Following interviews held on May 9, district officials and members of the Principal Selection Input Committee (PSIC) have narrowed their decision down to two final candidates, and are preparing to enter the superintendent evaluation round. One of these applicants will fill in the principal position after current Principal Katya Villalobos’ departure. Superintendent Dr. Kevin Skelly is scheduled to make his official recommendation to the school board on May 27.
The first PSIC interview panel was comprised of 11 teachers who represented the Instructional Council, and the second was made up of staff, parents and two students. Each panel member allocated points to candidates based on the quality of their responses. District officials were then able to narrow down applicants by calculating their total points, and the final two candidates will be pushed through to the next round. The Superintendent and various members of his cabinet will follow up with more interviews and review the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses to aid in making the superintendent’s recommendation.
Both teachers and students hope to see certain qualities in the new principal. Computer Science teacher Joshua Paley hopes that the principal will be effective at getting things done. “The world is changing; how a person manages the change matters,” Paley said. However, he recognizes how adapting to a school’s individual system can prevent the principal from doing his job. According to Paley, with the ease of technology, parents can send in complaint emails in seconds that can clog up the principal’s inbox and force other important work to be pushed to the side. “I think a new principal is going to have to delegate a lot of this stuff,” Paley said. In addition, he believes it is necessary for a principal to protect and emphasize the importance of programs that are already valued at Gunn. Junior Aren Raisinghani wants a passionate principal who is trustworthy and approachable. “The new principal has to be really involved in school,” Raisinghani said. “They have to understand our Titan traditions and be involved in those traditions.” He also believes that the new principal should be transparent in their policies and be an advocate for the students. “I feel like as for bringing new things to school, the principal should be receptive to students who want to implement change,” Raisinghani said. “The principal shouldn’t have to be in charge of coordinating student activities because that’s the student government’s job.” Additionally, both Paley and Raisinghani stress the importance of flexibility. “There a lot of really good teachers, and part of what makes them good is they are not being micromanaged,” Paley said. “Their creativity shows in the classroom and beyond.” According to Bowers, the district is looking for a versatile leader who will be efficient in providing students with powerful learning throughout the school program. The PSIC is looking for candidates with administrative and leadership experience, as well as someone who understands the importance of building relationships with students, parents and staff.
Six initial candidates were accepted, and then narrowed to down to two based off of administrators’ and students’ interview assessments. Director of Secondary Education Katherine Baker believes interviews adequately reveal who best suits this description. “We are looking for someone with vision, someone with experience, someone who’s collaborative, has the values, the integrity we seek in a highly qualified leader,” Baker said.
Although the new principal will be chosen before the school year ends, Bowers believes the principal will undoubtedly go through some challenges as they begin their work next year. “Any new principal will face the challenge of getting to know the school culture, the staff, students, and community,” Bowers wrote in an email. “Learning what the principal-ship is like in Palo Alto compared to their previous position will be a challenge.” As a principal for 12 years, Baker emphasized the importance of community input. “[The new principal] really needs to listen to what the people are saying,” Baker said. “What I would always ask was, ‘What do you think we stop doing, what should we start doing, and what should we continue doing?’ ”