Schools Hire New Tech Director


1 tech guy Sean ColtInitiating new hiring practices to ensure transparency in a process that was highly criticized in recent weeks, a new director of technology was hired for the Laguna Beach Unified School District.

Sean Colt was unanimously approved as the district’s chief technology officer by the school board in a special meeting last Friday.  He will replace Victor Guthrie, who is resigning Aug. 1.  Colt will start on Aug. 20 at $147,139 a year.  Guthrie is taking a higher-paying position as technology director for the private K-12 American Community School in Abu Dhabi near Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Colt has been the technology director at the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District near San Francisco since 2008, overseeing the entire online system as well as the details of computer maintenance and hardware and software purchases.  He previously worked for Dell Computers and was a director of technology in Manteca Unified School District near San Jose.  He holds a bachelor’s of science degree from Boise State and a master’s from Cal-State Fresno.

In an attempt to improve highly criticized hiring practices, four members were added to the district’s panel of interviewers for hiring new employees.  “We will continue to have large panels that represent our various groups and include appropriate representatives, depending on the position,” commented district superintendent Sherine Smith.  “…, our intent is to make our hiring process very transparent to ensure we continue to hire top quality candidates who are a good fit for LBUSD.”

Three top-level administrators, including Guthrie, resigned within weeks of each other earlier this summer.  Gerald Vlasic, human resources and public communications director, resigned for undisclosed reasons two weeks after Deni Christensen, assistant superintendent in charge of curriculum, resigned.  Both administrators had been with the district for one year and previously worked with Smith in the Capistrano Unified School District.

The district received 40 applications for the tech chief position, which were trimmed to 17 for an initial interview with Smith, outgoing technology director Guthrie and chief business officer Dean West.  Five finalists were then interviewed by the larger group of 13, including Laguna Beach High School principal Joanne Culverhouse and high school teacher and technology expert Jun Shen.  Also now included on the panel are Kathleen Fay, PTA president, and Lynn Gregory, president of School Power, a fundraising organization that provides financial aid throughout the district.

Guthrie extended his stay to ensure a $150,000 upgrade to the district’s Internet infrastructure was installed.  The money came from the fund-raising efforts of School Power.

“At first, I was surprised that we were invited,” said Gregory.  “But then I loved it because Schoolpower has such a vested interest in who the district hires.”  Gregory said she was able to ask how the candidate would help raise money for school programs as well as demonstrate the success of a particular program to potential donors.

The interview panel recommended two finalists for the third interview.  Smith, West and Kathy Kessler, interim human resources director replacing Vlasic, conducted the final interviews.

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