it was going to be to have somebody come into the district who is willing to make a commitment to be in the district for the long haul.”

If Carranza and any of the others do decide to submit their resumes, the school board plans to keep their names confidential until a decision is made. The school board hopes to pick a superintendent by Jan. 1.

In the meantime, the recruiters may need to do some convincing to get some candidates to apply.

Pomona Unified Superintendent Richard Martinez says there’s a major factor that could lead some talented people to say thanks, but no thanks.

“Probably  the size of organization,” Martinez said. LAUSD serves 650,000 students and that could lead potential candidates to ask themselves, “can I really make a difference in an institution this large?”

Martinez’s name, too, has come up as a potential candidate.

He laughs it off. Like Carranza, he said that he still has a lot to accomplish in his current school district.

But then neither said he would say “no” if a recruiter called.