It’s just my opinion…
Many school districts in the area are currently without school superintendents, Burbank being one of them. Well sometimes it is good to promote from within when the infrastructure is strong and things are running smoothly, that is not the case in Burbank and a nationwide search should be conducted for our next school Superintendent.
This is not to say that someone on the inside may not be the best qualified for the position. However, with all the recent turmoil, there really needs to be a subjective look to the outside.
Burbank’s Police Department went through difficulties back around 2010, then city manager Michael Flad conducted a search outside of the department to find someone to come in and change the culture and the clicks that had formed inside of the department. He found Scott Lachasse who came in and immediately cleaned house, appointed a new command staff, and changed the culture department.
A decade later, he stepped down and the current city manager Justin Hess appointed Michael Albanese from within the department to serve as the new chief. The Police Department was running smoothly, and promoting from within was the correct step to take.
However, that is hardly the case in our school district.
Within the past couple of years, more than half of the principles have bolted from Burbank, with some saying it was about going to another district with more pay. I talked to several principals who left, and they said their biggest concern was not the pay, but the lack of communication and leadership they were receiving from the district office. They were extremely frustrated with the leadership.
That alone is a red flag.
Our school board has either drank the Kool-aid given to them from the current administration or they do not have a handle I what is truly happening. Last summer, the school board ripped up the superintendent’s current contract that was due to expire at the end of the 2023 school year and gave him a new longer-term deal for more money. Months later, they fired him and were forced to pay an entire year of his newly negotiated salary instead of just letting the current contract he was under run out, which would have then saved the taxpayers close to $300,000.
Recently, the board also once again ripped up administrator contracts before they were concluded and gave administrators new longer contracts with raises. With one of those administrators due to retire in a few months, still given the raise which means a higher pension will now be paid.
The same administrators have made some decisions that may or may not be the best for Burbank or its students or teachers.
Administrators just hired the Glendale Unified School District President to serve as a vice principal at Burbank High School even though she has not been in the classroom since 2006. Not only is she the president of the adjoining school district, but the Glendale board just went through some turbulent times that brought national attention. Is she the best fit for a Burbank school?
At Burroughs High School, a new principal has been appointed who has only one year of experience at the middle school level. That principal has several family members working at Burroughs that he will be overseeing. Being a supervisor of three different family members cannot be good for morale with teachers worried that anything they do or say will be reported to their boss by one of his relatives. While this may or may not happen, it is undoubtedly a dynamic that should not be in place.
Years ago, the City of Burbank passed an ordinance that does not allow a family member to supervise another family member directly. This seems not to be a problem for the current district administrators.
At the district office, a new finance director was brought in and a mistake was made of around $7 million and the first thing that he did was blame the former financial director for the problem. She was a Burbank resident with deep ties with an excellent reputation, and he was forced to apologize to her publicly. That same individual is now being appointed as the chief negotiator for the district.
With all of the new hires and the new principals being appointed, it seems the current administration is just trying to put people in place that will agree with them and their policies. This is a giant reason why someone from the outside needs to be brought in who has not been in the current administration.
We have lost several good people to neighboring districts who are now excelling in those districts. Many were on the outside looking in and became frustrated with the day-to-day operations, which forced them to look elsewhere. They may be a great fit for the district as they have knowledge of the operations and the City but no ties to the people currently running the system.
While I am not saying that the next Superintendent of Burbank schools should not be considered from somebody on the inside, I genuinely believe that the district needs to look nationally to find the best candidate, whether he or she is local or not.
When the Los Angeles Unified School District needed a new Superintendent, their nationwide search brought them a new Superintendent from Florida, where he led the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system since 2008. I would have to think there were probably many qualified applicants inside the L.A. district already, but they wanted the best person possible for the job.
After the accounting error the district just went through, they hired an outside accounting firm to do a forensic accounting of the finances in the district. I applaud that decision.
Now the question is, will they do the same for a new leader in their district?
The Board likes to spend money, but will they spend the money wisely for one of the most important roles during one of the most important times the District has faced?