Clovis Unified places speed at top of list in hunt for next Superintendent

Clovis’ school board will seek to have its replacement for Superintendent Eimear O’Brien in place by the end of March.

It appears that Clovis Unified School District will likely look to hire an inside candidate to replace retiring Superintendent Eimear O’Brien. 

Last week, O’Brien announced her intent to retire in June, seeing out the school year after taking over the district’s top job in 2017. 


State of play: During a special meeting Monday, the Clovis Unified School Board set a soft deadline of March 19 to name O’Brien’s replacement, seemingly giving inside candidates an edge as the crunched pace leaves little time for national candidates to apply and interview. 

  • Along with the deadline, the board also created a superintendent search committee, consisting of Board President David DeFrank, Vice President Hugh Awtrey and Trustee Tiffany Stoker Madsen. 
  • The search committee will be responsible for selecting the finalists for the entire board to interview. 

What they’re saying: Board members Clint Olivier and Deena Combs-Flores understood the need for urgency, but they questioned whether or not it was too fast to properly vet the right candidate and receive enough input from the public. 

  • “With this timeline we’re talking about the winning candidate being ready to email that thing in within 72 hours,” Olivier said. “It just seems like it’s too fast. It seems like it’s too fast. We have to give people time to pray about this and decide as a family as well as a professional to have some time – five, six weeks for the 13th largest school district and the best school district in the state, that’s so fast.” 
  • Board member Steven Fogg clarified that the March deadline would not be set in stone, and the board would extend it to find the right candidate. 
  • “This is too important to rush,” Fogg said. “But if we have the right person there’s no reason to delay it either.”

Where we’re headed from here: The decision to condense the search into a less than two month period gives the district two advantages, the trustees said – it provides time for the district to fill any positions that open if an internal candidates selected, and it allows for O’Brien to work closely with her successor to ensure a smooth transition. 

  • Select trustees lobbied to expand public outreach by tapping former Clovis Unified Trustee Sandra Bengal Budd to assist, a suggestion roundly rejected by Olivier.
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