School district without assistant supes

The Gilroy Unified School District has gone from three permanent
assistant superintendents to none in just two years.
The Gilroy Unified School District has gone from three permanent assistant superintendents to none in just two years.

“Having these three critical vacancies is definitely having an impact on our ability to do the work,” Superintendent Deborah Flores said. “It’s been very stressful.”

Budget cuts, resignations and medical emergencies have burdened cabinet-level staff in recent years – and stretched administrators more than they’d like.

“Its a huge concern,” said trustee Denise Apuzzo. Still, she said she was confident that the personnel temporarily plugging the holes were doing a good job.

The district is currently searching for an assistant superintendent of administrative services, a job that pays $133,795, according to the district’s job posting on EdJoin.org, a public education job search Web site. The job was posted Jan. 4, a few days after former Deputy Superintendent of Business Services Enrique Palacios resigned to take a similar job closer to his Oakland home. The deadline to apply is Feb. 19, according to the posting.

The district’s educational services department has been strained since Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Basha Millhollen left on medical leave in September. Although it was unclear whether Millhollen would return or the district would fill it with a new assistant superintendent, trustees expected to make a decision within a couple weeks.

“I miss her a lot,” Flores said. “She was a great member of my staff, one of the hardest working people I’ve met.”

The assistant superintendent position for human resources was reassigned as a director position during a round of deep budget cuts in 2008. After former Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Michael Lyons agreed to resign following a lengthy paid medical leave in 2008, the district reorganized that department to include two directors, one to oversee classified staff and another for certificated employees. Currently, Kim Filice is human resources director for classified staff and a retired assistant superintendent, Clem Donaldson, serves as interim director for certificated staff.

The district has posted Donaldson’s job – which pays $104,226 to $123,843 – on EdJoin.org with a deadline of Feb. 19.

The district also brought on Interim Deputy Superintendent Hardy Childers, a retired assistant superintendent from Oak Grove School District. Childers stepped in as interim assistant superintendent in 2008.

Flores said she was “very sorry to see (Palacios) leave, but the good news is that Hardy, who has filled in for us before and agreed to come back, is very familiar with our district. I can’t convince him to do this full time even though I would certainly like to try.”

Flores said she’s hoping to hire someone to fill the position with extensive experience working with both school district budgets and facilities. The district will likely have to cut $5 to $7 million from its budget this year and is in the middle of rebuilding several elementary schools and completing Christopher High School.

Flores said she would prefer to hire cabinet-level staff who live within a half hour of the district. Between facilities issues, school-related events and student emergencies, administrators sometimes need to be around on weekends.

During Millhollen’s absence, Marilyn Ayala, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction, has stepped in as interim assistant superintendent. A retired principal comes in two days a week to fulfill some of Ayala’s former duties, Flores said.

Despite the extra help, Millhollen’s leave “is a gaping hole,” Apuzzo said. “Besides the superintendent, (Millhollen’s) is the most important education job in the district. It’s definitely felt when they’re gone.”

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