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District hires new Huff principal

Original post made on May 18, 2012

Huff Elementary School has a new principal. Heidi Smith will take over the position beginning with the 2012-13 school year, according to officials with the Mountain View Whisman School District.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 18, 2012, 1:32 PM

Comments (37)

Posted by Huff Parent, a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 18, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Looks like MVWSD is going bi-coastal with all these East Coast hires. I just wonder why there are no internal candidates encouraged to apply. And why is it that while principals are hired through an open system of postings and interviews, only appointments are made to the district office positions? All positions should be open to all qualified candidates in a public school district. Otherwise you never know how much better the district could do.


Posted by @Huff Parent, a resident of Waverly Park
on May 18, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Internal candidates are typically encouraged to apply. I know there was at least 1 internal candidate in the last round of Principal hires. That internal candidate just did not get the job...don't know if that person applied again for Huff.

The job is posted...anyone can apply. The District could not legally stop an internal candidate from applying. But from what I have heard and seen in the past, they are encouraged. In the end, the best qualified person gets the job...intenal or external.


Posted by Sydney, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on May 18, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Does anyone know anything about the new principal other than the marketing blurb on her current school's website?


Posted by Bubb Parent, a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 18, 2012 at 6:16 pm

@HUff Parent:

And does that same rule apply to the District Office? The Superintendent was appointed as well as the Assistant Superintendent as well as her replacement next year as well as for the Associate Superintendent for next year. They were all appointed by appointees! And the list goes on. Yet the district office appointees have become experts posting jobs to the public and hiring outsiders through a vigorous vetting process! Talk about a double standard! But then again, the school board runs uncontested and is largely self appointed as well. You gotta love Mountain View School District. Were no getting the best. We are getting a rigged system designed to preserve the status quo


Posted by Bubb parent, a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 18, 2012 at 8:48 pm

I'm curious what these East Coast candidates are saying to Craig Goldman and the outgoing Assistant Superintendent and Director of Curriculum that our internal canditates aren't that is getting them the job. Does experience as a principal supersede an applicant with many years experience in our district?


Posted by Bubb parent2, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 19, 2012 at 6:09 am

@Bubb parent, As someone who hires people, yes, years of proven experience in the job that someone is applying for is one of the most appealing characteristics of a prospective employee.
I don't think these candidates are saying anything other than "Look at my proven track record in this job over the years. Here is evidence that I can do the job because I've been doing it"


Posted by Landels Parent, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 19, 2012 at 7:19 am

The good school districts, when hiring outside principals travel to the schools for site visits to interview staff and the community. Has this happened with any of the last three hires? Or are East Coast Credentials that golden? The Landels principal was also appointed under a dark cloud, so I'm really not sure how valid years of experience is, particularly when considering the type of experience that got her hired and then appointed to another school.

Can anyone here answer why district office personnel are all appointed? The appointments and title changes seem more like compensation rewards for them to fluff up their final salaries more than anything related to performance and some sort of vast expertise. For example how does the newly appointed HR superintendent staring next year apply ten years of being a principal to HR issues involving hiring and contracts and labor law and legal codes. It just doesn't make any sense in terms of not opening up such a job to HR professionals in the community. Same with all the other present and past associate superintendents. They've all seem to hired based on who they know, not what they know. All this when it has been a employers' market for hiring talent. And it should come from the local area which has plenty of it.


Posted by Internal Hirings, a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 19, 2012 at 9:07 am

Wasn't the past principal at Huff an internal promotion? Isn't the current principal at Graham an internal promotion? When Ms. Lauron was hired as Director of Curriculum at the District Office, wasn't she hired from outside?

It seems some of the arguments here are being a bit selective with their data points.


Posted by Elaine, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 19, 2012 at 9:53 am

Actually, Ghysels brought Mary Liaron (his assistant Super.) over from his previous district with him. She was basically "appointed". And let me say that she brought nothing new or fresh to the table in this district. But she was a "yes" person for him. And over the years, her title has been elevated along with her salary. And now she retires.

And so let's look at this...why is it okay for the Supe to appoint some principalships and not get any community input on those? It is pretty selective and not consistent. And I agree, right now, why not hire locally rather than from the east coast?

Landels parent has brought up a HUGE point. Why is it okay to appoint local principals with really NO background or experience in HR as Director of HR and Director of Curriculum when there is so much talent out there?? And yet, not hire within for a principal job?


Posted by Internal Hirings, a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 19, 2012 at 10:26 am

This discussion should really be broken into the separate components. I would still contend that the principal hirings have been a mix of internal and external.

The District Office has also had a mix. Ghysels (mentioned above), was external. As to whether internal principals are best qualified for the skillsets in the district office...that's one open for debate. But it really doesn't relate to anything happening at Huff.


Posted by Lie Detector, a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 19, 2012 at 12:15 pm

@Elaine:

You don't know what you're talking about. Ghysels was from Campbell and Lairon was from Redwood City. She has always been an Associate Superintendent. The District was lucky to get her, and she's done an outstanding job of improving student achievement since getting the job. Just take a look at the improvement in scores over the 7 years since she arrived. Are you simply misinformed or actually trying to be misleading? Either way, shame on you.


Posted by District Office Insider, a resident of another community
on May 19, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Lie Detector:

I think you are being deliberately naive.

Lairon was appointed, or hired against no competition. It was more-or-less a lateral appointment based on insider recommendations and who you know. She was previously employed with the current Castro Principal, Judy Crates, at Redwood City. It was Lairon who appointed Crates up the ladder there, before Crates came to Mountain View. BTW Crates, as a principal, became involved with and latter married the Superintendent of Redwood City requiring her to move to another district similar to what happened to ex-superintendent Ghysels when it was discovered he appointed the current principal of Landels who he made no secret of being romantically involved with.

During Lairon's second year at Mountain View, Crates was then appointed from principal to district office director by Lairon. And then Lairon's assistant teacher on assignment at the district office was appointed as well from---wait for it---Redwood City, the same place Lairon came from! It's all about riding coat tails, and very little to do with posting public jobs with good salaries and benefits and definite job security.

These are the types of promotions that are ensuring that schools will not change as long as the same old guard just circulates back and forth. The public is not getting the most qualified and experienced candidates when appointments are made as such.

And your claim to her increasing test scores is really off the wall as well. You too are either simply misinformed or actually trying to be misleading (or maybe just leaving an awful lot out). Either way, shame on you.

To avoid all this, why not just POST ALL JOBS PUBLICALY AND BAN INTERNAL APPOINTMENTS??? There should also be a section within the hiring process that asks candidates and hiring panels if they have ever supervised both internal or outside candidates or hired, not appointed them, in any other capacity or position. That way all this nonsense could be done away with.

As far as internal teacher candidates, it is my view that with the right experience they can bring a lot of good and stability to schools where they have already made a commitment and investment to serve. Such teacher are already heavily involved in the community, much more say then a candidate from the East Coast.

And if not any of the above, why would we hire a candidate from New York when so many unemployed Californians might have benefited from a more broader search?


Posted by @ District Office Insider?, a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 19, 2012 at 4:54 pm

What's misinformed or misleading about API scores?

2005 (the year before Lairon)
All students: 764
Socioeconomically disadvantaged: 647
English Learners: 670

2011:
All students: 834 (70 point increase)
Socioeconomically disadvantaged: 735 (88 point increase)
English Learners: 754 (84 point increase)


Posted by Teacher, a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 19, 2012 at 5:30 pm

What's misinformed is that this was brought about by teachers in the classroom and by shuffling struggling groups around from school to school to raise the scores. Scores were also manipulated by a change by which the tests are scored. Such scores also came about by sacrificing the middle and the high end to teach to the low. So maybe that's is what this is all about; hire principals who will focus only on the low end, raising test scores and teaching to the test. But math scores have come down this year, so watch out for that at the end of the summer.

BTW, VOTE NO ON MEASURE G! Lairon and Totter stand to make 110% of the salary in retirement while the district returns to ask taxpayers for more of their money.


Posted by @ Teacher?, a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 19, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Where's your data? Guess it's better to make it up if you don't have any to support your case.

110%? Would love to know what hat you pulled that number from. Would also love to see the data to support your outrageous allegations that the district has sacrificed the middle and high end to teach to the low. Maybe you should check in on all of the 8th grade geometry classes.

Hope you're not really a district teacher. Our students deserve better.


Posted by parent, a resident of Whisman Station
on May 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm

This is all very interesting. Just like any other business sometimes it is who you know. I would like to point out that the current Huff principal is going to Menlo Park to work for the former MVWSD superintendent Maurice Ghysels.


Posted by Teacher, a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Goldman gave up No Child Left Behind Funding due to two schools not making the cut and threatened with falling into Program Improvement by the state. You've got the research, explain why that happened.

And I'm guessing that one of those eighth grade geometry classes is being taught by that same Graham math teacher that somehow has not been able to earn a credential in several years. Makes you wonder what he's teaching. The HR administrator has been hiding that for quite some time. Since you are good at research, you can go to the CCTC website and find out for yourself.

The point here is that there are many double standards in this district being perpetuated by the same old cronies that have been running the district into the ground for years.

-Always crying for money, while administrator salaries go through the roof @2000 Supe salary $110,000 @2012 Supe Salary $196,000

-The two retiring administrators this year are in fact retiring at a higher level due to salary increases tied to past title and position changes that weren't accompanied by salary increases at the time, but were now brought up current. Slight of hand is what it's called. Do some research on that.

-Teacher salary increases are dead in the water while we are contributing more and more to our benefits. Our salaries are actually going down. Do some research on that.

-Verified instances of pension spiking at the administrator level back in 2006. It was in the news. Technically legal, morally reprehensible. Do some research on that.

-Teacher of the Year awards based on popularity and twisted loyalties rather than the mastery of teaching.

-Rigged interview processes that are based on popularity over competence or loyalty to the district office administrators' flavor of the week curriculum. EDI this year, I already forgot what they were pushing last year.


Posted by Bubb parent, a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 19, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Bubb parent 2 Unless you know something I don't it says she has been in education for 14 years. That does not necessarily mean she has been a principal for 14 years which is highly doubtful.

Speaking of money, salaries, etc. a friend of mine works in district and was invited to the retirement party for Totter and Lairon. It'll cost him $20 for hor d ouerves to attend. How tacky!


Posted by Another Teacher, a resident of another community
on May 19, 2012 at 7:44 pm

14 years in education sounds a little fluffed up to me for some one we found clear across the nation.

I'm personally glad to see Totter and Lairon go. Neither of them hae stepped foot in a classroom to teach in decades. Neither speak a second language. Neither have any interaction with parents in the community. Both look down on teachers as idiots. Good riddance.


Posted by Another Insider, a resident of another community
on May 19, 2012 at 11:18 pm

I really appreciate those insiders and teachers for revealing the real stories behind the scenes. The sad truth is that most of us know this information, but are too scared to relay it to the public for fear of retribution.

Here is one more piece of info...I was told that at least one of the two admins (Lairon and Totter) already have plans to come back to the district after retiring and act as a "consultant" to help train her new replacement. Who knows what she will be paid as a consultant and how long that will be. This money could have been saved if they had hired someone already with a background in the field. The story of spending district $$$ within the admin. salaries continues.

Bottom line - I do not trust this district to use good judgement to spend our tax dollars.


Posted by Sydney, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on May 20, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Does this new teacher truly know what the cost of living is in this area? Will she stay for a year or 2 and leave because it costs more than she'd anticipated? The demographic she's currently teaching is very different from Huff's. It is obvious from this hiring that the district has no interest in listening to the Huff parents' inputs. We're just an ATM to them.


Posted by Sweet, a resident of Castro City
on May 21, 2012 at 9:43 am

Looks like a lot of local sour grapes. Welcome to the new principal, ignore those with puckered faces.


Posted by Roberta, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on May 21, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Actually, I think this is more about why the local school district has to go all the way to New York to find a principal with only 14 years experience total. How does this help unemployment here in California? How does this help Californians looking for jobs?

I also agree that appointments should be outlawed and that candidates for all jobs in the public sector should go through interviews and a competitive hiring process. It's all just too cozy with so many appointees now placing a double standard on hiring when compared to their own histories of being appointed and knowing the right people.


Posted by No Snivelers, a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 21, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Roberta, the district does not have the responsibility to help unemployment here in CA. The district had one responsibility: out of the pool of candidates, pick the one best suited to the job as they saw it. Their only role was to pick who they thought was best.
There is zero way one can argue that it was not right unless they interviewed and saw the resumes of all the applicants. Maybe they could inject some baseless "I wonder why they had to go all the way to New York..." statement to try and infer some sort of conspiracy where one doesn't exist, but unless you know of something factually wrong with this choice, you just come off looking bitter; like you or a loved one didn't get the job, and "that's just gotta be because of some kind of bias". Hmmm.
I agree with the previous poster. Sour grapes. Enough whining already. If you need a tissue, get one and move on.


Posted by Old Steve, a resident of Rex Manor
on May 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Get over it!

For all we know the new Principal is choosing to relocate, since I'll bet the district did not go "recruiting" Folks who like slamming educators should try being one for awhile. Teachers who like slamming administrators should try to figure out how else their payroll will get done, their textbooks reviewed and ordered, their classrooms cleaned and maintained. Unless teachers want to do all of those jobs, and attend board meetings late into the evening at least twice a month, they will always need administrators. If administrators did not make more than teachers or principals, why would anyone give up June, July, and August to be one? Ms. Robinson is following the same path Ms. Totter did, from Principal to HR. Anyone who questions district hiring should heed the note above that we don't have contested board elections very often. Get in and help, or at least quit whining!


Posted by @No Snivelers, a resident of Willowgate
on May 21, 2012 at 4:17 pm

"The district had one responsibility: out of the pool of candidates, pick the one best suited to the job as they saw it."

Oh, so you agree then that the district should stop the practice of appointing people to higher administrative posts in the district office and make all open positions open to the public and let the best qualified candidate get the job? That would probably eliminate 75% of the current talent in the district office to include the superintendent! Or do you want it both ways?


Posted by Elaine, a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm

I don't think you can reduce this community discussion to just "sour grapes" or "whining" - although I think the district office would love you to take that stance.

I think that the discussion is more about the inconsistency in hiring practices over many years in this district. Why is it that internal applicants were APPOINTED to very high level management jobs in admin. who had ZERO experience in the jobs they have been given? There was no resume comparison nor job postings for those positions.

Sometimes principal jobs are just appointed and other times they are posted and applicants are interviewed by a panel. There is no consistency which indicates that it might just be "who you know" that gets you the job you want in the MVWSD district. As a tax payer who pays those salaries, I don't agree with it.


Posted by Sydney, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on May 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm

I don't think those who disagree with the district are "sour grapes" or "whiners". Questions and disagreements should be voiced or else nothing will change. Those who want to applaud the administrators no matter what they do, then pat yourselves on the back for being such good followers and continue doing what you're doing.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Waverly Park
on May 22, 2012 at 8:11 am

So I got tired of reading all these posts, but I have a few comments:

a) Have none of you worked in business? Have you never noticed that, when executives/managers move from company to company, they often recruit people they worked with at other companies? My guess is that this happens not only at MVWSD but at all other school districts as well. You can like it or not like it; you can certainly make the case that school districts should not be allowed to do it (though I'm not sure I'd agree, but you could make a case for it); but for God's sake, I really don't think it's an MVWSD-specific conspiracy.

b) Bringing up any issues with Judy Crates' past seems specious at best and really, really mean-spirited at worst. Judy was at MVWSD for MANY years before Mary Lairon came over to MVWSD. Judy took a part-time job in the district office when she needed to resign as Graham principal due to serious family issues that required her to travel to another state a couple of times a month.


Posted by huh?, a resident of Jackson Park
on May 22, 2012 at 9:05 am

Parent:

Public jobs are not like private businesses. There is a higher standard for fairness and standardization in hiring in the public sector. In many ways, any qualified taxpayer should be able to apply for a job in the public sector. That way any one fully qualified to apply for a job will get an equal chance of being considered. How can you guarantee you are getting the best qualified applicants if you only appoint internally. As some one illustrated above, the district office is made up of nearly all appointees with relationships going back many years.

If the district would simply get rid of the policy of appointing people, and if there were checks to make sure hiring wasn't based on who you knew or worked for before (and a mechanism to allow those with conflicts of interests to recuse themselves from the hiring process) it would probably be in the best interest of the district and education. A point system based on years of experience, education, credentials, outside relevant experience, languages spoken, service to the community, etc would also seem prudent. That, after all, is what governs Federal hiring to a large degree. It just really makes me wonder WHY the district just isn't more open to conducting honest and open hiring practices.

If you've been around the district awhile, you would know that promotions via appointments are very much about rewarding loyalty and friendships over competence and even worse when it came to the last superintendent. No business would survive based on that type of selective hiring!


Posted by Scott Mc Ghee, a resident of Shoreline West
on May 22, 2012 at 10:10 am

In response to...

"Teacher", a resident of the Cuernavaca neighborhood, on May 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm

And I'm guessing that one of those eighth grade geometry classes is being taught by that same Graham math teacher that somehow has not been able to earn a credential in several years. Makes you wonder what he's teaching. The HR administrator has been hiding that for quite some time. Since you are good at research, you can go to the CCTC website and find out for yourself.

I found that above comment quite interesting. Yes, I am the real Scott Mc Ghee (notice the space in the last name). I am not "Scott E McGhee" who the search was placed on and my credentials were called into question. I have a single-subject math credential, and it expires in 2016. When you do the search, please leave the space between the c & G!

It makes me wonder why someone wants to slander me. Nothing to hide. Feel free to contact me directly at Graham Middle School. Now...back to the classroom.


Posted by MV Firefighter, a resident of Castro City
on May 22, 2012 at 12:46 pm

It's almost as bad as getting your yearly salary published as a public employee!


Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 22, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Sometimes I think the District's motto of "transparency" is to make a process invisible. There are several postings above that have good ideas on making administrative-level candidate selection more open and understandable. In a few cases mentioned above, the open positions were indeed put on a public jobs board (EdJoin).
Promote from within, and hire change from the outside, are mutually exclusive choices. Part of the problem (IMO) with this district is keeping a lot of information hidden. But another is just Sup. Goldman's inexperience with "communication", both the press release kind - and the formal public-input kind. With 5 administrative positions to fill - this may have been a bit much for a guy in his second year (to do, and to communicate).


Posted by Whisman Historian, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 23, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Let's see Ex-Whisman Superintendent Eve Bressler appointed Eleanor Yick to the district office who was later appointed Superintendent who appointed Stephanie Totter to the district office who then appointed Karen Robinson to principal of Crittendon in her last month in office. Totter was then appointed two more times up to Assistant Superintendent. And then Karen Robinson was appointed to take her place. The rest of the appointees have been detailed above.

So yes, there is definitely something to be said about this old ladies club appointing people without making them go through open and competitive hiring processes. It would appear to be who you know, not what you know in this city's school district. Public jobs they are anything but.


Posted by Nick, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Hrm... 60 people applied for the position, and they were "all excellent candidates" according to Goldman. Perhaps we're paying too much? Cut benefits and then don't ask for more money -- you'll still get enough excellent candidates.


Posted by Daddy-O, a resident of North Whisman
on May 29, 2012 at 10:31 am

I'm hoping we never hire another Rick Yee. That guy was all talk and no walk. I saw that guy show very inappropriate behavior with his girlfriend while in line at the nearby Raley's store. Grabbing and smacking your girlfriend while in line at the flower shop is just not appropriate, especially when you work with children. Also, making promises that you'll be visiting the kids in the classroom and flake is something kids never forget. I'm hoping Ms. Smith doesn't flake-out and show favoritism to one program than another. ESL is not the biggest need at the school right now, if you think that is, go and apply at Castro Elementary.


Posted by Huff Parent, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 1, 2012 at 11:47 pm

How about if we all just welcome the new principal and continue to press for transparency on all kinds of decisions that are made at the district office, including but hardly limited to hiring?


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