San Bernardino City Unified officials say they take community concerns about governance of the school district seriously, but they have made no move to replace the headmaster as some parents have requested.
Last month, speakers attending a school committee meeting practically criticized Superintendent Harry “Doc” Ervin for his attitude towards teachers, students and community members. Two weeks later, dozens of local dignitaries volunteered to defend the superintendent, many of whom extolled Ervin’s leadership.
The concerns raised at the education committee meeting on Sept. 21 deserve discussion, said school board president Gwen Dowdy-Rodgers. Therefore, the agenda for the board meeting on October 5th had a closed session with the point: “Discipline / Dismissal / Release for Public Employees”.
Dowdy-Rodgers was unable to confirm the Ervin discussion due to the nature of the deliberations in closed sessions. However, no actions related to this item were reported that evening.
“I respect the concerns and appreciate the support of everyone who spoke at the last two meetings,” Ervin said in a statement on Monday October 11th. “My goal is to take SBCUSD to a higher level of excellence with better results for the children in our schools. Our district has great people and programs that are committed to this, and we want to build on the solid foundations that are already in place.
“Change is not easy and raising children is hard work at the best of times,” added Ervin. “These are not the best times with COVID. I hope that as we move forward, everyone will come together to do what’s right for the children, just like in the last three districts I’ve run. “
Ervin succeeded former Superintendent Dale Marsden in July after serving five years as chief administrator at Bakersfield City Unified. Just months after joining San Bernardino City Unified, the state’s ninth largest school district, Ervin led the transition back to campus for his 49,000 K-12 students who had been studying remotely for more than a year due to the coronavirus.
On September 21, several public speakers said they had spoken on behalf of parents and teachers in the district to raise concerns about Ervin’s leadership.
Many spoke Spanish through Zoom while a translator spoke English. The spokesmen, who were all women, criticized the district’s implementation of COVID-19 protocols as students returned to campus. They also said that the district officials were not transparent about the safety of the students and allegedly Ervin lied to the district leaders in meetings with the community.
Some public speakers criticized the board for hiring a superintendent from outside the area.
Others asked for his removal.
“We are very unhappy,” one commentator told the board. “We want you to take action. Please put an end to this administrative horror that we have. “
Dowdy-Rodgers admitted last week that a shortage of teachers and staff was proving a challenge when the district rolled out COVID-19 protocols ahead of the 2021-22 school year. District officials continue to share these measures with the community so “everyone knows that no one has slipped through the cracks,” she said.
“We have protocols,” she continued, “but there are challenges to making sure everyone is aware of them”.
On October 5, two weeks after criticism of Ervin came to light, dozens of local leaders supported the new superintendent before board members went to the closed session.
At five minutes per speaker, the public comment portion of the meeting lasted nearly three hours and included supportive remarks from San Bernardino councilor Kimberly Calvin, local leader Hardy Brown, and Project Fighting Chance founder Ian Franklin.
Bakersfield City Unified officials were also positive about their former colleague.
School Board Member Abigail Rosales-Medina – who said to the public at the October 5th meeting, “I really wish I could explain in detail what is going on behind the scenes that you cannot see” – said in an email Mail on Tuesday, October 12th, she was not able to explain this point in more detail at this point in time.
However, she was disappointed “to see community leaders basing on the issue as being racist, which it wasn’t,” she said.
“Latino parents have been attacked for their public statements against our current manager,” she added. “I couldn’t believe how much division and hatred has emerged since our current superintendent was hired. We have to restore trust and that is only possible if we all work together, are authentic and transparent.
“I am confident that we will make Hope a reality,” she concluded, referring to the district’s slogan: Making Hope Happen.
Members of the San Bernardino School Committee were in a closed session for about two hours on October 5 before returning to the podium to end the meeting.
“We are there as a panel to see if there are any concerns about our superintendent from what was said at the previous meeting,” Dowdy-Rodgers said last week. “No action was taken from the closed session and we are moving forward. … I can say that the board did it, as we always do when people raise concerns, we talk about those concerns, but ultimately the most important thing is that we didn’t see any need for action. “