Two interim superintendents to take reins at BUSD

The new headquarters of the Berkeley Unified School District. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

The Berkeley Unified School District may have new leadership as early as next week, but it will only be temporary.

The school board voted in closed session Wednesday night to hire two administrators to serve as tandem superintendents. The idea is to have the pair lead the district for two to three months while the search for a permanent superintendent continues, according to Karen Hemphill, a member of the BUSD board. The current superintendent, Bill Huyett, is retiring.

The board voted in closed session on the concept of hiring tandem superintendents, but did not vote on any individual contracts, so the names of those under consideration do not have to be released, said Hemphill. She added that two have stepped in for Huyett in the past when he went on vacation.

“We don’t have a contract signed,” said Board President John Selawsky. “It’s premature to name people.”

Bill Huyett at his retirement party in June. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD

Selawsky said the board will announce the interim superintendents next Wednesday after a board meeting.

Huyett, who has served as superintendent for four years, announced in December  that he planned to retire. The board hired a search firm to find a replacement candidate and had hoped to have one in place by June 30, the target date of Huyett’s exit.

After receiving 60 applications and interviewing 10 people, the board failed to find an appropriate candidate. It then asked Huyett to postpone his departure.

Board members have been interviewing more candidates (including one Wednesday night), and Selawsky said Wednesday that he hopes the interim candidates will only serve two to three months, a comment that suggested he and other board members were optimistic about finding a replacement for Huyett.

Hemphill said if the board does not select someone, it will hire an outside interim superintendent who can stay for a long period.

In the meantime, the tandem superintendents will split their responsibilities. One will be a public face for the district, setting the board agenda and speaking from the dais, said Hemphill. The other tandem superintendent will focus on business and financial operations, overseeing human resources, finance, and facilities.

The school year begins Monday Aug. 27.

Huyett said Thursday he will stay on until the board appoints a replacement.

What does Berkeley want from its new schools head? [03.14.12]
Berkeley schools superintendent Bill Huyett to retire [12.06.11]

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  • Completely_Serious

    Oh for crying out loud!  Really?  I guess that’s the way of government — hire two when one will do.  Recall the entire school board.

  • neverendingnonsense

    We will be paying two salaries. 

  • Anonymous

     And probably two benefits packages with two golden handshakes when the contracts are up.  What a bunch of incompetent crooks.

  • Yes, but they might not be two entirely new salaries. I get the sense that BUSD might be temporarily promoting a couple of people from within the district. Given the short-term nature of the assignment, and that the article says “two administrators” are being hired, they might be talking about two already-known staff members, presumably with base pay that the district has already been paying. That might also explain why they’re playing it so close to the chest.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    “After receiving 60 applications and interviewing 10 people, the board failed to find an appropriate candidate.”

    Why? Were all 60 candidates screened by the search consultancy unqualified? Or were they qualified but unable to satisfy some faction on the board? Was unanimity required?

  • Guest

    Man, the snarkey comments on this site are beyond belief! I hope you guys like reading eachothers’ posts because I think everyone else in Berkeley has tuned you out. 

  • originalone

    60 applications applied, 10 interviewed, = 1 a month. What kind of people are on the board? This is about what we see in the political arena in Washington D.C. today. Oh wait, they just took their summer break because they work so hard. I suppose the BUSD board only work 3 hours @ night once a month. Just whose welfare are they working for?

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad you’re still here. There’s no other venue to express opinions about the big pile of fraud and dysfunction that is BUSD so it comes out here.

  • Completely_Serious

     Brian, you might be right.  Because we all know the BUSD is teeming with rejects just waiting to get re-assigned to a different job/school/grade.  I think it’s called “the dance of the lemons.”  All funny until your kid gets one.

  • ANON

    Right.  And the best part of the whole scam is that unlike most other California public agencies now, BUSD illegally refuses to release any of the salary/overtime/benefits details which other public agencies release to the press.

    The publically stated pretext for refusing to release BUSD employee salary data (which the courts have found the tax paying public has a right to know) is that they are so short of funds and staff that they “can’t afford to do it” unless the news agency requesting the disclosure is willing to pay upfront a sizable administrative fee for the information.  As a matter of course, most or all news agencies wisely refuse to play into this type of naked extortion.

    However, it would be interesting as a public service and to call the bluff of the BUSD if Berkeleyside were to set up a special online, paypal type fund for readers and concerned local residents and tax payers to chip in to the total ransome BUSD demands for full disclosure of their employees total compensation packages. 

    Maybe Berkeleyside could provide “matching funds” so we get to the goal more quickly.  Then BS could make all of this BUSD salary data available on an online searchable database exclusive to Berkeleyside.  I am betting the doubtless protracted process of extracting the complete salary info. from BUSD bureaucrats would garner a lot of wider attention and, if BS ever did get the data, the database would also generate a lot of hits.

  • Anonymous

    Except BUSD will spend our money on litigation to prevent the release of the data, bogus or not. We need a board that isn’t so spineless or caught up in some political agenda but reading the descriptions of the four candidates for the open seat we have what sounds like the choice between three status quos and one lunatic.

  • Interesting idea. We’ll look into what it might cost.

  • Not Surprised

    There is no exception to the California Public Records Act that allows BUSD to withhold information based on “unsigned contracts.”  This information is public by state law.  We the taxpayers have a legal right to this information now.  If we get the information now we may be able to avoid hiring lemons before they sign contracts.  BUSD wants to wait so they can conveniently tell us later, “it is too late, we already signed the contracts.”  State law doesn’t allow keeping public information secret because a school district deems it to be convenient.

  • Not Surprised

    And when the two bosses disagree, flip a coin!

  • Completely_Serious

    Go read what the Board members had to say at the Oakland Tribune or Mercury News.  Now, repeat after me:  The problem with Berkeley is we’re just all so precious.

    Can I change my handle to “Completely_Disgusted with BUSD”?

  • Anonymous

     Parents aren’t worthy of this knowing details like this. After reading the article about this in the Tribune that has all the usual phrases (“ethnically diverse”, “”We are very diverse”, “achievement gap”, “students of color” all in a 360 word article) I can only guess that they are hung up on the color of the skin the candidate happened to be born with. I hope I’m wrong but as long they insist on this hiring star chamber and not telling anybody what’s going on my guess is as good as any other.

  • Guest

    Hopefully that isn’t code for “the only qualified people were white or asian, so we didn’t hire them”.

  • Anonymous

    It sounds like a joke but I can imagine the board actually thinking that having a black superintendent will somehow magically make under-achieving black kids want to learn and be interested in school.

    Seriously, how hard can it be to fill this position? It’s a nice place to live, pays insanely well, the district has nearly unparalleled funding (which they are free to squander with few controls), and a tax base that gives them more money whenever they ask for it.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    I agree. It is a very, very poor choice of candidates. They even endorse one another, making it clear that there is no choice, really.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    I suspect that it was exactly that and/or they couldn’t find qualified people who were willing to promise results on the achievement gap given the current constraints. BUSD could do a lot to serve the students and families who reside in our city. Taking on the entire east bay means we have much less opportunity to affect the home environment, which is why these kids are not achieving.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    And nothing is going to happen in three months to change the situation. It’s not as though the fall harvest will bring bushels of fresh, diverse, candidates. Everyone who was qualified and interested has applied. Our benighted board needs to decide or resign their seats.

  • bgal4

    The board and district admin said the same thing ” we need a candidate who can walk on water” during the search for the high school principal after they FINALLY discontinued Slemp’s contract. After  interviewing a huge pool of candidates, and finding no one who could walk on water, they choose the safe insider during the second round.

    The reference is silly and  offensive. Since when did the qualities of integrity and accountability translates to walking on water?? The district/board has gotten away with these dismissive statements about community stakeholders  for some time, it needs to stop.  Describing parents as unreasonable is simply a tactic to divide and marginalize those of us demanding accountability. (i.e. the guest criticizing comments as snarky)

    I suspect one of the central debates among board members is based in the teachers unions fear of the charter school movement.

  • Guest

     Serious question: what would you like to see in a school board candidate?

  • Anonymous

     Somebody who comes out and says that their priorities are 1) the education of all children, 2) combating enrollment fraud aggressively along the lines of what Albany has done, and 3) making all financial and policy matters completely transparent and open to the public would be a nice platform in my mind. Given BUSD’s funding and the demographics of Berkeley there’s no reason that this shouldn’t be one of the finest districts in the country.  Instead, most parents who care about this sort of thing are forced to basically try to home school their children at night and over the summer, do ridiculous levels of fundraising and donating, and generally get nothing in return other than small class sizes for all of the additional taxes they pay.

    I don’t think our problems are Berkeley-specific, there’s something fundamentally broken in how districts are run I think. Our board members are the just the Berkeley equivalents of the creationists who take over boards in Kansas and start banning the teaching of biology.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Yep, that’d be my preference as well.

    Only disagreement is whether you actually get the smaller class sizes.  In high school that doesn’t happy except on average.