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June 19, 2021

Experience as Teacher Expected

– The next superintendent will be a former teacher who has
closed achievement gaps in other districts, the district Board of
Trustees decided after three hours of battling over semantics.
Gilroy – The next superintendent will be a former teacher who has closed achievement gaps in other districts, the district Board of Trustees decided after three hours of battling over semantics.

The description of the job posting for the top spot in the Gilroy Unified School District will state that “experience as a teacher is expected.”

“Given the issues in this district of raising the achievement gap, I would really like to see someone who has had that experience somehow in the classroom,” Trustee Rhoda Bress said at Wednesday night’s board meeting. “I would like someone who knows what excellence looks like in the classroom.”

Achievement gaps – patterns of disparity in student performance commonly seen among different ethnic and socioeconomic groups – is a salient problem in the district. Here, as in many other districts, Hispanic and black students score markedly lower than white non-Hispanic students and students of Asian descent on national and state tests.

Trustees Denise Apuzzo and Pat Midtgaard supported the requirement of class time, though it might exclude 2 percent of the applicant pool, warned Bill Attea, a consultant for Hazard, Young and Attea, the firm charged with finding candidates for district superintendent.

“If (potential applicants) go on a Web site and read the ad – if they read ‘expected,’ and they haven’t been a teacher, they might not respond,” he said.

The other trustees were fine with the qualification of experience as a teacher being listed as “preferred.”

“My (personal) shortcoming has always been (knowledge about) the curriculum,” said Trustee Francisco Dominguez. “There are people that you hire to do that, so that’s what I expected (the superintendent to do).”

In the end, the four trustees acquiesced to Bress, Apuzzo and Midtgaard.

The board further stipulated this criterion meant that the applicant has taught in a classroom, which excludes applicants whose experience has come as a counselor or school psychologist, though it allows past physical educators and literary facilitators. Outgoing superintendent Edwin Diaz was a physical education teacher at Gilroy High School before rising to the rank of superintendent.

In addition to having been a teacher, the next superintendent will be someone who uses data to analyze and guide district performance and has closed the achievement gap in other districts, the board said.

They will list these characteristics as part of the top-ranked qualification for district superintendent on the job posting.

Closing the achievement gap was also a concern voiced by parents at a community forum conducted in Spanish Feb. 27.

Giving a nod to desires of parents and school faculty, the top-ranked criterion will emphasize an expectation of accountability in the school district under the next superintendent.

While ranking the next four qualifications took the board more than 90 minutes, the trustees were in general agreement that visibility, collaboration and knowledge of the district plan, and trends in educational strategies were key requirements for the next superintendent. The consulting firm will find candidates that match these criteria and present them to the trustees in late April.

The process was as much a success in forming a job posting for a new superintendent as it was in practicing effective communication for the new board.

“Every time you get a new board, you have to (learn to work together) all over again,” said Trustee Jaime Rosso. “The fact that we were able to reach consensus – it was a very good exercise.”

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