School Board nearly gives Cathey the job; trustees opt for better transparency to the public By Steven Tavares
San Leandro Interim Superintendent Cindy Cathey received a new contract through June 2011. The San Leandro School Board unanimously approved Cathey’s contract, but did not remove the interim tag. After a bit of uncertainty late Wednesday night, the board postponed officially hiring Cathey, who replaced the fired Christine Lim in January, to allow for more transparency.

The agenda item for Wednesday’s meeting listed Cathey’s contract extension, but did not specifically mention any change in her job title. Board Trustee Morgan Mack-Rose offered to amend a resolution by deleting “interim” from the motion and fellow Trustee Diana Prola agreed, until Trustee Pauline Cutter objected.

“Here we go again,” Cutter said. “I would think in something as serious as the hiring and firing of a superintendent that we would give the public a little bit of notice.” Although Cutter said she believe Cathey deserves the job, she said “It don’t think we’re being transparent.”

Trustee Carmen Sullivan, alluding to past criticism of the board’s handling of Lim’s dismissal said, “Considering the public requesting to have input, we need to consider that voice and give the opportunity to hear it.”

Prola urged the board to remove the interim tag from Cathey’s title saying the motion did not change the length or terms of contract. “Give her the authority to do the things she needs to do,” said Prola. “I don’t think anybody will be surprised by this.”

Trustee Hermy Almonte agreed with holding off any vote on Cathey’s title until another meeting, but went further asking the board to consider extending the contract to three years. The prospect of Cathey becoming the next superintendent of the San Leandro Unified School District appears to be a certainty as earlier as the next board meeting later his month. In the meantime, Mack-Rose said, “I am not advocating an extensive public input process between now and the next public meeting.”

Many residents were highly critical of the board’s cloaked actions regarding the dismissal of former superintendent Lim at the end of last year. The board, led by President Mike Katz framed the issue as a private personnel issue, disallowing any official knowledge of Lim’s demise. The board also committed what some have said is a violation of the Brown Act when it voted on Lim’s firing in closed session in December, but did not notifiy the public of their decision until the next month.