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Tim Myers: My vote for the Hart district ‘super’? The meanest person alive

Posted: February 19, 2010 5:40 p.m.
Updated: February 21, 2010 4:55 a.m.
I can only conclude the job of pubic school superintendent must rank in the bottom 10 of worst jobs in the world. School principal would rank much higher.

In a successful high school, the principal moves from triumph to triumph with winning football and dance teams laying trophies at his or her feet like supplicants to a demigod.

In the unsuccessful, chaotic high school, at least excitement and daily challenges exist. Not so the average day, week, month, year and career of a school superintendent.

Founding Santa Clarita City Manager George Caravalho once told me that a city manages the city manager, rather than the other way around. If the city sits on a growth curve it will spend time budgeting lavish revenue windfalls and fielding complaints about over-development.

For a city in decline it will spend its days applying for urban-renewal grants.

The life of the school superintendent is similar : Buffeted by budgetary ups and downs on the revenue side completely beyond his or her control, they spend their days noodling over complex budgets and supervising a few high-level technocrats who manage the complex flow of paper necessary for the operation of a public institution - far away from the students entrusted to them and the teachers they putatively supervise.

No wonder only the grayest of individuals seem to populate this strata.

Think about the recent superintendents of the William S. Hart Union High School District. Bob Lee did a credible job but most will remember him for presiding over two failed construction bond issues, one perhaps directly tied to his district's upscale sport-utility vehicle rather than the Ford Taurus laid out in his initial contract.

And what about current superintendent Jaime Castellanos? Those involved in district affairs know Lee kept the seat warm for Bob Fuller, the principal of Hart High School, but the district found it necessary to hire someone from outside the district when a racial discrimination lawsuit of questionable merit tainted all the internal candidates.

The district will hold several public forums to discuss the qualification of the new superintendent needed after the resignation of Castellanos.

In my position as chairman of the School and Business Alliance, I attended the prior forums that resulted in the hiring of Castellanos.
I strongly suggest not bothering to attend.

My single experience included an earnest, if somewhat imbalanced, gentleman starting a meandering dissertation on the learning-killing activity of chewing gum in advanced placement classes, followed by seven minutes of incoherent stream of consciousness ending with a warning of future mass drownings in Castaic Lake, traced directly to the lack of swimming pools and education in the district high schools.

I'm not making this up.

But mainly the testifiers roll off a laundry list of school complaints, though incredibly their own children somehow rose above the incompetence to achieve the greatest success ever.

So since I will not subject myself to one of these opinion-gathering hearings, let me throw my two cents into the discussion of the Hart district board on the newest superintendent of the district.

The district is facing a veritable funding vise on two separate fronts: First, the new "normal" of state per capita funding at a much lower level driven by the bursting of the real estate bubble economy, and the now-absent revenue bonanza.

Second, a secular flattening with a reduction coming in the actual number of students that drives the funding formulas.

These two factors will combine over the next four to five years to necessitate draconian cost-cutting measures, including the increase in class sizes and reduction of teacher head count.

It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the unwise building of a Castaic High School will make the closure of a legacy high school necessary.

To that end, the new superintendent of the Hart district must possess the qualifications of not needing to be liked and a general hard-heartedness that will cause them to light their barbecues with the emotional essays written by students to save schools or favorite teachers.

In other words, the district needs the meanest person alive to execute the rough decisions to get the district back on an even keel for the next several years, and then (perhaps) turn it over to a visionary to lead the Hart district into further glory.

Or maybe they just need the meanest person alive forever and always.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Myers' Musings" appears Sundays in The Signal.


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