Berkeley High Starts Search for New Principal

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday April 15, 2010 - 12:09:00 PM

It’s going to be a busy summer for Berkeley High School. The school’s principal, Jim Slemp, is set to retire in June, and Berkeley Unified School District kicked off a search for his replacement this week. 

In a report to District Superintendent Bill Huyett—which is expected to come before the Berkeley Board of Education Wednesday—Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Lisa van Thillo said advertisements for the position had already been posted. 

“Berkeley High School is our only comprehensive high school and as such is the flagship of the District,” van Thillo said in her report. “The selection of a new principal is important to the district and the community. Involving faculty, staff, parents, administrators and students in the hiring process will help us be selective as well as transparent. It will also help the new principal begin his or her position on a positive note.” 

Slemp’s announcement to retire caught many people by surprise, including his staff and students.  

Most of them were sorry to see him go, especially since he had brought about a remarkable change in a public school which until his arrival seven years ago had been characterized as a place where arson, fights and other disciplinary issues were rampant. Every new principal had a difficult time staying for a long time at the administrative helm. 

Slemp’s decision was welcomed by his critics, most of whom clashed with him over a proposal to reduce instructional time for the school’s science labs. 

The district’s Human Resources department is recommending that the district conduct two panels for the interview process: technical and community. 

The technical panel will comprise of administrative, certificated and classified staff and it will be responsible for assessing specific administrative skills.  

The community panel, on the other hand, will gauge skills related to community and interpersonal relations. 

Van Thillo noted in her report that “because Berkeley has so many active parents and community groups, it may be difficult to limit the number of people serving on the interview panel.” 

She outlined a public process in the report and requested the school board to give directions about the composition of the community panel, which will not exceed a total of 10 members.  

The superintendent or his designee will conduct staff and community input sessions to receive feedback about the qualities the public want to see in a new principal. 

The panel will refer to this while interviewing candidates. 


School and Community Meetings 

April 19 from 8 – 9:30 a.m. 

Certificated and Classified Academic Choice, Electives, and office staff. 

April 26 from 8 – 9:30 a.m. 

Certificated and Classified from BIHS and Small Schools and other staff. 

April 27 from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. and again from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. 

Parent and Community meetings. 

This information will be posted, published and distributed over the next two weeks. 


Interview Panels 

The technical panel has been formed to address issues related to the supervision of instruction, learning modalities, curriculum development, budget management and employee evaluation.  

The recommendation from school district staff is to pick the ten panel members from the different unions in the district as well as the Director of Personnel Services Pasqual Scuderi. 

Assistant Superintendent Neil Smith will facilitate this panel. 

The community panel will address interpersonal relations, attitudes about students, leadership, decision making, and school safety.  

The ten-member panel will be representatives selected by various parent and community groups.  

According to the district’s recommendation, the members will be picked from Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action, the BHS Parent Teacher and Student Association, the Berkeley High School Site Governance Council, the Berkeley Development Group and the Vision 2020 citywide equity task force among others.  

There will also be a school board member present on the panel and it will be moderated by Superintendent Huyett. 

If the district doesn’t find the initial panel to be diverse enough, then it may seek new members. 

Scores from each panel and a writing test will be combined and tallied to determine the candidates for the final interview, according to van Thillo, who will oversee the process.