The Madera Unified School District Board of Trustees made a good decision when it hired Dr. Julia O’Kane as interim superintendent. (See story, Page A1.)
She will fill the position, one she held for eight years until retiring seven years ago, until a permanent superintendent is hired, which may mean she will be on the job for a few months, or maybe longer.
The board turned to O’Kane when the current interim superintendent, Anthony Monreal, told the trustees he wanted to return to his old job as deputy superintendent, for which he is under contract.
O’Kane will face tough issues in her new role, but it would be hard if not impossible to find another as capable as she to deal with the changes under way in the district.
She is widely regarded as a top-flight administrator, and also has a golden touch in dealing with people inside the school district and in the community at large.
She is a committed Maderan who knows the town and the people in it. Although she had no intention of making her stay here a long one when she came to Madera Unified in 1972 to teach reading, she nailed her feet to the ground, and has even stayed after retiring. Her work over the past seven years with groups such as the Madera Rotary Club and the Madera County Arts Council proves she has the welfare and betterment of the community at heart.
Yes, the board made a good decision in bringing her back. Now, it is time for the trustees, especially the newer ones, to learn from her about governance, about goal-setting and about putting children first.
After O’Kane retired, and other superintendents came and went, it became increasingly clear to school watchers that she had been an underappreciated jewel. She was good at what she did, she was loyal, she could be tough when necessary, and she was always cordial. Best of all, she had vision.
The board should consider itself lucky she was available and willing to serve again. The schools will be in good hands. That will give the trustees the time to look for a permanent superintendent who will have the future of Madera’s schools at heart and who can help the board develop a vision to make our schools great.