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Lodi Superintendent Tops BUSD List

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday December 18, 2007

Bill Huyett, superintendent of the Lodi Unified School District, has emerged as the leading candidate for the new superintendent of the Berkeley Unified School District. 

Although Huyett, Lodi Unified superintendent for seven years, declined comment about the selection when reached by the Planet Monday, his name began to surface when Berkeley district e-mails announced a special board meeting for 10 a.m. today (Tuesday) at 1305 E. Vine St. in Lodi. The site visit by the Berkeley school board, part of the superintendent finalist selection process, must be noticed as a meeting by law. 

According to district officials, the Berkeley school board and 20 community members were invited to the site visit to speak to community members in Lodi about Huyett. The Berkeley Board of Education will also meet with the Lodi Unified Board of Trustees today (Tuesday) to check references, a key part of Berkeley’s hiring process. 

“The site visit is the concluding factor,” said BUSD spokesperson Mark Coplan. “The board will announce their selection at another special meeting Wednesday.” 

The district embarked on a superintendent search process with the help of consultants Leadership Associates after superintendent Michele Lawrence announced her retirement effective Feb. 1. 

The board narrowed down a list of candidates last month and interviewed the finalists on Dec. 8 and 9. 

Some union leaders and community groups have criticized the process, calling it closed and secretive. 

Cathy Campbell, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, said that she had decided not to participate in the site visit. 

“Any kind of involvement at this point is superficial,” she told the Planet Monday. “It’s an effort to justify a really closed process. While a number of community, parent and labor organizations were interviewed about the qualities the board should be looking for in a new superintendent, there was no involvement by parents, teachers, students or community members.” 

Andy McCombs, director of BOCA, said his agency had not been invited to participate in the site visit. 

“We testified at one of the community meetings but nobody listened to us,” he said. “I still haven’t got copies of the report from that meeting. I am not sure if anybody has.” 

John Selawsky, appointed president of the Berkeley school board last week, did not return calls for comment by press time. 

Catherine Bruno, the district’s PTA Council president, said that she had been impressed with the selection process. “It involved different community members and highlighted the importance of racial equity and closing the achievement gap,” she said. 

Established in 1967, Lodi Unified is twice the size of the Berkeley Unified School District and serves the cities of Lodi, North Stockton, and the communities of Acampo, Clements, Lockeford, Victor, and Woodbridge in the Central Valley of Northern California. 

“It’s very rural and very widespread,” Coplan said. “I understand the board is very happy with the selection.” 

Lodi, which has a student enrollment of 29,800 K-12, consists of 49 school sites, including 33 elementary, seven middle, four comprehensive high schools, and two continuation high schools.  

The district’s racial breakdown is roughly 39 percent Caucasian, 30 percent Hispanic, 23 percent Asian and 7 percent African-American.  

Lodi Unified’s primary languages spoken by students include Spanish, Hmong, Urdu, Cambodian and Vietnamese.  

The district has obtained over $100 million in state bond funds for the construction and renovation of school facilities over the last 12 years. 

In writing his January 2006 mission statement about improving student performance, Huyett quoted from Star Trek, admitting it was one of his favorite lines. 

“Do you remember it?” he asked the community in his statement. “To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”