During last Thursday’s regular Mammoth Unified School District Board of Education meeting, Board members decided to proceed with allowing the Mono County Office of Education to facilitate the search for a new MUSD Superintendent. The new hire will replace Rich Boccia, who recently resigned.
MCOE Superintendent of Schools Stacey Adler laid out what she said was an “agressive timeline with a little flexibility.” The Board, under pressure to save money in a budget still battling red ink, opted to not hire an outside “headhunting” firm and took MCOE’s offer of its services. “If we didn’t have this, we’d have to go outside and spend a lot of money,” BOE member Jack Farrell noted.
The position is to be advertised for three weeks, April 15-May 3, and Adler said she hopes to have perhaps six candidates for interviewing in the first round, but would like the Board to narrow it further to only about two or at most three finalists by mid-May.
In a special meeting held Monday to begin formulating search criteria and create the job description, Adler said the net would be cast as wide as possible, nationally, in dedicated administrative publications, including ski area states such as Vermont, New Hampshire, Colorado and New Mexico. The Board has previously interviewed candidates from Nevada and one from Canada.
Monday’s Board discussions were only the first part of defining the job and search parameters. Public input sessions are scheduled for Tuesday evening at Mammoth High School and Mammoth Elementary Schools, and Wednesday evening at Mammoth Middle School.
Meanwhile, the Board seemed to favor looking for a combination of a superintendent with instructional skills, and leadership and management qualities. The focus would be on a candidate with experience in a unified district system, which the Board considers operationally very different from K-8/9-12 systems.
Board President Betty Kittle said that in addition she considers the smaller size of Mammoth’s district an important consideration. Board member Shana Stapp said she’d prefer a candidate with a Masters and administrative credentials, and site-level administrative experience as a principal or some other management position.
Farrell agreed. “I’m not sure we’re ready for someone who’s on track, but not there yet,” he opined. Adler pointed out that California Education Code does not require superintendents to have administrative credentials, and added that it’s not uncommon to have someone go from principal to superintendent. Having office experience, she said, does help with seeing things in a global perspective.
And the Board also favored a candidate who’s on the startup side of their career. Farrell pointed out that historically Mammoth has generally been seen as a start or end point, not a place for someone in the middle of their career. “It’s a good thing to have a starter,” Adler said cautiously. “Just bear in mind you get to mold them, but they have to be able and willing to be molded.”
Bilingual ability was considered a “plus,” though Board member John Stavlo said he was concerned it might limit candidates if it were required. The Board reached consensus that since all three site principals are bilingual, whether the superintendent is bilingual would have no impact on their ability to do the job.
One of the more esoteric parts of the job description was the post’s relationship with the Board and especially community involvement. Boccia, the Board pointed out, was frequently out in the public eye. “That’s the hardest part [about the job],” Kittle said. “You have to wear so many hats.”
One thing the Board will insist on is residency. “I’ve been hearing from the community that they want the next superintendent to live here, not have one foot in another community,” Farrell stated. To that end, moving expenses are likely to be part of a benefits package, but not a housing allowance.
Look for a Hispanic presence as well when it comes time for the initial interview panels next month. MCOE is considering contacting former BOE candidate Luis Villanueva to participate in the process.
Technology takes its CUE
MUSD Business Manager Donnie Salamanca also briefed the BOE on a three-year District Technology Plan. Based on information acquired attending the recent Computer Using Educators (CUE) Conference, Salamanca said and his team of teachers from all three schools are working to outfit classrooms with a dedicated computer, document camera or new overhead projection system, and iPads or similar tablets.
Students are raised in the digital age, he assessed. Teachers are no longer the sole dispensaries of knowledge, but more like facilitators.
With MUSD’s budget still in flux, funding to pay for the gear and professional support for it would come from the little known Fund 21. Currently $1.8 million in voter-approved bond money is available. The fund is dedicated to capital improvements and other uses, one of which is investments in new technololgy, which Salamanca said some forward-thinking person thought to include in the bond’s language. “I can’t think of a better use for it,” he said.
About $537,000 would be spent the first year, dropping to about $375,000 the following year and $365,000 in year three.
Salamanca added that a methodology to implement the plan across all three schools is still being developed.
Farrell observed that hardware is becoming cheaper, but content is getting more expensive. Textbooks are being migrated into the so-called “Cloud,” and require site liscenses. He suggested preparing for that eventuality in the plan’s budgeting. Stapp suggested making sure the gear is all platform-compatible, seeking to avoid any sort of PC versus Mac mismatch for applications. Salamanca added he and the team are mindful that hardware needs to be configured for the individual schools. Not all gear for MES would be applicable for MHS, he said.
District English Learners Advisory Committee President Miriam Solis said she’s supportive of the plan. “I use the technology with my child, who has special needs,” Solis told the Board. “When children use these programs, they become more intelligent and have a desire to excel. With technology changing so rapidly, in my opinion, the sooner the better.” Solis, a licensed attorney in Mexico, said she’s using the technology herself to study English in prepartion for her tests to become a lawyer in the U.S.