First day of school at Jefferson Elementary, 2019.

I am excited for the future of Cloverdale schools. It may seem like a strange time to say such a thing with so much uncertainty about when or how schools will start up again. For the families who have been struggling to balance distance learning and work — remote work, essential work or worst of all, no work — it has seemed like there is no end to the bad news in sight. Our community should not underestimate how hard this COVID-19 experience has been on the 72% of Cloverdale households who are families with children.

The teachers of Cloverdale schools have worked heroically to transition to distance learning with no advance warning. While nothing is perfect, by many accounts, Cloverdale schools have succeeded where other schools have not. Nearly all students have been connected to the internet and provided equipment and lessons tailored to an online education.

While we were all struggling at home, we heard that a member of the school Board of Trustees was resigning. Soon after, on April 22, we read with great dismay, that our longest serving Cloverdale Unified School District superintendent in recent memory, someone with great enthusiasm for Cloverdale, was leaving us for another district. It seemed like just one tough thing after another during a very difficult time for our town’s schools and families.

And that is when the heart and soul of Cloverdale really shown brightly. Five people put forth their names offering to serve the schools and the community as a Cloverdale Unified School District (CUSD) Board Trustee. During an unprecedented pandemic and with certain traumatic school budget troubles, five people saw they had the energy and interest to help lead our families and community through to the other side.

With the CUSD Board of Trustees once again whole, they turned to the tough task of finding an administrator to implement theirs and the voters’ vision of Cloverdale schools being the best school system it can be. Thanks should be given to them for all their time on this task. In particular to Chair Jacque Garrison and Trustee Preston Addison who decided to take on all of the work associated with a superintendent search on their own time, without having to pay a consultant the $20-$35,000 to find the applicants. They say they spent 100 hours each on the task, but it was surely double that.

With the urgent need to have an administrator ready to go in July to help the district navigate the rapidly changing pandemic guidance and volatile State budget projections, the recruitment was open only a short time. After receiving applications, the next step was a screening interview with a panel representing a wide range of school interests including students, administrative, certified and classified staff. I was asked to serve as a parent representative with an outsider’s perspective, someone who doesn’t understand the world or language of running a school district. I didn’t realize at the time that I agreed that it would end up being two really full days of in-person interviews.

I took away three things from the interviews. First, everyone conducting the interviews loves Cloverdale. Each person is completely devoted to the students, teachers and staff that are the heart and soul of Cloverdale Unified. Second, it was going to be a tough decision for the board to pick a new superintendent because the quality of candidates and the depth of choice was, to my surprise, unexpectedly high. Third, several of the candidates genuinely expressed that they were applying only because they wanted to work for Cloverdale’s schools, not because they were looking for a job. Cloverdale and its schools are the attraction.   

After conducting their own thorough review process, the Board of Trustees selected Cloverdale’s new school superintendent, Betha MacClain, to assist them in leading Cloverdale’s schools through the difficult months ahead. And with that exciting choice completed, the Cloverdale Unified School District is ready to proceed to advance through to the other side of these troubles. It won’t be easy. If we employ patience, kindness, and lots of honest communication, and with the energy of our Trustees, Cloverdale school teachers, staff and parents, we will continue the good work that has occurred to make Cloverdale Unified such a wonderful small-town school system.

Our schools are the heart and soul of Cloverdale, attracting hard working families and supporting the larger economic health of the town. So many Cloverdale residents recognize this, and know that the kids all need our help now more than ever. Together we will all nurture our schools, and our town, so that they will survive through the pandemic and prosper into the future that lays on the other side.

Joanne Parker is the president of the Cloverdale Adds Resources for Education (CARE) Foundation, and a Cloverdale parent.

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