Principal Search Continues into Spring
Community Input Shapes Profile, Selection
A year ago, Principal Evan Glazer informed the community that at the end of this school year — after eleven years as TJ ‘s leader — he would be relocating to the New York area to head a preschool-12th grade private school (see June 2016 issue). When the school requested that he start in the fall of 2016, Dr. Glazer demurred, citing the need to remain at TJ through the conclusion of its four-year renovation. He also hoped that if the process unfolded as it had when he came on board, the new principal would be chosen by March and would then be able to shadow him for several months.
Unfortunately, the search has not yet yielded a successor. Fabio Zuluaga, Assistant Superintendent for Region 2, who is leading the search effort, announced in February that the TJ principal position, advertised last October, would be re-advertised in the hopes that this second round might draw interest from candidates who were previously unavailable.
Beginning the Search
At an Open Forum held before the October 12th evening PTSA meeting, Assistant Superintendent Zuluaga introduced several of the experienced administrators working with him on the FCPS Principal Search Committee. He then explained that the Executive Search Division of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (HYA) would assist the Committee with obtaining and interpreting stakeholder input, creating a candidate profile informed by that input, and managing the national search needed to find suitable candidates. Ann Monday, the HYA Associate leading the search, detailed the firm’s extensive FCPS administrative search experience (HYA was later tapped to help FCPS find a replacement for Superintendent Dr. Karen Garza, who announced her resignation at the beginning of the school year).
Monday came to her current position after a 40-year public school career, including 35 in FCPS where she served as a Kilmer MS English teacher, Robinson HS Principal, and FCPS Cluster Superintendent, Superintendent of Instruction, and Superintendent of Fairfax City Schools. She told the audience that she was very familiar with TJ and had enormous respect for the institution.
Monday proceeded to run an efficient meeting that enabled virtually every attendee to express his or her views. Parents were asked to offer comments pertaining to three major categories: TJ’s strengths, its biggest challenges, and the most important qualities looked for in its next principal. These comments, along with those obtained at a second event geared toward parents and at similar events held for student leadership and staff, respectively, were combined with survey responses from all constituents to create a Leadership Profile and list of Desired Characteristics, released to the public in early December.
Also in December, notice went out seeking community members interested in serving on the Principal Selection Panel, which was to be tasked with interviewing top candidates using carefully prescribed procedures intended to ensure all candidates are treated equally. The panel of twelve — including representatives of the PTSA, Partnership Fund, Alumni Association, students, and faculty — was to be, in Monday’s words, “a mini-TJ.”
At an all-day meeting on January 25th, the panel interviewed five candidates who had been winnowed from an initial field of 38 that included both internal and international applicants. In addition to ensuring that the position was widely advertised, HYA identified and invited select principals to apply, although it is not clear whether either the initial field or the group of five finalists included invited candidates. Zuluaga credited the panel with providing “great feedback.” Panelists signed confidentiality agreements stating that they would not discuss their deliberations.
At the PTSA’s February 16th meeting, Zuluaga informed parents that he and Interim Superintendent Steven Lockard had decided to re-advertise the position. He explained that after one of the top candidates had withdrawn, he and the panel reconsidered the remaining four top candidates and decided that none was a good fit for TJ. Referring several times to the profile and the importance of “fit,” he emphasized that although the candidates came from all over the world, had excellent credentials, and were strong candidates generally, they were not what the TJ community was looking for. “It’s not about quality; it’s about the match. Read the profile. That’s our compass,” he said.
Zuluaga, who has presided over no fewer than 33 principal searches and recognizes that if a principal is not found by the end of the year, he will have to appoint an Interim Principal, made a compelling case for patience and a fresh start. He is optimistic that he will be able to bring the same panel of twelve back to TJ for another day of candidate interviews in April and have a principal in place by July 1st.
10.7 Vacancy posted on HYA site
10.12 FCPS ad released
10.12 Open Forum (PTSA meeting)
10.27 Open Forum
10.28 Student leadership meeting
11.12 Screening begins
1.17 Search Committee reviews resumes, narrows down to top handful of candidates
12.12 Deadline for community members to submit applications to serve on panel
1.10 Panel members chosen
1.25 Panel meets with top candidates
2.16 Announcement that position would be re-advertised (PTSA meeting)
3.1 Vacancy relisted on HYA site
4.3 Screening begins
4.24 Panel meets with top candidates