County, DOE May Clash on Superintendent

Tuesday, Jan. 31, marks the last day candidates can apply for the Santa Clara County Superintendent position. Today also marks my 150th column for San Jose Inside. It has been a bittersweet experience to write these posts for these last three years. I wish to thank Dan Pulcrano for the opportunity he has given me, an elected member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education Board of Trustees, to be heard on a variety of public education issues.

It is my hope that through these electronic writings I have stimulated the conversation about what many people consider the most important and controversial topic of our day. My goal has always been to increase public discourse relative to policy, budget, and reform issues in education here in Silicon Valley.

Dr. Weis, the current SCCOE Superintendent, retires on June 30, 2012. The SCCOE School Board will be conducting interviews in February with the top 5-6 candidates from across the state and country that have submitted applications. The number will be whittled down with the support of the Ray and Associates executive search firm from the 40-plus expected to complete the application process.

By March, the board will announce their selected candidate, enter into a contract for employment, and pave the way for a smooth transition for the 1,800 SCCOE employees, the labor unions (CTA and SEIU), the 31 school districts, and more than 20,000 students directly served by the office in a typical year. The foundation for building on the public school and SCCOE successes of the last four years is in place, yet so much strategic thinking and planning must be done to connect the dots, which have been waiting to be connected for improved educational results for decades.

The selected superintendent must build on the good work done by Dr. Weis and his predecessors. The newly appointed superintendent must see himself/herself as a powerful game-changer for how public education can navigate itself through a thicket of critical issues that include: funding, equitable distribution of public dollars, charter school competition/cooperation, ensuring that 100 percent of all Silicon Valley students graduate with a high school diploma prepared for entrance into a career or college, and so much more.

The SCCOE board is prepared to hire an individual who has the knowledge and skills to be a Jim Harbaugh-like game-changer for all students living in Silicon Valley. The status quo is not good enough and appropriate change must occur in public education. Our results are tragically abysmal—only 50 percent of 4th grade students attending public schools in San Jose score at the grade level for state assessments in reading and math. We can and must do better.

Having said that, the California Department of Education is prepared to deny a request by the SCCOE Board of Education for a waiver from the requirement that whoever is hired must have an Administrative Service Credential from the state. At this point the SCCOE Board does not know whether we will want to hire someone without the requisite credential, but the board would like to have that flexibility, if needed. Some game-changer candidates can surely come from the military, private sector, universities or other government positions.

The State Board of Education will vote on the SCCOE board’s waiver request in March. Perhaps by the time of that decision, the SCCOE board will have the final candidate vetted and recommended. If it turns out to be someone without the proper credential, the name of the person can be made public and then the state board can decide best on the curriculum vitae of the recommended candidate. How sad it would be if the state would deny the county the right to hire the person who seven elected trustees believe is the leader this region—one of the most innovative and wealthy in the world—needs in these changing times.

Emmett D. Carson, CEO and president of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, wrote in a recent Op-Ed in the Mercury News, “In seeking a new county schools chief, I agree with the president of the SCC’s school board that it is time to look beyond traditional candidates for a new leader… The transformative changes and challenges in our educational system require a transformative leader, someone who can envision change, work across sectors and think outside what we have to create what we need. Such a person is unlikely to come from within the current system.”

As president of the SCCOE Board of Education, it is inexplicable to me why the state’s Department of Education (DOE) would want to deny the county the opportunity to hire the transformative leader Carson urges us to find. Don’t our children and teachers deserve the very best leader possible?

The state board will have an opportunity to approve our request even though the DOE recommended denial, if the request is needed. In fact, the state board voted unanimously in January to approve a Rocketship Charter School in San Francisco on appeal, even though the DOE recommended denial.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.

13 Comments

  1. Perhaps the State DOE will review minutes of your board meetings and see all the dysfunction in the SCCOE Board of Education.  You can’t be surprised that people don’t trust your board to do the right thing, given all the silly drama that plays out among board members and the superintendent too.

  2. > Having said that, the California Department of Education is prepared to deny a request by the SCCOE Board of Education for a waiver from the requirement that whoever is hired must have an Administrative Service Credential from the state. At this point the SCCOE Board does not know whether we will want to hire someone without the requisite credential, but the board would like to have that flexibility, if needed.

    Well, well, well.

    Got your pants caught on the barbwire of mindless bureaucratic regulation, eh Joe?

    I feel your pain.

    Thousands of private sector businessmen feel your pain.

    Millions of tax filers, auto licensers, garbage recyclers and toilet flushers feel your pain.

    Oppressive bureaucracy kind of gets in the way, doesn’t it.

  3. Transformative Candidates for Joe DiSalvo

    Newt Gingrich
    Khloe Kardishian (Joe thinks she is hot)
    Stone Cold Steve Austin
    Pierluigi Oliverio (designer of tapered gym pants, especially for the boys)
    Chris Stampolis
    Sarah Palin
    Alec Baldwin

  4. Joe, congratulations on your 150th column. 

    That said, I think that a phrase you wrote speaks volumes about what’s wrong with the thinking of our current county school board: “…a smooth transition for the 1,800 SCCOE employees, the labor unions (CTA and SEIU), the 31 school districts, and more than 20,000 students directly served by the office in a typical year.”

    Students (remember them?)come in dead last on this priority list behind SCCOE Employees, their unions and school district concerns. While our current school board is making sure their union supporters are happy, those 4th graders you speak of are falling further behind. 

    But it gets worse.

    Your proposed solution is to hire someone who does not have the demonstrated interest in education that would come with a proper credential. Instead, you seek a flashy “game changer” possibly with no experience running schools but lots of big ideas. Presumably, those big ideas would be in line with the CTA or SEIU which pull the strings of the SCCOE Board.

    To out it another way: would you go to a Doctor who never actually went to med school, has never worked in health care, but has a lot of ideas about how to change medicine? Me neither. Our schools are not the proper place for such experimentation. 
     
    Good luck on #151.

    • I agree with Reader.
      I would not go to a doctor who did not go to medical school.
      I do not have confidence in a leader who does not know the territory.
      Big ideas without a deep understanding of implementation within the territory are just hot air – worthless.
      Get a solid leader with a record of success in education.

  5. So the seven trustees elected to uphold the California Education Code want something in violation of the Ed Code? The dilettantes want to hire a dilettantes and they’ll stomp their feet if they don’t get their way. You are beholden not to each of the other six of you, but to the voters and taxpayers of Santa Clara County.

    Let us hope that the CDE (California Department of Education—not DOE, silly goose), does the right thing for the people and students of the County.

  6. Now, Beauchem and Song are fighting because Beauchman’s wife is on the districting committee whose members are putting Song and Beauchem in the same district.

    Now Chris Stampolis is the husband of Song, and he is doing all the complaining about Beauchem’s wife.

    DiSalvo is whining about the need for a new boss.

    Got it.

    Send in Mitt Romney and Bain Capital to fire all of them!

  7. I am hopeful the State Board of Education will support the waiver request.  What most people don’t know is that of the 58 county superintendents in California, only 5 are appointed by their respective board’s; Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Clara and 53 others are elected by the people.  The requirement for a CA Administrative Credential makes complete sense for an elected schools superintendent.  Additionally, there is no requirement for local school district boards to hire a candidate with an administrative credential. In sum, five (5) county boards in CA are more like the ~1,000 local district boards in CA in that we hire the schools superintendent.  Therefore, we should be on equal footing in our ability to hire the best leader.

    The recruitment, which included traditional, hybrid and non-traditional candidates, ended yesterday (Jan 31) and we will have indentified the best candidate as early as Feb/E, early March.

    Again, I hope the SBE approves our very reasonable waiver request.

    Craig Mann
    Member, Santa Clara County Board of Education

    • @ Craig Mann: The qualifications for the position should be determined by the mechanism by which they are selected? Seriously?! The qualifications are written into the ed code due to the *responsibilities* the job entails, not whether the Superintendent is elected or appointed.

      BTW, San Francisco, being both a city and a county is its own animal and not a valid comparison in this case.

      What Trustee Mann has put forward here is a rationale to change how the County Superintendent is selected, not a rationale for a waiver around the “who”. The good people of this county need to demand the right to elect their superintendent joining the majority. Mann has nicely demonstrated that the County Board of Education is not competent to hire.

  8. Teachable Moment’s short list:

    Clint Eastwood
    Lee Van Cleef
    Ted Nugent
    Jesse Ventura
    Chuck Norris
    Clint Eastwood
    Jack Ham
    Charlton Heston
    Joe Arpaio
    Clint Eastwood