Adler hopes to fill Hiatt’s shoes
Current Mono County Office of Education Superintendent Catherine Hiatt held a press conference Tuesday for the media to meet Assistant Superintendent Stacey Adler. Hiatt, who was previously running for re-election, stepped aside last week for family considerations. She has since endorsed Adler, who will run instead.
Adler, Hiatt said, would make a “strong Superintendent, because she understands what the role entails.” Hiatt said help with administrative issues and oversight of district budgets were two important areas Adler will be in charge of, making sure both adhere to state and federal regulations. “Stacey has all of that experience,” she said.
Describing the post as an “umbrella” covering the County’s schools, the individual school district superintendents are hired by their respective Boards of Education. The County Superintendent, said Hiatt, is a “steward” of all students.
Adler said her campaign is modeled closely after the one Hiatt planned to run, and that her goals, if elected, are to “continue fiscal responsibility, protect school services and advocate at the state level on behalf of rural counties, and consolidate responsibility wherever possible” to save money.
Did the timing of Hiatt’s decision to back out of the race take Adler by surprise? “A little,” she said. “I was recently thinking how [Hiatt’s] campaign would go. It took a little while to get used to the idea that I’m going to be the candidate.” Hiatt added that the two have worked together directly for the past four years, and Adler also said their past professional association dates back years before that to their tenure in the Inyo County school system.
Another area Adler is intent on pursuing is relationship building with the County’s two school district superintendents, particularly whomever is picked to take over Rich McAteer’s temporary position with the Mammoth Unified School District sometime on or about June. Apart from bringing news and information back from Sacramento and evaluating budgets, Adler’s responsibilities will also include giving warning and recommending changes to the districts under her. “That’s where relationships are so important,” Adler emphasized. “A lot depends on whether the boards and superintendents listen.”
Hiatt expressed confidence that Adler was up to that task. “She’s already been working toward a leadership role, and been a ‘right hand’ working with Eastern Sierra Unified School District Superintendent Don Clark,” Hiatt pointed out. “So trust is already built there.”
As to how she’d handle tough calls, The Sheet asked her the following question: “Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as a growing number of citizens, are questioning the seniority rules when it comes to potential school staff reductions, should those become necessary. What’s your position on tenure? Do you think you have what it takes to stand up to the teachers’ unions? And will you fight to retain the best teachers for our schools?”
“The state legislature in California recognizes tenure, therefore it is here and not subject to opinion. Mono County Office of Education has a small teachers’ union and we are fortunate to have a very collaborative relationship with them,” Adler responded. “If elected, I will work very hard to continue that positive relationship. I will definitely fight to retain the best teachers we have and will also work hard to hire the best and the brightest teachers when that opportunity arises. One way to retain high-quality teachers will be to provide teachers and administrators with the support and resources they need to give their best to our students every day.”
Choosing Adler, who is expected to earn her PhD next month, to run in her stead was, Hiatt indicated, a considered, yet fairly straightforward decision. “I was looking for someone that was already grounded here,” she explained. “Mono County’s a unique place and needs a unique person.”
Adler misses her interaction with students, but has settled into being an administrator. “I live with kids [who attend Mono County schools], so I get a little interaction, but all of us who’ve been teachers and are now administrators do miss that,” she said. “Still, you find little ways.”
Clark enters, backs out of County race
Meanwhile, Hiatt and Adler, while welcoming Clark’s entry into the Superintendent’s race, expressed concerns with what they said were problems with his campaign platform. Clark only recently announced plans to run for the County’s top schools position and has since been canvassing the area collecting signatures prior to pulling papers for the election bid.
According to Hiatt, Clark previously stated that if elected, he plans to act as County Superintendent AND retain his post as ESUSD Superintendent.
Hiatt said that legal precedent (as cited by her attorney) indicates that state law prohibits such a move in counties with more than one school district. Mono County has two school districts. Clark originally replied to her that his legal counsel had a different interpretation, but on Tuesday afternoon, Clark apparently reconsidered his position, issuing the following withdrawl from the race:
“Unfortunately, I have just found out that I will not be able to run for County Superintendent of Schools. There is Education Code that prohibits a District Superintendent from concurrently being a County Superintendent unless the County only has one school district within its boundaries, such as Alpine, Plumas, Del Norte and San Francisco counties. Since Mono County has two school districts, this Education Code comes into play.
I really think that the consolidation of our administrative services would be great for our budgets and thus great for our students. But, as I said, Education Code does not currently permit this type of arrangement.
Thanks to everyone that supported our effort by signing or circulating petitions to get my name on the June ballot. It is a little embarrassing to me that so many people have come out and supported our efforts and it turns out that I cannot run. I have well in excess of 300 signed petitions in my office currently and probably at least another 300 or more still with many of you. I apologize to all of you that have given your time and effort to support my platform of consolidation.”
Clark told The Sheet Wednesday that he would support having the various district school boards get together after this election cycle to talk about consolidation. Ultimately, he’d like to see something brought before the voters, as he thinks such a consolidation could save $1 million annually.
Sheet: You realize, of course, that if this happened, you could well be out of a job.
Clark: If I had to go, and this was the reason for it, I’d go.
With Clark’s withdrawal, Adler is currenty running unopposed for the County Superintendent’s post.