Today’s Leader article about the new hire being foisted on the district by their lame-duck school board makes it sound like the guy just wants to settle down to a nice little genteel pre-retirement job some place warm and cozy. No, he’s not about big change, he’s about Burbank!
But don’t be fooled. This was an ideological move pure and simple. He’s being hired in to drive this school district of ours kicking and screaming into someone else’s nightmare version of the 21st century. He’s also what happens when you let management search services pick your people for you. It’s always going to be about business and business ideology.
So let’s do a little review. Every time our school board has pawned this super selection task off on others it’s been a total disaster. Here’s a rundown:
— The first time in our memory that a search firm actually picked a Burbank superintendent was after a reactionary anti-labor early-80s school board allowed Dick Currier and Littler Mendelsohn to basically take over the district’s personnel functions. The result was the lackluster and definitely out-of-his-element Wayne Boulding, who lasted about 2 1/2 years. Oh, and there was something else. Madeline Hunter, anyone?
— With that success under their arm, the same board membership then hired a search firm to “look all over the country” for a suitable replacement. What they came up with was the disastrous Art Pierce. Another proud provincial (this time from “Bah Harbor”), he’d never let you forget that he wasn’t from Burbank. And it showed.
It was under Pierce that Burbank commenced its awful and unnecessary program of “reconfiguration,” a useless scheme (at best it was useless — at worst it was a sleazy property sales plan) which instantly increased the size of our high schools by 25 percent. Which then of course necessitated the expenditure of giant sums of money in order to create a bigger place for all the new crowd. It also threw our younger kids into the junior highs, which they then renamed to sound better.
— Temporarily coming to their senses, as soon as Pierce was booted out the board members then picked in-house Dave Aponik to take over. Though he had no teaching experience, we do think that Dave did have an administrative credential along with extensive background in district personnel and educational counseling matters. He was a successful replacement, basically, and leagues above Pierce when it came to dealing with people.
— Perhaps knowing that they were on to a good thing by going it alone, the board then picked one of Dave’s assistants to replace him. Bowman gets more plaudits for his performance than we’d give him, but at he least kept the district afloat with a minimum of angst and ideology.
— A management search service picked his replacement, another guy who had no experience in a metropolitan school district. He lasted only a year. He was also professionally undercut when the board first told him to be a hardass change agent and then hung him out to dry when all hell broke loose. You can blame Applebaum for that fiasco.
— His successor was also selected by outsiders for pay. He lasted not much longer than his predecessor. Apparently he was most excited about moving to Burbank from Visalia because he said his son wanted to get into show business and so he thought it would be a perfect way to stay near him. He quickly moved off to the Sierra foothills and barely said good bye.
— Jan Britz was then brought in as a semi-temporary interim type, later made permanent. A BUSD veteran, she’s worked out pretty well we hear. A traditionalist, Britz has gone out of her way to keep the more lunatic versions of modern educational technology out of our classrooms. No management search firm there.
So what’s the moral here? Hire within, Burbank.
BTW, speaking of Dick Currier and the BUSD, the council’s own Will Rogers wrote a good piece years ago about what he was all about.
But Will only touched the tip of it. If Currier was that perverse about the Brown Act, you can only imagine what he was like behind the scenes.