Continuity at district desirable, but hiring must be transparent 

Not every person can continue to do more year after year despite being given fewer and fewer resources. So when someone like that occupies a position of leadership, it is with a weary wave that we bid them farewell.

In this case, San Francisco will soon be saying adieu to Carlos Garcia, who will be stepping down as superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District after five years at the helm.

In his half decade leading The City’s public schools, Garcia forged ahead with improvement projects even while the state and federal governments continued to slash funding for education. Garcia improved the district through a number of significant innovations, but the most important of all of his goals was to work toward closing the achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian peers.

Along with continuing to improve test scores and graduation rates for low-income students at disadvantaged schools, Garcia also set up special “Superintendent Zones” for low-performing schools in the Bayview and Mission district neighborhoods. The zones allowed for the district to funnel additional resources and training to the schools.

These Superintendent Zones are important enough that Garcia angered the teachers union by skipping over teachers in those schools during the layoff notification process this year. It was the first time in his five years that he had a major clash with the union.

The district’s new leadership must make sure to maintain the current trajectory of improvement. But peace between the teachers union and the school district leadership also is key, which is why it is important how the next superintendent is selected.

So far, the board is off to a bad start in its deliberations regarding a new schools boss. In a closed meeting that wasn’t publicized on the district’s website, in violation of the state’s open meetings law, the board apparently voted to begin contract negotiations with Garcia’s right-hand man, Richard Carranza, a decision that violated the spirit if perhaps not the letter of that same law.

While the actual selection of Carranza, a deputy superintendent, is no cause for alarm, the manner in which he was anointed is troubling. The school board ultimately needs to hire the best person available for the job, and there is a good argument to be made that the person best able to continue Garcia’s reforms is the man who worked most closely with him to implement those policies in the first place. But all voices need proper representation during the hiring process, so that the cooperation between school administrators, teachers and parents is intact over the next few years to keep our schools, and students, on paths to success.

The City’s school board can do better than this.

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