Residents speak out on superintendent search

By JOHN MILLER
September 5, 2019

Parents, teachers, school staff members, and retired school administrators gathered at the Cruickshank Middle School’s gym last Thursday evening as the nationwide search gets started for the next superintendent of the Merced City School District.

The current superintendent, Dr. RoseMary Parga Duran, recently announced her retirement which will begin on Dec. 31. Duran has worked in the district for 34 years, including 11 years as superintendent.

During the public forum, residents were invited to speak their mind about what they would like to see from the Merced City School District’s next leader. Those in attendance touched on everything from personality traits and general disposition to leadership styles and overall vision for the district.

Most agreed the district should bring someone on board who was approachable by all community members as well as teachers, school staff, and site administration. Some speakers noted that it would be preferable if the next superintendent had experience teaching inside of a classroom — particularly an elementary and middle school classroom.

“I’m looking for someone to be a champion for all of our kids,” noted one community member. “I want someone who will get into the water with us with both oars ready.”

Others pointed to the importance of working with teachers in order to close educational attainment gaps and raise students learning to a new level.

“Our students need to be given what they need to learn,” one parent explained. “They have dwindling resources, especially at the lower levels, and from what I can tell, they seem to just provide a teacher and a classroom.”

Residents also pointed out that as Merced has grown, so too has the set of community assets available to local schools, such as UC Merced, Merced College, the Multicultural Arts Center, Merced Theatre, and numerous community-focused organizations.

As mention of Merced’s long established community college and its new university entered the conversation, some participants spoke up about the importance of classes like woodshop and home economics to encourage more well-rounded students. Some suggested the next leader look to bring these classes back into the district.

“Removing woodshop and home-ec. classes was a mistake,” one person pointed out. “They provided those who may or may not end up going to college a way to leave school with a basic working set of skills — like how to balance a checkbook.”

Thursday night’s public forum was the last of three meetings. The public forums were considered the second step in a nine-step process of bringing in a new leader for the Merced City School District. Community and staff input now will be passed along to the Board of Trustees as a final job description and recruitment process is developed.

The deadline for applications is Sept. 30, with the Board of Trustees interviewing candidates on Oct. 25 and 26. The new superintendent is expected to start leading the district in January.


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