Amid the turmoil in Twin Rivers Unified School District stands an unadorned glass-walled office overlooking district headquarters.
Interim leader Rob Ball currently occupies the superintendent's office, where he has set up a laptop and a few belongings.
But who occupies the office in the long-term remains an open question.
Who will apply? And who will be chosen to repair the fractured relationships, address allegations of widespread corruption and improve academic achievement in the north area school district?
"A district's reputation will have an impact on the candidate pool," said Gary Ray of the superintendent search firm Ray and Associates. "At the same time, there will be candidates looking at that as a challenge, particularly some who consider their forte turning around districts."
Twin Rivers Unified is still in the early stages of its search for a superintendent, one who parents and employees hope will fulfill the promises of improved academic performance when residents voted to merge four districts in 2007.
The newly elected school board of the 27,000-student district has pledged transparency and due diligence, even in the task of selecting an executive search firm. The board has narrowed its list of search firms; those remaining will make presentations at an upcoming meeting about how they would engage the community and find a qualified match.
"The single biggest issue we face is getting the right person in there," said trustee John Dexter. "I think we are prepared to go until next year to find the right person."
Trustees are also opening the interim superintendent position to applications. Ball is contracted to remain the district's leader until Aug. 31. He said he would consider the longer-term interim position, but not the permanent job.
"I really enjoy the business side," said Ball, who has been the associate superintendent for business support services since the creation of Twin Rivers.
"I like working with the numbers and I like working with the budget," he said.
Under Ball's direction, the Association of School Business Officials International awarded Twin Rivers the Meritorious Budget Award the past two years.
Ball, 62, became acting superintendent, then short-term interim superintendent beginning in May. He took over as the Sacramento Police Department investigated the school district's rogue police force and those tasked with running it, including Superintendent Frank Porter and Deputy Superintendent Ziggy Robeson.
That investigation is ongoing. Robeson was placed on paid administrative leave in late April.
Porter retired June 15, but was mostly absent at the district office after placing Robeson on leave. Porter will receive a $177,000 pension for his 37 years of service credit, according to officials at the California State Teachers' Retirement System.
Porter's pension was calculated using his highest earnable compensation of $214,946 from the 2010-2011 school year, CalSTRS officials said.
A salary scale for the next Twin Rivers superintendent has not been set. Area superintendents earned between $196,000 in El Dorado Union High School District to $261,000 in San Juan Unified last year.
Twin Rivers trustees have said they want a superintendent from outside the school district in order to avoid the perception of favoritism.
"This could be a wonderful opportunity for the right person," Dexter said. "Things are changing. I think it's a great opportunity and there are a lot of positive things. We have great kids and great teachers and great administrators."
As the district begins the search for both an interim and a permanent superintendent, Ball said he will continue to address pressing issues as he waits to hear how long he'll lead the district.
School begins Aug. 9.
"I have to make sure the education of students starts off right," Ball said. "I can't look ahead and say what we will do in October, because I may not be the interim. It is like moving forward with one hand tied behind your back."
Ball, 62, has worked in six school districts across the state and previously served as interim superintendent in Woodland and Los Banos. He was one of the few high-ranking district administrators to avoid direct scrutiny in the Sacramento County grand jury report last month.
"There were a lot of decisions made in the past that I didn't agree with," Ball said. "We had good discussions about them in closed meetings where I stated my point. When the doors opened, I supported what the boss wanted us to do."
Moving forward, Ball said, he wants to be part of building trust and teamwork in Twin Rivers. Ball said he would like to minimize legal fees and address issues where qualified employees were passed over for promotions "simply because they were from another district."
"We have to realize now it doesn't matter where you came from," he said. "It now matters what you are doing for kids today."