Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Jon Gundry is leaving to become superintendent at the Santa Clara County Office of Education. He only lasted three years at PUSD.
The PUSD has not had a superintendent like Ray Cortines in a very long time. Of course, few are lucky to have a Cortines, who went on to the San Jose, San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles schools.
Ray is a living legend in Pasadena. He was known to visit schools unexpectedly. Sometimes he would literally climb through a window to observe a classroom in action.
Teachers were taken aback when they would see him there. Cortines wanted to make sure that teachers were teaching and that students were learning.
That is what Pasadena needs. A leader who is not afraid. A warrior.
Dr. Brian McDonald is the new interim superintentent. The PUSD Board of Education should make him the permanent superintendent so that he can begin his job with confidence and with a warrior-like mentality.
McDonald is ready and willing to take PUSD to the next level.
He has been in the classroom trenches and knows first-hand the needs of students and teachers.
He taught math at Lee High School in Houston, Texas. He was eventually promoted to be assistant principal and then became an elementary school principal.
He also served in various administrative positions. However, McDonald says that "teaching in the classroom was the most rewarding. Some of my students still keep in touch with me and many are now school teachers themselves."
We need to make McDonald welcomed and to feel at home in Pasadena. Eventually, we would like him to stay long-term to make significant structural changes that will ultimately benefit all students.
His leadership style is collaborative. He likes individuals to feel that they are part of the process to develop and implement educational goals. He is also a transparent leader who leads by example.
He loves literature and he requires his leadership team to read certain books, to analyze and discuss the subjects within each book. He likes his management team to discover who they are as leaders.
His goals are to continually improve public schools. He is happy that the Department of Education approved a $7.9 grant to help improve Eliot Middle School, Washington Elementary School, Washington Middle School and Jackson Elementary School.
McDonald knows that change is difficult to accept but he wants his team to be part of the positive changes that will be implemented.
He is aware that some do not welcome or want change but it is important. As the saying goes, "No pain, no gain." Administrators should welcome community feedback via e-mails or in person. Community members or PUSD employees should not operate under fear.
Employees and community members must be treated with dignity, respect and humanity.
In his short stint as deputy superintendent, McDonald is proud of what Pasadena Unified School District has begun to achieve. He invites parents or community members who are skeptical to come and visit the various public schools within PUSD.
He would like for them to see the facts for themselves and to be aware of the improvements that are being achieved.
Being a superintendent is a very challenging job since parents, students, teachers, substitute teachers, administrators, unions, internal and external special-interest groups are always vying for the attention and support from the superintendent.
He wants to continue to build bridges and to continue working closely with the city of Pasadena.
Since some of us have been in the trenches of the classroom, we want a strong PUSD superintendent. A superintendent who will stick around long-term.
One that will eventually be seen by students as an accessible leader and a positive role model.
I have a gut feeling that McDonald will stick around.
However, the Board of Education and community must help to build up McDonald. To support his innovative ideas and to help build up Pasadena Unified School District.
Our students deserve a top-notch superintendent who will fight for them and that will make decisions that are in the best interest of all students.
We need a leader with humanity. Welcome to Pasadena, Dr. McDonald.
Randy Jurado Ertll is author of the "The Life of an Activist: In the Frontlines 24/7." His website is www.randyjuradoertll.com