Superintendent’s departure triggers district personnel domino effect

After agreeing to leave the district with a $100,000 settlement, Carmel Unified School District’s former superintendent Scott Laurence resigned in June from his position, now filled by interim superintendent Karen Hendricks. In turn, Laurence’s departure created a domino effect and scramble to fill positions in the district office, including superintendent, chief of human resources and Carmel Middle School principal and assistant principal.

Laurence was hired by the district to replace Marvin Biasotti, who retired at the end of the 2014-2015 school year, and his initial contract was for three years; however, Laurence took medical leave in January. As the relationship was not working for Laurence or the district, the two sides came to an agreement that he would resign.

Hendricks, originally hired in 2014 as chief of human resources, replaced Laurence as interim superintendent upon his departure. However, the district is still conducting a search for a permanent superintendent.

Parents in the district suggested a nationwide search for a superintendent, knowing that CUSD is a great institution that can attract tremendous talent. According to the CUSD website, under the guidance of the board—and with the help of staff—parents and members of the community are developing a detailed description for the position of superintendent.

As a side effect of Hendrick’s interim status, Ken Griest, longtime CMS principal, replaced Hendricks’ HR position in August. Daniel Morgan, initially the CMS assistant principal, is now the interim principal in Griest’s absence, and there is still a principal and assistant principal search being conducted.

“I’ve enjoyed working here tremendously and am proud to be a part of this school community,” Hendricks says. “Being on school campuses and in classrooms, having the opportunity to meet with students and seeing the learning they are engaged in is really energizing.”

In addition to Laurence’s departure, the district lost chief student services officer Heath Rocha last year, who accepted a position in the Saratoga School District. That position has now been replaced by Casey O’Brien, originally from Aptos School District.

O’Brien says he has always enjoyed working with students after teaching them for years, and now he hopes to make the district better by improving the second district goal: to better the mental and emotional wellness and health of students.

“The two things that lured me to the district were being able to work with Karen again, since I had worked with her in the past,” O’Brien says. “Likewise, I’m really interested and excited to help with the second district goal.”

Similar to O’Brien, Griest is excited to be in his new position at human resources, but misses being able to communicate with students on a day-to-day basis as he did at CMS.

“I miss the everyday connection with students and being involved in their lives,” Griest says. “I also miss the staff at CMS who are an amazing group of teachers and classified staff. The human resources position really is about supporting staff, so I will have little daily interaction with our parents, who, again, are as supportive and involved as any group of parents I’ve ever worked with.”

With the new changes, the district is coming together to ensure that students are receiving the best education experience possible, according to School Board president Mark Stilwell.

“I think the district is functioning at a very high level,” Stilwell says.Our barometer of how the district is functioning is related to what we see happening at school sites. We are pleased to report that we are seeing positive school climates as well as exciting learning opportunities at all schools.”

-Joyce Doherty