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Rough Start for San Marcos Principal Search

Parents, Board Members Demand More Transparency from District

School Board Members Rose Munoz, Kate Ford, Jacqueline Reid, PhD, Laura Capps, and Wendy Sims-Moten.
Paul Wellman

New school boardmember Kate Ford hit the ground running at her first school board meeting this Tuesday as she questioned Superintendent Cary Matsuoka about the proposed process for hiring a new principal for San Marcos High School. Ford was not alone. School boardmembers Laura Capps and Jacqueline Reid, along with three San Marcos parents, also voiced concern about the process and the level of involvement school staff, parents, and students will have.

Much of the pushback stemmed from an error in the proposed hiring timeline that reads, “Superintendent interviews candidates; selects finalist(s).” Matsuoka clarified that he will not be conducting the interviews alone and that a number of cabinet-level members will be involved. Still, many were not happy. In what parents and boardmembers identified as an opportunity to restore trust after recent controversies at the school, Matsuoka failed to deliver. It’s an “unfortunate error,” said Capps about the misprinted detail. “Parents need to have a voice,” said San Marcos parent Delene Bliss. “It shouldn’t be an uphill battle.”

Former San Marcos principal Ed Behrens was demoted from his position in March to a teaching position at Santa Barbara Junior High. Behrens’s demotion followed a January incident involving a private chat-room video of a male San Marcos student holding a musket and bayonet and threatening the lives of female and gay male students. Both Behrens’s demotion and the video threats generated intense parental outcry over the response to the incident.

The board unanimously approved a $12,500 contract with consulting firm Leadership Associates for recruitment and hiring, but it did not approve the process description. Matsuoka said he would be sending out a revised description and an updated timeline before the commencement of winter break. “I heard your request for detail and specificity and will bring it back,” he said.

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