As 2023 gets underway, several districts still lack leaders

Newly elected school board majorities have dismissed superintendents in a handful of districts, but they aren't saying why.

Schools are moving into 2023 with several superintendent openings, after the voluntary and involuntary departures of their leaders. Newly elected school board majorities have ousted superintendents in a handful of districts but aren’t saying why.

In Nothern California, a newly elected school board majority dismissed Gateway USD’s superintendent, Jim Harrell, without cause in late December, the Record Searchlight reported. Harrell had led the district for 10 years.

Also in Northern California, Cloverdale USD Superintendent Betha MacClain has announced she will step down on Feb. 1 after about two-and-a-half years on the job. A group of parents had been demanding McClain’s resignation over her push to get students vaccinated and the suspension of a middle school superintendent, among other issues, The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported.

The district’s school board remained supportive of MacClain, with President Ashley Lopus-White saying in a statement emailed to the Press Democrat that the outgoing superintendent “will no doubt secure a professional position that will optimize her vision, creativity and fierce passion for public education.”

In Southern California, the Capistrano USD Board of Trustees on Dec. 31 voted 4-3 to terminate Superintendent Kirsten Vital Brulte’s contract, who had led the district since 2014, the Dana Point Times reported.

No reason was given at the meeting where the decision was announced but board President Krista Castellanos said in an email to the community that Brulte was not terminated for cause. She pointed out that the former’s superintendent contract allowed either the board of Brutle to terminate employment at any time, according to the Dana Point Times. 

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Superintendent David White was removed from his position at King William County Public Schools in Virginia in mid-December due to “a personnel issue,” the Tidewater Review reported. White had been the superintendent for more than six years.

Also on the last day of the year, Superintendent Theresa Carlin announced she was stepping down immediately from her post at the Schenevus Central School District in New York after leading the system since 2018. The district praised Carlin for closing a large budget deficit and restoring the system’s reserve balances. “The kids in the district are phenomenal and the staff is so caring,” Carlin said in a statement. “It’s a really good place to work.”

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Here are some additional hirings and departures that have occurred as the new year begins:

  • McDonald County R-1 School District in Missouri has selected as its new superintendent Eric Findley, who currently leads the Jasper R-5 School District in the same state. Findley will begin his new job on July 1.
  • Superintendent Danna Diaz announced she will retire from the Reynolds School Board in Oregon at the end of the school year.
  • Superintendent Karen Fischer Gray will resign from the Lincoln County School District in Oregon on June 30.
  • Tom Kim will take over as the next superintendent of New York’s Batavia Public School District 101 in July when Superintendent Lisa Hichens retires.
  • Luke Boyer will become superintendent of Missouri’s Carthage R-9 School District in July, replacing Mark Baker.
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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