Two dozen local teachers, parents, students and community members spent the better part of May 9 interviewing five candidates for the Sonoma Valley High School principal position. The process was overseen by Sonoma Valley Unified School District Associate Superintendents Karen Strong and Bruce Abbott.
Strong and Abbott began the process by reviewing 17 candidates in April, including one internal candidate. A panel comprised of representatives from the district’s two teacher unions as well as a parent, two teachers, an administrative employee and two district administrators then participated in an all-day “paper screening” of the resumes, narrowing that group to six.
Abbott said that 10 of the 17 applicants made it through that process and after all references were checked and the candidates informed of the hiring process, the district winnowed it down to six. The night before the candidates were scheduled to visits Sonoma, one withdrew, having accepted another position.
Over the course of the day on May 9, one group of panelists conducted a traditional interview with the five candidates and a second panel engaged in a mock meeting with each candidate to get a better sense of his or her leadership style in action.
The long day began at the district offices on Railroad Avenue at 8 a.m. finished at 4 p.m. with all five candidates invited to a public forum in the Little Theater at SVHS.
The five candidates were:
- Lori O’Connor (currently principal of Vicente Martinez High School in Martinez);
- Daniel Ostermann (currently vice principal at Casa Grand High School in Petaluma);
- Paul Brtez (currently assistant principal Tracy High School);
- Jarrod Bordi (currently vice principal Antioch High School in Antioch); and
- Belinda Mountjoy (currently assistant principal for student affairs at Fullerton Union High School in Fullerton).
Kathleen Hawing, who has served as principal since 2013, resigned in March and will leave her post at the end of this school year.
The salary range for the new principal has been set at $111,000 to $130,000 with an additional $1,000 to $2,000 salary bump for advanced degrees.
The next scheduled step in the process had been for finalist candidates to move to “round two” interviews with interim school district Superintendent Chuck Young this week and the district will make its final selection next week.
When reached by phone on Thursday, however, Strong said the district has decided at this point to seek more candidates and it will not be moving forward with any of the five who appeared at the public forum.
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Concurrent with the negotiation of the superintendent contract and the hiring of a new SVHS principal, the school district is also interviewing senior level candidates for two district posts: director of special education/student services and director of human resources. District staff expects to be able to put forth a finalist for each of these roles at the June school board meeting.