McPhetridge promoted to permanent schools supe

McPhetridge promoted to permanent schools supe

Michele Ellson
Sean McPhetridge

Alameda’s Board of Education voted Tuesday to give Superintendent Sean McPhetridge some birthday presents: A new contract and a shorter title.

The board voted unanimously to offer McPhetridge the school district’s top spot on a more permanent basis, removing the word “interim” from his title and okaying a $220,000-a-year contract that goes into effect today. Tuesday was McPhetridge’s 50th birthday.

“I’m humbled, and I’m honored, and I’m thankful and I’m grateful to this city, and to the people who work in these schools,” McPhetridge said. “I hope I continue to pass the audition.”

Board members praised McPhetridge, calling him a champion for Alameda’s students and saying his contract is fair.

“I am thrilled to remove the interim from his title and to have him be permanent,” said board member Solana Henneberry, who said McPhetridge is viewed by many as “a breath of fresh air for the district.”

McPhetridge also won the unanimous support of Alameda Unified’s employee unions, whose leaders all came out Tuesday to urge the board to make him the district’s permanent chief. They called him honest, accessible and caring, and praised him for rebuilding relationships with the community and district staff.

“He has brought heart back into AUSD,” said Karen Keegan, president of California School Employees Association Local 27.

McPhetridge signed on as the district’s interim superintendent in August, two weeks after his predecessor, Kirsten Vital, left to run a Southern California district and two weeks before the start of this school year.

Vital was on poor terms with the district’s labor unions after a brutal contract battle and charges that she didn’t work collaboratively with teachers and staff, and some of the decisions the district made under her leadership – including the decision to lease office space for the district office – angered community members. Her contract, which included performance pay and better medical benefits than most district staffers receive, was also a bone of contention.

He’ll be stepping into the permanent job as the district negotiates a new contract with its teachers and begins school construction projects funded by Measure I bond proceeds.

McPhetridge told Alameda Magazine in January that he’d like to rebuild the district’s career technical education programs – a job he started in an early phase of his Alameda Unified career – and find cheaper digs for the district office, which currently occupies space in Marina Village that the district is paying $552,000 a year to rent.

McPhetridge started working for the school district in 2000, when he left a job teaching at San Quentin State Prison and took one as instructional vice principal at Alameda High School. He also served as Alameda Unified's director of secondary and career technical education and principal of the Alameda Science and Technology Institute early college magnet high school, which he has been credited with saving from closure. Vital tapped him to serve as the district’s assistant superintendent in 2010.

He also worked for the past decade to complete his doctorate in administration, planning and social policy at Harvard in 2013, and he resigned his job as assistant superintendent shortly after graduation. Before coming back to the district, he served a brief stint as the Alameda County Office of Education's interim director of student programs and services.

The board had originally planned to conduct a search for a new superintendent this year, but board members and supporters said they didn’t think they could find a more qualified person if they did a national search. McPhetridge beat out more than a dozen other applicants last summer to win the interim job.

“There is no need for a nationwide search. We have the right man sitting right there,” Keegan said.

McPhetridge’s contract will remain valid through June 30, 2018 – with an automatic, one-year extension if McPhetridge gets a satisfactory job evaluation. It includes benefits and premium pay for his advanced degrees.

His original contract to serve as interim superintendent was to expire in June.

Separately, the Community Learning Center Schools, Inc. charters announced that Annalisa Moore has been made the permanent lead facilitator at Nea Community Learning Center. Moore was given the job on an interim basis after the charter organization’s board ousted the school’s longtime leader, Maafi Gueye – a decision that brought a storm of controversy and student walkouts. The organization opted to forgo a planned search and instead hired Moore outright, after both the organization and Nea boards voted in approval.

“In the interim role, Annalisa has repeatedly proven herself to be an effective, innovative and graceful leader with an extraordinary team-building capacity,” Patti Wilczek, the charter organization’s chief executive, was quoted as saying in a press release.

In addition to calming the storms that followed Gueye’s ouster, the release credited Moore with helping to manage the school’s move to a new campus it now shares with its sister school, the Alameda Community Learning Center; overhauling Nea’s high school program; and overseeing the school’s first Western Association of Schools & Colleges accreditation.

“It was an incredible testing ground to determine if she was the right leader for the long run,” Wilczek said.