Tue09302014

Schools

MV-LA schools chief among 3 finalists for Palo Alto spot

Don Phillips, Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District superintendent, is among three finalists for the superintendent position in the 15-school, 9,000-student Palo Alto Unified School District.

Phillips, Mountain View-Los Altos schools chief since 1990, has participated in extensive interviews with Palo Alto district officials, after being asked to apply for the position.

"We put all candidates through the typical day of a superintendent," said John Tuomy, Palo Alto school board president. He said the three finalists, Phillips, William Dean of Grand Haven, Mich., and Mary Ann Mitchell, of Seattle, Wash., visited on three different days last week.

The all-day visits included meeting staff members for lunch, conferring with the district's employee committee and talking with "community members" before meeting with the school board for dinner.

The days went from approximately 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Tuomy said.

Palo Alto district officials are looking to fill a position vacated last June when seven-year superintendent Jim Brown left to take a position with the Glendale School District, which has 30,000 students. George Plumleigh has served as interim superintendent.

Tuomy said the board hired a recruiting firm and started with 100 candidates. The board reduced the field to five semi-finalists, interviewed Jan. 10, before narrowing further to three.

The board met in closed session Saturday to discuss the finalists and met again Tuesday to make a decision. Following that, the board would visit the finalist's school district this Thursday or Friday.

Tuomy said the board could possibly offer a contract to the new superintendent by the end of this week. A formal announcement has been set for Feb. 4.

Phillips said he's been impressed with what he's seen thus far.

"I think there are some good folks over there," he said. "There are lots of exciting things going on - this would be a good career move.

"I'm seen as someone, who knows California more, who knows the system. What the board is wrestling with, is - what does Palo Alto need this point in time? ... Who is the best match? You try to make them understand who you are and how you operate."

Phillips has spearheaded direction on the district's $58 million plans for renovating Los Altos and Mountain View high school facilities.

As Palo Alto superintendent, he would oversee a $143 million schools renovation project currently under way.

The well-liked and respected schools chief, while intrigued with the possibility of heading the Palo Alto district, said he would still enjoy working where he is.

"If it doesn't work out, I'm delighted to be here," he said.

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