The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees on Wednesday narrowly rejected a contract for an assistant superintendent position to oversee the district’s 16 elementary schools.
The move sparked tension among board members who earlier in the evening approved a timeline and salary range for recruiting for the district’s top leadership position.
Interim Superintendent Murry Schekman had asked the board to approve the contract for Claudia Monjaras to fill the vacant position of Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Instruction.
The position was vacated when former assistant superintendent Kasey Klappenback resigned.
The duties of that position are being carried by Lisa Aguerria, who as Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Instruction already oversees the middle and high schools.
“We need this position,” Schekman said.
Monjaras currently serves as Director of Curriculum and Instruction. She previously served as principal at Hall District Elementary School.
Schekman later praised Monjaras for her years of work with the district.
“The world has such respect for Ms. Monjaras’s work, from Hall District to whatever job she’s had,” he said.
Dan Weiser, who oversees the district’s technology department, called the assistant superintendent position “critical” to support the ever-evolving field of technology in schools.
“I think (Monjaras) really is the ideal person to take that role, and to really collaborate with all of us directors to make sure we are continuing to provide the best education for our students,” Weiser said.
In explaining her no vote, Trustee Georgia Acosta said she was reluctant to approve a three-year contract before a new superintendent is hired. Michelle Rodriguez left the position in June.
Instead, Acosta said, the new superintendent should be given the option of selecting their own cabinet.
“I just really struggle with an interim superintendent making what is essentially a three-year contract for another incoming superintendent,” she said.
Trustee Adam Scow agreed, and added that allowing that choice could be an incentive for potential candidates. He also suggested making the assistant superintendent position interim.
Schekman said that if Monjaras accepted an interim position—and it did not work out—she would not have the option to return to her former job.
Board President Jen Holm pointed out that other board members have in the past said they want to see cabinet members come from within the district.
“We have a qualified candidate before us who comes from within our district, and I’m struggling with reconciling that … now we’re seeing support for outside candidates?” she said.
Trustee Kim De Serpa said that Aguerria’s workload is not sustainable.
“Having Claudia in this position is really important now,” she said.
De Serpa also criticized the suggestion of making the position an interim one.
“Who would take a job like that … to only be guaranteed a job until June 30?” she said. “This is her career. This is ridiculous; nobody would accept that offer.”
Schekman agreed to return the discussion of offering to the next board meeting but had a warning for the board.
“Any potential superintendent candidate watching this just now, I don’t think that motivated them to throw their hat in the ring,” he said.
In other action, the trustees approved a timeline and a salary range for the ongoing superintendent search, with a community survey to last from Nov. 7-17.
The community survey is part of a timeline approved Wednesday by the district’s Board of Trustees. The schedule also includes reaching out to community groups and nonprofits.
Leadership Associates, the company hired by the district in August, will recruit candidates from Dec. 4-Jan. 8, with a Jan. 12 application deadline.
The board is scheduled to approve the final choice in March.
The new superintendent is scheduled to begin sometime in the first half of 2024.
Also during the Wednesday meeting, the trustees approved a tentative base salary range of $225,000-$250,000 to offer potential applicants.
Those numbers do not include benefits such as medical insurance and vehicle stipends.
The trustees will further discuss the assistant superintendent issue at their Sept. 27 meeting.