The Madera Unified School District Board of Trustees did the right thing when it decided to end its search for a new superintendent and start anew. It also did the right thing in launching an investigation into allegations of Brown Act violations and vote trading in the selection process.
Allegations don’t mean wrong was done — that’s why an investigation was begun, to find out whether the allegations are true — but in a process as important as selection of a new superintendent, it’s best to make sure everything is done right.
When Superintendent Gustavo Balderas quit last year and went to another school district after only a little more than a year in Madera, the trustees were taken by surprise. When he was hired, the trustees were very happy he had accepted their offer, and their happiness wasn’t misplaced. Their confidence in him soared.
Balderas proved to be an open and capable superintendent: open to public input, open in his dealings with others and capable when it came to dealing with the intricacies of his job. By all accounts he was a great catch. But more money and life in a tony Southern California coastal district near Newport Beach lured him away in the blink of an eye.
Did the trustees mislead Balderas about Madera, or was he using the Madera job as a placeholder for a better-paying job in a more salubrious city? We’ll never know. All we know is, he couldn’t seem to wait to leave.
But we do know, after Balderas, that the trustees need to do a better job of vetting their candidates for superintendent — not just falling for the first smiley face that comes along.
In beginning a new search, they should look not only far and wide, but also within the Valley, where capable educators would know what they were getting into, what local expectations were, and whose resumes could be closely checked so we would know we weren’t getting another out-of-towner who just wanted to pass through.