Local News

Monday, Apr 11 2011 05:39 PM

Lakeside district community cries foul over superintendent appointment

BY JORGE BARRIENTOS, Californian staff writer jbarrientos@bakersfield.com

Lakeside Union School District's board could appoint a new superintendent Tuesday for the two-school, K-8 district in southwest Bakersfield, and not everyone is happy about it.

Some parents and teachers claim the outgoing superintendent is deciding to promote a current Lakeside principal to lead the district without taking feedback from all stakeholders.

Nick Kouklis -- who is leaving Lakeside to be CEO of Self-Insured Schools of California, an insurance provider for most Kern County schools -- disagrees, saying potential pick Principal Gary Mullen is qualified, and he's advised the public of the superintendent opening since February.

Chris Bedell -- a Lakeside mother of four students, two of whom currently are educated by the district -- said memos sent by Kouklis to staff after a special meeting earlier this month are proof of miscommunication.

In it, Kouklis said he is "pleased to announce Gary Mullen" as the next superintendent. The next day, Kouklis sent another memo to staff stating the first memo was "premature," and that "the board has identified a preferred candidate" expected to be appointed after a contract is approved, according to the memo.

She claims district staffers are choosing someone they know, not who is best.

"I want what's in the best interest of the children, not necessarily of a few staff members," Bedell said.

Kouklis said Monday the district received 21 applications for the job, the board interviewed the top five, notified the public of meetings, handed out flyers, and will ultimately choose the best person for the job. Mullen, in the last 11 years, has been principal at both Lakeside and Suburu schools.

"It's gone like clockwork," Kouklis said. "Everything has been done by the book."

Lakeside Union's meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at Lakeside School, 14535 Old River Road.

In other school board meetings this week:

* Standard School District will review options Tuesday to reduce busing costs while maintaining safe routes for its elementary and middle school students. Currently, the Oildale-area, K-8 district spends nearly $500,000 to bus kids, and is only reimbursed for about a third. Standard runs 11 routes.

District staff will present two options, including increasing walking distances for students while considering routes near railroad tracks and highways. Concerns over possible changes include a drop in attendance with a reduction in bus routes.

The meeting will be 7 p.m. Tuesday at 1200 N. Chester Ave.

* Fruitvale School District's board will vote on sending out pink slip notices to six classified employees, including health assistants, a pre-kindergarten instructor and an aide and a warehouse worker. The reason is due to lack of work or lack of funds available, according to an agenda.

The board will also honor Math Counts winners and Honor Music Festival participants. And it will hold a hearing regarding initial proposals for next year's collective bargaining agreements with teachers and staff.

Fruitvale's meeting is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at 7311 Rosedale Highway.

* Panama-Buena Vista Union School District's board will vote on authorizing a waiver to the California Department of Education over attendance and instructional time missed due to the closure of Williams Elementary School. The campus closed March 22 after a sixth-grader brought a vial of mercury to school, which spilled. The district does not yet know how much the accident cost.

The board will also accept two $1,000 donations: from Simplot AgriBusiness for second grade fine arts, and from Nicholas and Celin Goodman for Red Coat Media. And in closed session, the board will discuss claims filed for damages and administrative appointments.

Panama's meeting will be at 7 p.m. at 4200 Ashe Road.

* Rosedale Union School District's board will vote on changing fog delays from three hours to two hours starting next school year. The meeting will be 7 p.m. Tuesday at 2553 Old Farm Road.

* In Greenfield Union School District's meeting, Superintendent Chris Crawford will give an update on a pilot program for all-day kindergarten for next school year. That program is expected to be at Kendrick and Planz elementary schools.

The meeting will be 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at 1624 Fairview Road.

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