If a humble taxpayer can pretend to fathom the situation in the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, it appears School Trustees (the Bosses) hired a part-time interim superintendent (the Employee) to tell them what to do. This became necessary after the popular former superintendent apparently told them exactly what they could do, and resigned.
Fortunately, the part-time Interim is an acclaimed retired former chancellor of two (2) world-class universities, whose most interesting qualification is that he has never before run a K-12 public school district.
One possible recruitment theory: Skills acquired in educating frequently-privileged, cream-of-the-crop students at universities with gobs of state and alumni cash will be transferrable to a financially challenged public school district whose student body is 56% Latino and 13% special needs and whose many financially challenged families won’t pester him at the annual $200/plate Red & White fundraising ball.
Speaking of which, those who peek behind curtains looking for wizards pulling levers can be forgiven for wondering if the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation – whose Red & White Ball raises much-needed cash for local schools (and on whose Board the new Interim super recently sat) – isn’t actually the Valley’s de facto school board, unhampered by the unseemly need to run for election. The elected school board’s announcement of the new Super’s hiring did nothing to discourage such musings:
“Board President Dan Gustafson noted that he is thrilled with this appointment, emphasizing that ‘We need a strong, inspiring educational leader who knows our community and can fix our board. (He) is that leader… (He) will be able to address the concerns of major donors who have allowed the District to enhance its programs far beyond what would be possible from government funds alone. Those donors need assurances that the District will continue to move forward…’”
It might have been a nice touch to mention the concerns of parents, teachers and students.
If everything works out, it will surprise no one if — after a decent interval — the Board declares itself fixed (not in the veterinary sense, of course) and re-hires the former superintendent. Cue the Dragon marching band.
Meanwhile, at school board meetings it’s considered rude to question whoever is running things. He/she/they/it are busy dealing with staff shortages and parent rebellions and trying to mollify deep-pocket donors who were decidedly not amused with the Trustees’ decision to keep kids “Warm, Safe & Dry” by building a new stadium and swimming pool. [Note: Lacking a pool, high school swimmers were humiliated last year by winning the county championship.] The work has been exhausting; two months into the school year the part-time super took a vacation cruise to relax.
While he was out to sea, the County Office of Education sent him a letter revealing that the district has been deficit spending like a drunken sailor, and threatened to place it in financial daycare. Parents can only hope the Interim’s eventual successor will inherit a district whose Trustees he has fixed.
But that’s not a sure thing. Currently in our blighted Valley, which is drowning in wine and overrun by roving gangs of millionaires, local schools are ranked worst in the county at teaching math and second worst at teaching English. Perhaps the most the Interim can do is to quickly find a permanent Super who can afford to live here, work full-time, and who is passably fluent in Spanish. El futuro? Quién sabe.