Ravenswood school board deadlocks on scope of superintendent search

Trustees disagree on whether to look internally or externally for district's next leader

With one trustee absent at last Thursday's Ravenswood school board meeting, a debate among the four remaining board members about whether to launch an external or internal search for the East Palo Alto district's next superintendent ended in a stalemate.

The board's two newest members, President Tamara Sobomehin and Vice President Stephanie Fitch, insisted on an internal search that would likely end in the permanent appointment of interim Superintendent Gina Sudaria. An internal search would be less costly and yield candidates who know the needs of the K-8 district and surrounding community well, they said.

"I don't want to waste resources looking outwardly when we have a good pool of people here who have been involved in the work, who have experience, who have the cultural context and frankly who have the heart and soul to work on behalf of everyone here," Sobomehin said. "The possibility for something that lasts six to eight months, I don't know if that's worth it ... given the frailty and relationship building and trust issues that have been here the last couple years. I feel like we've got a lot of momentum right now and I would hate to destroy that."

Trustees Ana Maria Pulido and Marielena Gaona-Mendoza, however, said they want to follow "best practice" and launch a wider search.

The board should "make sure that whoever we hire is the best person available to us and that's both looking inwardly and outwardly," Pulido said. "I think it would be irresponsible for us to do anything else."

Trustee Sharifa Wilson was absent. The four trustees took two 2-2 votes and could not reach consensus on the scope of the search process.

Several speakers, including teachers, union leaders and others, urged the board against an extensive external search and voiced their support for Sudaria's leadership. Sudaria has led the district temporarily since the spring, when former superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff was forced to resign.

Randy Jackson, the district's California School Employees Association president, said the district is at a rare "unification point" that a lengthy superintendent search could put that at risk. He and others also questioned spending money on a wide search at a time when the district is looking to trim its budget.

Pulido said that outside funders have covered the cost of previous superintendent searches. The Ravenswood Education Foundation funded the most recent search in 2013, paying the full cost of $22,000, according to Executive Director Jenna Wachtel Pronovost.

Avani Patel, who oversees portfolios for the Peery Foundation, responded that the foundation — which earlier this month announced a $3.5 million donation to the district — has funded superintendent searches in the past but likely wouldn't do that this time.

"We just invested directly into the district and the students and the teachers and the staff. We feel confident that Gina is the right leader," Patel told the board. "In fact, so much of the Peery Foundation's future funding is based on the leader of the district."

The trustees went back and forth, unable to find agreement until Sobomehin decided to table the discussion for a future meeting.


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3 people like this
Posted by Juan Ortiz
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on Oct 1, 2019 at 1:39 pm

Gina is just like another Gloria won’t fix any of the problems the district has I believe we need to go for an external search

6 people like this
Posted by Sudaria Supporter
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 2, 2019 at 3:04 am

Ms. Sudaria is a suitable candidate for Superintendent of Ravenswood City School District. She has spent decades toiling in service to the families of this community. She understands the culture, the challenges, the educational disadvantage, and, most importantly, the potential for change here. We can save 18 months of wait time for change that will be frittered away with another search and a year of a new Superintendent learning Ravenswood.

Former Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff never really understood the community. She foolishly wasted her opportunity to be a change agent by jumping onto the most recently touted, shiny solution without study or critical analysis. She abused the initial good will extended by the community at large by adhering to political allies and neglecting the majority who are focused on children.

That's not a mistake Sudaria will make.

2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 2, 2019 at 9:40 pm

please do not support Gina she is a bad apple just like Gloria was she is following Gloria's foot steps she has given raises to her supporters instead of getting more custodians and kitchen people where kids would benefit from
and Gina is not supporting the kids which to her come second what a shame that
you people that are in support of this lady only see one side of her shame on you. we are going in the same direction as when Gloria was a superintendent.
we need new blood do an external search so we can get someone with the experience and not a trial and error person.

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