OC Political

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Posts Tagged ‘Orange County Superintendent of Schools’

Strange Requirement for Applicants to Be Appointed as the New Elected Superintendent of Schools

Posted by Chris Nguyen on May 4, 2012

Seal of the Orange County Department of EducationI was reading the information about the application for Orange County Superintendent of Schools, and I found a rather odd requirement in the application process.  I’ve excerpted three key paragraphs and bolded the odd requirement.

The first paragraph reads:

“William M. Habermehl has announced his retirement as Orange County Superintendent of Schools effective June 29, 2012.  A successor will be appointed by the County Board of Education to complete the term which expires on January 5, 2015 at 12:00 noon. The successful applicant will be expected to run for the office at the end of the appointed term. The election will take place in June 2014.”

The final two paragraphs read:

“Candidates must submit a resume accompanied by no more than three letters of reference along with a written commitment to run for the office at the end of the appointed term, to Richard Nagle, Selection Consultant, Orange County Board of Education at 200 Kalmus Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92626, no later than 12:00 p.m., Thursday, May 24, 2012. All resumes, letters of reference, and a written commitment to run must be on file by the deadline date. Resumes, letters of reference, and a written commitment to run not received by May 24, 2012 at 12:00 p.m. will not be accepted regardless of postmark date. Resumes, letters of reference, and the written commitment to run will be public information and available for review during normal business hours at the County office located at 200 Kalmus Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92626.

Resumes, letters of reference, and the written commitment to run, will be reviewed by two Board members designated by the Orange County Board of Education. Those candidates who successfully complete the initial screening process and are recommended for interviews will be sent a candidate packet by May 30, 2012. The Board will interview the identified candidates in public on staring on June 6, 2012. If necessary, the process may continue on June 7, 2012. The Board may make its appointment and determine compensation on either date. The successful applicant will be expected to run for the office of the county superintendent at the end of the appointed term. The election will take place in June 2014. The candidate who prevails in the election will assume office on January 5, 2015 at 12:00 noon.”

Obviously, the Orange County Board of Education does not want to appoint a caretaker.  What is truly odd is the demand that the applicant must commit in writing to seek election to a full four-year term to the post.  Why not have candidates commit in writing to serve the full four-year term when they seek election to the post?

Like his yet-to-be-named successor, Habermehl gained the elected Superintendent post via appointment.  In February 2001, Superintendent John F. Dean announced his resignation, effective April 2001, even though his term did not expire until January 2003.  Then-Associate Superintendent Habermehl was appointed to replace his boss, Superintendent Dean, in a 4-0 vote.  At the time, Elizabeth Parker called Dean’s resignation a “selfless act” to allow the board to name his replacement, instead of leaving it to the voters to name his replacement.  Ken Williams abstained on the Habermehl appointment expressing his concern that the appointment would give Habermehl an unfair advantage with the power of incumbency without ever having run for the post.  (Parker and Williams are still on the board, but the other three members of the board are no longer in office.)

This appointment by the board with a pledge to run is reminiscent of El Dedazo used by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional or Institutional Revolutionary Party.  (The PRI, which held the Mexican Presidency for seven decades, allowed the incumbent president to appoint his party’s nominee to be the next president, who would invariably win the presidency.  The PRI stopped using El Dadazo in 1999, and promptly lost the 2000 presidential election, allowing another party to win the presidency for the first time in 72 years.)

If the Orange County Board of Education keeps appointing people to fill the post of Superintendent of Schools, instead of leaving it to the voters, perhaps, it is time for the post to be appointed, rather than elected, because the election is a farce.  The boards of local school districts all  appoint their superintendents.  The Los Angeles County Board of Education and San Diego County Board of Education both appoint their departments’ superintendents.

Government Code Sections 24000(k) and 24009(b) together permit the  Board of Supervisors to place a measure on the ballot to make the County Superintendent of Schools an appointed post.  The Orange County Board of Supervisors has already placed Measure A on the ballot to make the Orange County Public Administrator an appointed post, so in the next election, they could just as easily place a measure on the ballot to make the County Superintendent of Schools an appointed post.

(In the interest of full disclosure, Custom Campaigns is doing the consulting work on the County Board of Education campaigns of Ken Williams and Robert Hammond.  I have not discussed the Habermehl replacement process with either candidate since the news only broke yesterday.)

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