Wendy Alexander/Madera Tribune File Photo
Madera Unified School District Superintendent Todd Lile was appointed in charge of the district at its special meeting Friday.
Extends current school closings
In the face of the rising threat from the coronavirus pandemic, Madera Unified trustees have joined other school districts in placing unusual responsibilities on its school chief.
In a bold move to protect MUSD students and employees from the virus, the school board put Superintendent Todd Lile virtually in charge of the school district at its special meeting Friday.
In a meeting that was conducted entirely through the internet, the board extended the school closings from March 16 to May 1, and endowed Lile with a plethora of emergency powers, which effectively brings every function of Madera Unified under his control.
In explaining its rationale, the board cited the growing COVID-19 threat and the executive actions that have been taken at the federal, state, and local levels.
Specifically, the board’s resolution pointed to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s declaration of a statewide emergency in connection with the virus and his executive order prohibiting public gatherings.
Education Code 35161 permits a school board to “delegate to an officer or employee of the district any of the board’s powers and/or duties.”
As a result of this action, Lile now finds himself laden with a host of new responsibilities, as well as actions he may take in the case of sudden turns in the crisis. Insofar as it is possible, the superintendent must consult with appropriate federal, state, and local officials.
Among the enumerated powers laid on Lile’s shoulders are the following: He can lengthen or shorten the length of time the schools remain closed; he can ensure necessary staffing and instruction are available; he can modify school and work schedules; he can assign district employees to perform such disaster service activities as may be assigned to them; and he can make further declarations of emergency and take other emergency action as permitted by law. This new empowerment will remain in effect until it is repealed by the school board.
The resolution passed unanimously on a 7-0 roll call vote.
In a statement to The Tribune, Lile denied that the school board has abdicated its position, as some have charged.
“The trustees have abdicated nothing,” Lile stated, “unless for some reason, the governing board’s ability to meet is inhibited.”
Lile maintains that Central California’s school districts have acted early enough with city and county governments to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He insists this cooperation has provided valuable time for the schools to collaborate and prepare with local officials.
Lile views Friday’s resolution as one more sign that the school board respects the local partnerships that have been developed and expects its superintendent to continue to nurture those relationships, especially in this time of crisis.