When Superintendent Carlos Garcia told San Francisco’s school board earlier this year that he would step down in July, education commissioners were sorry to see him go. After the rocky tenure of predecessor Arlene Ackerman and the scandal-plagued administration of Bill Rojas, Garcia boasted a friendly relationship with board members as he oversaw five years of rising student achievement.
“The working relationship from the start was there,” said board member Kim-Shree Maufas, who came to appreciate Garcia’s diligence, drive and amiability despite voting against hiring him in 2007.
When the board met to discuss Garcia’s successor, their goal was to stay the course. Deputy Superintendent Richard Carranza quickly emerged as a logical choice, board members said.
“He’s done a pretty good job,” said board President Norman Yee. “He understands what we’re trying to do and we wanted to continue in the same direction.”
At a closed meeting March 8, board members decided -- without a formal vote -- that they would begin negotiating with Carranza to take over. It was an unorthodox move since large school districts generally launch open searches for new leadership.
The meeting has drawn criticism from the teachers union because it afforded little opportunity for public comment.
The meeting was not posted on the district’s website, although a copy was reportedly posted at district headquarters. That notice, provided Thursday by a district spokeswoman, listed “Public employment … Superintendent of Schools” as a discussion topic. School boards are allowed to discuss personnel matters at closed meetings, although votes must be reported publicly.
“We had heard rumors that Carranza was being lined up for the position, but we had assumed there would be an open contest,” said Dennis Kelly, president of United Educators of San Francisco.
Board members countered that a nationwide search would cost the district time and money-- between $50,000 and $100,000, including travel expenses, said longtime board member Jill Wynns.
Dave Long, a former California education secretary who now heads an executive search firm, said a school district of San Francisco’s size could probably expect to spend $35,000 hiring a firm such as his.
Long said the economic recession and school districts’ precarious financial situations have more and more forgoing the expense. He estimated the proportion of large and midsize districts hiring search firms had dropped from as high as 99 percent to about 85 percent over the past few years.
Maufas said she would personally have preferred more input from the community, and she hopes the board will hear public comment as negotiations with Carranza continue over the next few weeks. The board is required to vote on the new superintendent’s contract in an open meeting.