Orange Unified still without permanent superintendent

The OUSD Board of Education's July 24 meeting agenda suggested a superintendent would be appointed but trustees took no action

Orange Unified still without permanent superintendent
Former State Senator Gloria Romero speaks during public comment at the July 24 meeting of the Orange Unified School District Board of Education. Romero suggested acting superintendent Ernie Gonzalez was the candidate to be considered for superintendent on a closed-session agenda item sparking questions from some trustees. Screenshot from YouTube.

At its July 24 meeting, the Orange Unified School District  Board of Education took no action regarding its search for a permanent superintendent, despite  two items on the agenda regarding the issue.

An item on the closed session  agenda suggested the board would be appointing a superintendent along with hiring several other school administrators.

The second item related to the superintendent search was listed in the information/discussion section of the open session agenda. Item 8.B. stated: “Staff will provide a brief update on the status of the selection of an executive search firm for the hiring of a new superintendent.”

But when the open session portion of the meeting began, Board President Rick Ledesma pulled item 8.B. from the agenda.

Also, in his report on the board’s closed session actions, acting superintendent Ernie Gonzalez announced the hiring of several principals and assistant principals but said nothing about any action related to a superintendent.

OUSD has been without a permanent superintendent since the board voted 4 to 3 to fire Gunn Marie Hansen, Ph.D., in January. At the same meeting Dr. Hansen was fired, the board voted 4 to 3 to hire Edward Velasquez as interim superintendent. He  resigned effective February 16.

Gonzalez has been acting superintendent of OUSD since March. He had been the assistant superintendent in charge of human resources. In April, the  board voted 7 to zero to table hiring a search firm for a new superintendent.

Was Gonzalez expected to be appointed Superintendent?

The July 24 meeting agenda did not include the name of any candidate(s) related to the appointment of a superintendent. But during the public comment prior to the board’s closed session, at least one speaker suggested that Gonzalez was the candidate to be voted on, sparking questions from board members and the public.

Former State Senator Gloria Romero, whose new charter school had another item up for board consideration at the July 24 meeting,  said: “I look forward to your support of the Interim Superintendent becoming the permanent superintendent.”

She later added that Gonzalez would be someone she and her charter school “will be able to work well with.”

Immediately following Romero’s comments, trustee Kris Erickson questioned how Romero would have knowledge of the candidate for superintendent.

“Ms. Romero acted as if she knows who the candidate is and I'm just curious how she would know that,” Erickson said in remarks toward Ledesma.

Trustee Andrea Yamasaki also had questions for the board president.

“My concern is that [Romero] is naming names and how did she get that information?,” Yamasaki asked, stating that the candidate’s identity was not public knowledge.

“I don’t know,” Ledesma responded separately to Erickson and Yamasaki, and added, “You'd have to ask her,” referring to Romero.

The board this year has been hit with  legal complaints alleging violations of the Brown Act, the California law meant to preserve the public’s right to access meetings of local governing bodies.

Ledesma said that the superintendent appointment item was on the public agenda and said Romero “is very understanding of how educational systems work and closed sessions and meetings.”

“I mean, [Romero] might be surmising things,” Ledesma said, quickly adding that “Superintendent is on [the agenda].”

Speakers following Romero during public comment also questioned how she might know whom the board was considering hiring as the district’s next leader.

OUSD parent Alex Brewsaugh is suing some board members, alleging Brown Act violations for their handling of the firing of Dr. Hansen. He took to the podium following Romero on July 24.

“We have a lack of information,” Brewsaugh said. “It appears Ms. Romero doesn't.”

Later in his comments addressing the board Brewsaugh said, “I'll amend my lawsuit for additional Brown Act violations, and I will ask [Romero] where she got that information because it looks like, yet again, you guys are coming to predetermined conclusions about what is going on with our school district without stakeholder input, without teacher union input, without parental input.”

During another portion of the meeting, the board voted 4 to 3 to approve a license agreement with Romero’s new charter school, Explore Academy, to allow it to lease district facilities at the former Peralta school site for the upcoming school year.

It’s not clear what is next in OUSD's search for a permanent superintendent. Its next regular board meeting is scheduled for August 17, the day after classes start for the 2023-24 school year.

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