BRENTWOOD -- As the Brentwood Union School District prepares to hire its new superintendent in early May, teachers, parents and local residents say they are looking for an equitable, sincere, empathetic, visible and child-focused leader.

"We need someone who is involved in the community, and not just the school community," Brentwood parent Nicole Farrar said. "Brentwood still has that small-town feel."

Parent and community member opinions on the search were collected at meetings this week with district officials. Through the meetings and a community survey, they have been asked for ideal qualities, skills and attributes of potential superintendent candidates.

Interim BUSD Superintendent Doug Adams said 23 applications have been submitted as of Friday, including candidates from Alaska and Texas. Candidate application packets are due to the district office by April 12, and Adams is leading the search with the Brentwood school board.

A panel of teachers, parents, principals and other district staff will conduct the first round of finalist interviews on April 25, followed by final interviews with the school board on April 27. Once the employment contract is finalized, the school board is expected to approve the new hire May 8. That person would officially start work July 1.

Adams said he had expected the search to be "a really hard sell" because of what has happened in the district over the past few months.

The superintendent post opened up when the school board fired Merrill Grant after a Brentwood special-education teacher was convicted of kicking a student with special needs. A major public outcry followed.

"Good superintendents really want to come here," Adams said at a community forum Thursday night. "They know it is a good place to raise families. While the reputation has been frayed, it is still strong."

While some parents of special education students said the new district leader should be able to effectively manage a special education crisis such as the recent incident, others said that leader must move the district beyond this crisis.

"I would like to see someone who is going to get us beyond this," said parent Susan Wallace. "I'm concerned that the special ed issue is going to define Brentwood schools."

A desirable superintendent should be a true listener, according to some parents. They added that the schools leader should be able to apologize, admit when they don't know something and delegate responsibilities.

"I feel like all we got from Dr. Grant was lip service," said Farrar. "A lot of times we didn't feel like we were being heard."

Denise Guilliams, a Brentwood Community Advisory Committee member, said more healing is needed in the special education community, even months after the abuse incident was exposed.

"It still is an open wound for a lot of people," she said. "If the focus would have stayed on the children, we would not have been in this predicament."

Contact Paula King at 925-779-7174.