A group of about 35 parents and teachers met with district officials for 80 minutes Tuesday night, expressing their thoughts on Harbor View Elementary School and what they want to see in a new principal.
Newport-Mesa School District representatives also attended, including Fred Navarro, who was named superintendent in June. John R. Caldecott, executive director of human resources, led the meeting, which was held in the multipurpose room of the school at 900 Goldenrod Ave.
“We want you to be honest, open and critical,” Caldecott told the group. He then explained four questions, including listing the strengths of the school, the school’s greatest needs and critical issues and leadership qualities sought in a new principal. The questions were written on oversized pieces of paper, and everyone in attendance was asked to write their answers on the sheets of papers, then to use color-coded stickers to mark the responses they felt were most important.
Some of the answers were to the point.
“Progressive,” one person wrote. “Upbeat,” another wrote.
“Someone comfortable with working in an affluent demographic,” one statement said. “Real experience in modern classrooms,” another said.
Some of the comments contradicted themselves, with a few people wanting to keep the school’s daily Flag Deck ceremonies and another wanting to limit it to one day per week. Some asked for no-bullying policies, foreign language programs and open-door policies.
One person made a reference to the former principal’s yearly fundraising challenge to students participating in the school’s Jog-A-Thon.
“Willingness to have Gatorade poured on them,” the person wrote.
Many parents asked for a principal with experience both in primary and upper grades, with both gifted and special needs students.
“Experience — lots of it,” Caldecott remarked at the end of the exercise. “If they don’t have lots of experience and they everything else — we might hire them.”
The system, he said, was used during the recent superintendent search, and again within Andersen and Kaiser elementary schools during their principal searches earlier this summer.
About 100 people attended Andersen’s meeting and about 65 attended Kaiser’s, but the summer holidays likely lowered attendance for the Harbor View meeting, Caldecott acknowledged.
Parents, teachers and community members who were unable to attend may provide responses online; click here to access the survey.
The responses will be tallied and used to create a pool of candidates to be interviewed, Caldecott explained. The district has published a recruitment notice for candidates, which will run through Sept. 10, and applicants from the Andersen and Kaiser pool also will be included. There will be two interview processes, and finalists go to a cabinet where the final choice is made. The new principal could be in place by Oct. 1, Caldecott said.
Teacher Art Pryde asked if the pool would be limited by the late date to candidates who were unable to find principal positions earlier. The school’s former principal, Charlene Metoyer, resigned unexpectedly this month to care for her ailing father, and retired Andersen principal Mary Manos has taken over as interim principal.
“In a perfect world, people leave in the right time, and we’d have the posting in April,” Caldecott said. “But it isn’t a perfect world.”
The district, he said, was a highly sought-after place to work, and any principal candidate would be vetted with references checked.
Harbor View Parent Faculty Organization Co-President Cynthia Dickinson attended the meeting.
“I’m hopeful,” she said.
Others said they appreciated the district making the effort to listen to the Harbor View community.
“I think it’s important for people to know their thoughts are being heard,” said teacher Sabrina Ericastilla. “We need a good principal. We’re open for some new growth and new change and great collaboration.”