HomeNews & updatesOld Adobe school district hires 2 co-superintendents amid financial ... - Petaluma...

Old Adobe school district hires 2 co-superintendents amid financial … – Petaluma Argus Courier

Each seat on the five-person Old Adobe Union School District Board of Trustees will be up for election Nov. 8, with all candidates running unopposed, according to the Sonoma County Registrar’s Office.
Current board members Adriana Smith and Anna Dietrich will seek reelection to their four-year terms as Board member Kimberly Shaver will look to maintain her two-year term.
Board member Doris Tolks and board President Patsy Knight did not submit applications for reelection, leaving their two seats open. Newcomers Scott McKenna and Peter Walsh seek to fill those vacancies, both of whom are also running unopposed.
Old Adobe Union School District started the 2022-23 school year Aug. 17 with two new co-superintendents, following a monthslong search to fill the role that has now seen five people at its helm since the start of the calendar year.
While the position of district superintendent has historically been held by a single person, co-superintendents Michele Gochberg and Cindy Friberg assumed their roles June 8. Their tenure follows an abrupt and expensive exit in January by the district’s most recent long-term superintendent and amid concerns the district may not meet its financial obligations.
“I think this is cutting edge,” said Patsy Knight, president of the district’s Board of Trustees, when asked why the board chose to hire two superintendents.
Both Gochberg and Friberg are familiar faces within the district, one thing Knight said the board appreciated as they already held an understanding of the district’s challenges, teachers and community.
“We share core values, one of which that there’s nothing more important than the work we do on behalf of the students,” Friberg said.
Friberg has worked at the district for over three years as the leader of its student services department, a role that will be absorbed into her responsibilities as co-superintendent.
She has previously worked with Petaluma City Schools and the Marin County Office of Education as program manager, and is a licensed educational psychologist.
Gochberg has served as a teacher at three of the district’s schools before becoming a curriculum resource instructor and instructional coach. In 2013, she became principal of the district’s Sonoma Mountain Elementary Charter School.
“One of our strengths is our relationships with our staff,” Gochberg said.
Both reside in Petaluma, outside the Old Adobe district’s boundaries, and have children. Gochberg’s children attend the district while Friberg’s attend their neighborhood’s district.
According to Knight, promoting from within the district was intentional.
“We knew the characteristics we wanted, and then we started thinking about the candidates,” Knight said.
Knight said the board “researched” and “consulted people” about the potential of hiring two superintendents — opposed to one — for the district, which is comprised of six elementary schools, has around 2,000 students and roughly 250 employees.
Steve Herrington, superintendent of the Sonoma County Office of Education, said he’s never seen dual-superintendents on a district level in his 40-year career as an administrator in California public schools.
According to previous reporting, former Old Adobe Superintendent Sonjhia Lowery, who took the job in July 2020, was bought out of her contract in January. She left after a lengthy struggle with the Old Adobe Teacher’s Association, which gave her a no-confidence vote in April 2021. Diane Wolmuth, president of the association, went as far as to call on the board to fire Lowery a few weeks before her departure.
According to former Board of Trustees member Matthew Burton, many members of the Old Adobe Teachers Association “didn’t like Lowery from the moment she took the job.” Burton told the Petaluma Argus-Courier earlier this month that some faculty viewed her as an outsider and were not welcoming toward her.
Kinyatta Reynolds, a former PE instructor and educator in the district, said in a recent interview with the Argus-Courier that teachers complained that Lowery did not spend enough time on campus and didn’t learn their names, even though she took over during the pandemic and was commuting daily from outside Sonoma County.
Both Burton and Reynolds have said they resigned from their positions due to “toxicity” within the district.
According to previous reporting by the Argus-Courier, Lowery received $203,386.44 as part of her separation agreement, which represented 10 months of salary, as well as vacation pay and benefits.
Former Old Adobe Superintendent Craig Conte was brought back after Lowery left and paid $48,428 for just two months, since his salary reached the retiree earnings cap.
Kris Cosca, former interim superintendent of the district, then took over the role March 16 to finish out the school year. Cosca said his salary was based on “Step 3” of the superintendent pay scale, a per diem that came out to about $886, and totaled over $50,000 by his departure in early June.
Cosca said he initially applied for the position while he was interim superintendent, but withdrew before the interview process began because he wanted to change career paths.
According to their contracts, Gochberg and Friberg are each receiving an annual base salary of $190,346.
By the end of 2022, the district will have spent over $500,000 on superintendent salaries alone within the calendar year.
The district’s per-student spending was $13,292 as of 2021, according to the California Department of Education, well under the average per-student spending for 2018-19 in California, reported as $14,174, according to Ed Source, and the national average of $15,114.
But the district is currently in qualified status, which means its expenditures exceed its funding, according to Eric Wittmershaus, director of communications at the Sonoma County Office of Education.
According to Smith and Burton, the district’s status is a result of the salary bump given to teachers after a collective bargaining agreement with the local chapter of California School Employees Association was approved by the board in a Dec. 9, 2021, meeting.
The agreement included a wage increase that retroactively raised the association members’ salaries by 7% from July 2021 through the end of the 2021-22 school year. The agreement also stipulated there would be a 5% increase across the pay scale, on top of the previous bump, in July 2022.
As co-superintendent, Gochberg will assume responsibility of campus construction, maintenance, curriculum, charter oversight and enrollment.
Gochberg said one of her main areas of oversight will be curriculum, which she’ll develop with the district’s director of curriculum.
Friberg’s main areas of oversight at Old Adobe will include payroll, transportation, student services, personnel, child development and COVID-19 protocol.
The two women both mentioned one of their biggest priorities going into the new school year is the social and emotional well-being of students and staff, as well as academic rigor and continuous engagement with the community.
Friberg and Gochberg said they will work together on communication, community outreach, negotiations and budget development. They have previously collaborated on a number of projects for the district, including COVID protocols, and the social and emotional well-being curriculum currently in place at the schools.
Toward the end of the 2021-22 school year, four hiring committees were formed to find a new superintendent, each made up of 10 people, including teachers, parents and other employees of the district. The Board of Trustees conducted a short screening process for the applicants and passed along the most qualified. Each committee conducted a 30-minute interview with all of the candidates who made it past the board’s paper screening.
Each committee had its own self-selection process, but members of the parent’s committee were chosen at random.
From that point, two people from each committee moved onto a “stakeholder” committee to assist the board with in-person interviews and selecting a new superintendent by May 12.
The board laid out this process at its April 14 meeting, where Knight said, “If no suitable candidates emerge from the interviews the board will redo the process until a good candidate is chosen for the district.”
One candidate made it through to the in-person interview process but wasn’t considered a “good fit” by the board, according to Trustee Adriana Smith.
Gochberg and Friberg were both members of the district office hiring committee, but Smith told the Petaluma Argus-Courier last week that the committees were dissolved after the May 12 deadline came and went.
A few weeks later, the board approached Gochberg and Friberg to ask if they would step in as co-superintendents.
After a closed session at a June 9 board meeting, it was announced the two had agreed to serve. Their contracts, which expire June 30, 2024, were ratified by a 5-0 approval during a June 28 board meeting.
Contact staff writer Rebecca Wolff at rebecca.wolff@sonomanews.com.
Each seat on the five-person Old Adobe Union School District Board of Trustees will be up for election Nov. 8, with all candidates running unopposed, according to the Sonoma County Registrar’s Office.
Current board members Adriana Smith and Anna Dietrich will seek reelection to their four-year terms as Board member Kimberly Shaver will look to maintain her two-year term.
Board member Doris Tolks and board President Patsy Knight did not submit applications for reelection, leaving their two seats open. Newcomers Scott McKenna and Peter Walsh seek to fill those vacancies, both of whom are also running unopposed.
UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

source

- Advertisment -


Most Popular

- Advertisment -