Interim Superintendent Hired

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The Davis Joint Unified School District moved very quickly to replace the “retiring” Superintendent David Murphy. The school board hired J. Richard Whitmore of Lafeyette, California as interim superintendent.

According to the announcement,

Interim Superintendent Whitmore served as Chief Deputy Superintendent at the California Department of Education under State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin. In that capacity, he was the chief operating officer of the agency responsible for California’s public education system. During his tenure there, he oversaw fiscal and academic accountability for school districts throughout California.

He became a recognized voice on school finance policy in California, and has provided advice and counsel to a variety of constituents over the past decade. He also led the state department’s efforts to develop accountability systems. He led a strategic planning effort that resulted in the creation of the Superintendent’s “Challenge Standards,” which became the foundation for California’s new standards-based curriculum adopted by the Standards Commission.

Interim Superintendent Whitmore is also a long-time leader in his local school community in Lafayette, serving on the Governing Board of the Acalanes Union High School District, and participating in the Lafayette School District’s recent strategic planning process. He spent four years working in higher education, at Stanford University, where he staffed the President’s strategic planning effort and managed the University’s real estate and faculty housing programs.

When Superintendent Murphy announced he was stepping down, the plan seemed to be that Superintendent Murphy would step down immediately as Superintendent, the board would hire an interim Superintendent, and Murphy would work behind the scenes to facilitate the transition while the school board appointed a search committee to conduct outreach to find a permanent replacement.

However, according to some sources, that plan has changed. Superintendent Murphy is instead stepping down almost immediately with his final day being a week from Friday. This rather sudden departure fuels the continued speculation that rather than retiring, Mr. Murphy has indeed been terminated by the school board. Since this is a personnel matter and the board cannot comment on such matters, this remains only speculation at this point—but speculation fueled by a number of strong pieces of evidence.

Former school board member Joan Sallee was quoted last week as saying:

“I was deeply saddened to hear of Murphy’s retirement. … I am very sorry that the current school board did not see fit to retain his services. The district has suffered a grievous loss, at a time when we can least afford it.”

Furthermore, given Mr. Whitmore’s very strong background there is speculation that Mr. Whitmore himself will eventually become the permanent Superintendent.

Board President Jim Provenza called Whitmore, “a leader who excels in managing both the education of children and business and financial operations that are so crucial to school districts.”

Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin speaks very highly of Mr. Whitmore. According to The Davis Enterprise:

During his years with the state, Whitmore worked closely with then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, a Davis resident who attended Monday night’s meeting of the Davis school board. Eastin called Whitmore “an inspired choice for interim superintendent” in Davis, and added, “I can think of no finer education leader.”

“His extraordinary intelligence, integrity and administrative skills will serve this great district very well indeed,” Eastin said. “Richard will work closely with his board and his staff, keeping them engaged and well-informed.”

Whether or not Interim Superintendent Whitmore ends up being the permanent Superintendent, the district is in desperate need of fresh and strong new leadership to face a broad array of challenges. One of those challenges is with declining enrollment. This has led to a task force recommendation to close Valley Oak Elementary School. This recommendation has led to a firestorm of controversy.

In addition there has been several recent financial irregularities particularly involving King High and also concerning the former deputy superintendent for business Tahir Ahad who founded an educational consulting firm while employed with the DJUSD. He in turn recruited many fellow district employees to join him at the firm all the while everyone of them continued their full time employment with the district. This “moonlighting” by senior and middle management district employees resulted in them not doing their district jobs full time yet they received full time pay.

Furthermore, the former deputy superintendent for business Tahir Ahad was allowed to do much of his district work from his home office where he actually focused most of his time on his start-up business resulting in shoddy work product for the district and causing it to lose grant monies in the millions of dollars. The new school board put an end to this and has pushed for a new and comprehensive conflict of interest code to prevent this type of conduct from ever occurring again.

Finally, the harassment of a junior high school student has led to lawsuits and a renewed call for tougher standards against bullying and harassment which the new school board has taken to heart forcing the school administration to write a tough new harassment policy. Superintendent Murphy allowed all of this malfeasance to occur on his watch and this eventually led to his “forced” departure by the new school board.

If indeed Mr. Whitmore ends up the new superintendent, it is our hope that he will act quickly to help clean house and make changes that are desperately needed in terms of new blood and ideas in the administration.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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36 thoughts on “Interim Superintendent Hired”

  1. Davisite

    The fired Ark. US attorney publicly ruminated yesterday, at the Senate hearing on mass firings of US attorneys, about rethinking his decision to temporarily stay on at his job . He thought that it made for a “wierd” situation that was not good for the department he headed up. I think that this could be the reasoning behind Murphy and the School Board changing the plan for him to stay on after his “retirement”.

  2. Davisite

    The fired Ark. US attorney publicly ruminated yesterday, at the Senate hearing on mass firings of US attorneys, about rethinking his decision to temporarily stay on at his job . He thought that it made for a “wierd” situation that was not good for the department he headed up. I think that this could be the reasoning behind Murphy and the School Board changing the plan for him to stay on after his “retirement”.

  3. Davisite

    The fired Ark. US attorney publicly ruminated yesterday, at the Senate hearing on mass firings of US attorneys, about rethinking his decision to temporarily stay on at his job . He thought that it made for a “wierd” situation that was not good for the department he headed up. I think that this could be the reasoning behind Murphy and the School Board changing the plan for him to stay on after his “retirement”.

  4. Davisite

    The fired Ark. US attorney publicly ruminated yesterday, at the Senate hearing on mass firings of US attorneys, about rethinking his decision to temporarily stay on at his job . He thought that it made for a “wierd” situation that was not good for the department he headed up. I think that this could be the reasoning behind Murphy and the School Board changing the plan for him to stay on after his “retirement”.

  5. Doug Paul Davis

    I suspect that when the decision was made they had no idea of the caliber of individual they would be able to get immediately and that probably played a large role in the change of plans. That is just a guess however.

  6. Anonymous

    The new school board has done an excellent job addressing the malfeasance and misfeasance of the David Murphy administration. Whether it was the financial irregularities, conflict of interest, nepotism, moonlighting, failure to address bullying and harassment or just plain bureaucratic inaction Murphy long ago exhibited incompetence but was allowed to continue in his job by the previous board majority which became his servant and apologist instead of being an advocate and watchdog for the citizens, parents and children the district was meant to serve.

  7. Doug Paul Davis

    I suspect that when the decision was made they had no idea of the caliber of individual they would be able to get immediately and that probably played a large role in the change of plans. That is just a guess however.

  8. Anonymous

    The new school board has done an excellent job addressing the malfeasance and misfeasance of the David Murphy administration. Whether it was the financial irregularities, conflict of interest, nepotism, moonlighting, failure to address bullying and harassment or just plain bureaucratic inaction Murphy long ago exhibited incompetence but was allowed to continue in his job by the previous board majority which became his servant and apologist instead of being an advocate and watchdog for the citizens, parents and children the district was meant to serve.

  9. Doug Paul Davis

    I suspect that when the decision was made they had no idea of the caliber of individual they would be able to get immediately and that probably played a large role in the change of plans. That is just a guess however.

  10. Anonymous

    The new school board has done an excellent job addressing the malfeasance and misfeasance of the David Murphy administration. Whether it was the financial irregularities, conflict of interest, nepotism, moonlighting, failure to address bullying and harassment or just plain bureaucratic inaction Murphy long ago exhibited incompetence but was allowed to continue in his job by the previous board majority which became his servant and apologist instead of being an advocate and watchdog for the citizens, parents and children the district was meant to serve.

  11. Doug Paul Davis

    I suspect that when the decision was made they had no idea of the caliber of individual they would be able to get immediately and that probably played a large role in the change of plans. That is just a guess however.

  12. Anonymous

    The new school board has done an excellent job addressing the malfeasance and misfeasance of the David Murphy administration. Whether it was the financial irregularities, conflict of interest, nepotism, moonlighting, failure to address bullying and harassment or just plain bureaucratic inaction Murphy long ago exhibited incompetence but was allowed to continue in his job by the previous board majority which became his servant and apologist instead of being an advocate and watchdog for the citizens, parents and children the district was meant to serve.

  13. Rich Rifkin

    “Furthermore, given Mr. Whitmore’s very strong background there is speculation that Mr. Whitmore himself will eventually become the permanent Superintendent.”

    It surprised me yesterday to find out that the Board so quickly hired the interim superintendent. That made me wonder: are there lists of men and women who are permanent interim school administrators, ready to fill in at the drop of the hat? And was Whitmore just one of the people on this list?

    I know this is the usual practice in city administration. When a city manager quits or is fired, it is common to hire an outside “consultant,” who will step in at the drop of a hat and run your city until a permanent candidate is fired. My uncle, who was for about 40 years the city manager of Chico, does this sort of thing in his dotage.

    It seems like Whitmore fills this profile. He might stay in Davis. But with his resume, he could have already had a full-time superintendent gig elsewhere, if that’s what he wanted.

  14. Rich Rifkin

    “Furthermore, given Mr. Whitmore’s very strong background there is speculation that Mr. Whitmore himself will eventually become the permanent Superintendent.”

    It surprised me yesterday to find out that the Board so quickly hired the interim superintendent. That made me wonder: are there lists of men and women who are permanent interim school administrators, ready to fill in at the drop of the hat? And was Whitmore just one of the people on this list?

    I know this is the usual practice in city administration. When a city manager quits or is fired, it is common to hire an outside “consultant,” who will step in at the drop of a hat and run your city until a permanent candidate is fired. My uncle, who was for about 40 years the city manager of Chico, does this sort of thing in his dotage.

    It seems like Whitmore fills this profile. He might stay in Davis. But with his resume, he could have already had a full-time superintendent gig elsewhere, if that’s what he wanted.

  15. Rich Rifkin

    “Furthermore, given Mr. Whitmore’s very strong background there is speculation that Mr. Whitmore himself will eventually become the permanent Superintendent.”

    It surprised me yesterday to find out that the Board so quickly hired the interim superintendent. That made me wonder: are there lists of men and women who are permanent interim school administrators, ready to fill in at the drop of the hat? And was Whitmore just one of the people on this list?

    I know this is the usual practice in city administration. When a city manager quits or is fired, it is common to hire an outside “consultant,” who will step in at the drop of a hat and run your city until a permanent candidate is fired. My uncle, who was for about 40 years the city manager of Chico, does this sort of thing in his dotage.

    It seems like Whitmore fills this profile. He might stay in Davis. But with his resume, he could have already had a full-time superintendent gig elsewhere, if that’s what he wanted.

  16. Rich Rifkin

    “Furthermore, given Mr. Whitmore’s very strong background there is speculation that Mr. Whitmore himself will eventually become the permanent Superintendent.”

    It surprised me yesterday to find out that the Board so quickly hired the interim superintendent. That made me wonder: are there lists of men and women who are permanent interim school administrators, ready to fill in at the drop of the hat? And was Whitmore just one of the people on this list?

    I know this is the usual practice in city administration. When a city manager quits or is fired, it is common to hire an outside “consultant,” who will step in at the drop of a hat and run your city until a permanent candidate is fired. My uncle, who was for about 40 years the city manager of Chico, does this sort of thing in his dotage.

    It seems like Whitmore fills this profile. He might stay in Davis. But with his resume, he could have already had a full-time superintendent gig elsewhere, if that’s what he wanted.

  17. Anonymous

    I think that it is an assumption that Mr. Whitmore will stay on to be the new supervisor. Unless David Murphy anticipated his departure a while ago and started looking around for a replacement for the district. If this is the case, then David is commended for not having this wierd lame duck period with him leaving but still around and the district searching for an interim.

    Please remember that David is not leaving Davis. His kids are still in school here and he has a vested interest (in a very personal way) in the health of the district. He and his family will still be part of the Davis community. He isn’t fleeing, like other other high level administrators have, nor is he flinging blame about, like other people who have left.

    Let’s be positive and start focusing on what qualities and qualifications that we would like to see in a Superintendent.

    If the slow to correct harrassment is a primary issue, it would be better to focus on wanting someone with ideas on how to better discipline the kids responsible.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about it. One idea is a youth court at the High School where, under the supervision of a judge or commissioner, the students would hear from their peers what they think about the student’s behavior. The violation and the result could be reported in the school newspapers (without identifying information similar to the Judicial Council at UCD) This would reach and educate a broader number of students without needing a situation to blow up for people to hear about it. The administration could still suspend the student per School policies, but he/she would have to eventually answer to the Youth Court.

    Or develop a real temporary program for the offender that still keeps the student in Davis – maybe just a quarter or semester long, that has high academic expectations, along with counseling or guidance. Maybe it could be an afterschool program or it could be a stand-alone program. But something before the kids are expelled and end up at Midtown. These are just ideas.

    The financial fiasco seems to be brought under control, but the district may still be hiring replacements for the people who bailed. The new superintendent would need to be a successful manager and have a extremely good grasp of school district finances.

    I don’t know what lead to the accusation of nepotism.

    The Superintendent should live in the Davis community.

    Sharla Cheney Harrington

  18. Anonymous

    I think that it is an assumption that Mr. Whitmore will stay on to be the new supervisor. Unless David Murphy anticipated his departure a while ago and started looking around for a replacement for the district. If this is the case, then David is commended for not having this wierd lame duck period with him leaving but still around and the district searching for an interim.

    Please remember that David is not leaving Davis. His kids are still in school here and he has a vested interest (in a very personal way) in the health of the district. He and his family will still be part of the Davis community. He isn’t fleeing, like other other high level administrators have, nor is he flinging blame about, like other people who have left.

    Let’s be positive and start focusing on what qualities and qualifications that we would like to see in a Superintendent.

    If the slow to correct harrassment is a primary issue, it would be better to focus on wanting someone with ideas on how to better discipline the kids responsible.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about it. One idea is a youth court at the High School where, under the supervision of a judge or commissioner, the students would hear from their peers what they think about the student’s behavior. The violation and the result could be reported in the school newspapers (without identifying information similar to the Judicial Council at UCD) This would reach and educate a broader number of students without needing a situation to blow up for people to hear about it. The administration could still suspend the student per School policies, but he/she would have to eventually answer to the Youth Court.

    Or develop a real temporary program for the offender that still keeps the student in Davis – maybe just a quarter or semester long, that has high academic expectations, along with counseling or guidance. Maybe it could be an afterschool program or it could be a stand-alone program. But something before the kids are expelled and end up at Midtown. These are just ideas.

    The financial fiasco seems to be brought under control, but the district may still be hiring replacements for the people who bailed. The new superintendent would need to be a successful manager and have a extremely good grasp of school district finances.

    I don’t know what lead to the accusation of nepotism.

    The Superintendent should live in the Davis community.

    Sharla Cheney Harrington

  19. Anonymous

    I think that it is an assumption that Mr. Whitmore will stay on to be the new supervisor. Unless David Murphy anticipated his departure a while ago and started looking around for a replacement for the district. If this is the case, then David is commended for not having this wierd lame duck period with him leaving but still around and the district searching for an interim.

    Please remember that David is not leaving Davis. His kids are still in school here and he has a vested interest (in a very personal way) in the health of the district. He and his family will still be part of the Davis community. He isn’t fleeing, like other other high level administrators have, nor is he flinging blame about, like other people who have left.

    Let’s be positive and start focusing on what qualities and qualifications that we would like to see in a Superintendent.

    If the slow to correct harrassment is a primary issue, it would be better to focus on wanting someone with ideas on how to better discipline the kids responsible.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about it. One idea is a youth court at the High School where, under the supervision of a judge or commissioner, the students would hear from their peers what they think about the student’s behavior. The violation and the result could be reported in the school newspapers (without identifying information similar to the Judicial Council at UCD) This would reach and educate a broader number of students without needing a situation to blow up for people to hear about it. The administration could still suspend the student per School policies, but he/she would have to eventually answer to the Youth Court.

    Or develop a real temporary program for the offender that still keeps the student in Davis – maybe just a quarter or semester long, that has high academic expectations, along with counseling or guidance. Maybe it could be an afterschool program or it could be a stand-alone program. But something before the kids are expelled and end up at Midtown. These are just ideas.

    The financial fiasco seems to be brought under control, but the district may still be hiring replacements for the people who bailed. The new superintendent would need to be a successful manager and have a extremely good grasp of school district finances.

    I don’t know what lead to the accusation of nepotism.

    The Superintendent should live in the Davis community.

    Sharla Cheney Harrington

  20. Anonymous

    I think that it is an assumption that Mr. Whitmore will stay on to be the new supervisor. Unless David Murphy anticipated his departure a while ago and started looking around for a replacement for the district. If this is the case, then David is commended for not having this wierd lame duck period with him leaving but still around and the district searching for an interim.

    Please remember that David is not leaving Davis. His kids are still in school here and he has a vested interest (in a very personal way) in the health of the district. He and his family will still be part of the Davis community. He isn’t fleeing, like other other high level administrators have, nor is he flinging blame about, like other people who have left.

    Let’s be positive and start focusing on what qualities and qualifications that we would like to see in a Superintendent.

    If the slow to correct harrassment is a primary issue, it would be better to focus on wanting someone with ideas on how to better discipline the kids responsible.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about it. One idea is a youth court at the High School where, under the supervision of a judge or commissioner, the students would hear from their peers what they think about the student’s behavior. The violation and the result could be reported in the school newspapers (without identifying information similar to the Judicial Council at UCD) This would reach and educate a broader number of students without needing a situation to blow up for people to hear about it. The administration could still suspend the student per School policies, but he/she would have to eventually answer to the Youth Court.

    Or develop a real temporary program for the offender that still keeps the student in Davis – maybe just a quarter or semester long, that has high academic expectations, along with counseling or guidance. Maybe it could be an afterschool program or it could be a stand-alone program. But something before the kids are expelled and end up at Midtown. These are just ideas.

    The financial fiasco seems to be brought under control, but the district may still be hiring replacements for the people who bailed. The new superintendent would need to be a successful manager and have a extremely good grasp of school district finances.

    I don’t know what lead to the accusation of nepotism.

    The Superintendent should live in the Davis community.

    Sharla Cheney Harrington

  21. Richard

    SAH: these are good ideas, and, interestingly enough, not very different from ones suggested by Agnes Johnson, as they actually empower students to take responsibility for their own educational environment, but, unfortunately, it is difficult for any hierarchical institution to move in such a direction

    –Richard Estes

  22. Richard

    SAH: these are good ideas, and, interestingly enough, not very different from ones suggested by Agnes Johnson, as they actually empower students to take responsibility for their own educational environment, but, unfortunately, it is difficult for any hierarchical institution to move in such a direction

    –Richard Estes

  23. Richard

    SAH: these are good ideas, and, interestingly enough, not very different from ones suggested by Agnes Johnson, as they actually empower students to take responsibility for their own educational environment, but, unfortunately, it is difficult for any hierarchical institution to move in such a direction

    –Richard Estes

  24. Richard

    SAH: these are good ideas, and, interestingly enough, not very different from ones suggested by Agnes Johnson, as they actually empower students to take responsibility for their own educational environment, but, unfortunately, it is difficult for any hierarchical institution to move in such a direction

    –Richard Estes

  25. Anonymous

    How do you retire and get paid $13,000/month to do nothing? I guess the school board is mimicing what the University did with Celeste Rose.

    It certainly answers the question about retiring or firing. If you retire, you retire, you don’t say I don’t want to work here anymore but want to get paid for the next year. If you are asked to leave and you have a fat contract you say I have this fat contract and I will go quietly if you pay me off. This I infer is what happened.

    So the district is stuck paying off about 40% of what it would cost to keep Valley Oak open so that everyone is spared the nastiness of a fight between the trustees and the superintendent. I guess the students who are to be the beneficiaries of the trustees and their administrators are the losers. It does call into question their fiduciary responsibilities.

    Still I don’t blame the current board. They are just the ones stuck with the bill after losing confidence with their executive. I think the problem lies with the people who extended the superintendents contract too far into the future and well after their tenure expired. I think that is the lesson here, a board that is going out should not tie the hands of the new board coming in beyond providing continuity of leadership during the transition. If the superintendent had a contract that was a year shorter the community and the incoming board would have been better served and saved a lot of money.

  26. Anonymous

    How do you retire and get paid $13,000/month to do nothing? I guess the school board is mimicing what the University did with Celeste Rose.

    It certainly answers the question about retiring or firing. If you retire, you retire, you don’t say I don’t want to work here anymore but want to get paid for the next year. If you are asked to leave and you have a fat contract you say I have this fat contract and I will go quietly if you pay me off. This I infer is what happened.

    So the district is stuck paying off about 40% of what it would cost to keep Valley Oak open so that everyone is spared the nastiness of a fight between the trustees and the superintendent. I guess the students who are to be the beneficiaries of the trustees and their administrators are the losers. It does call into question their fiduciary responsibilities.

    Still I don’t blame the current board. They are just the ones stuck with the bill after losing confidence with their executive. I think the problem lies with the people who extended the superintendents contract too far into the future and well after their tenure expired. I think that is the lesson here, a board that is going out should not tie the hands of the new board coming in beyond providing continuity of leadership during the transition. If the superintendent had a contract that was a year shorter the community and the incoming board would have been better served and saved a lot of money.

  27. Anonymous

    How do you retire and get paid $13,000/month to do nothing? I guess the school board is mimicing what the University did with Celeste Rose.

    It certainly answers the question about retiring or firing. If you retire, you retire, you don’t say I don’t want to work here anymore but want to get paid for the next year. If you are asked to leave and you have a fat contract you say I have this fat contract and I will go quietly if you pay me off. This I infer is what happened.

    So the district is stuck paying off about 40% of what it would cost to keep Valley Oak open so that everyone is spared the nastiness of a fight between the trustees and the superintendent. I guess the students who are to be the beneficiaries of the trustees and their administrators are the losers. It does call into question their fiduciary responsibilities.

    Still I don’t blame the current board. They are just the ones stuck with the bill after losing confidence with their executive. I think the problem lies with the people who extended the superintendents contract too far into the future and well after their tenure expired. I think that is the lesson here, a board that is going out should not tie the hands of the new board coming in beyond providing continuity of leadership during the transition. If the superintendent had a contract that was a year shorter the community and the incoming board would have been better served and saved a lot of money.

  28. Anonymous

    How do you retire and get paid $13,000/month to do nothing? I guess the school board is mimicing what the University did with Celeste Rose.

    It certainly answers the question about retiring or firing. If you retire, you retire, you don’t say I don’t want to work here anymore but want to get paid for the next year. If you are asked to leave and you have a fat contract you say I have this fat contract and I will go quietly if you pay me off. This I infer is what happened.

    So the district is stuck paying off about 40% of what it would cost to keep Valley Oak open so that everyone is spared the nastiness of a fight between the trustees and the superintendent. I guess the students who are to be the beneficiaries of the trustees and their administrators are the losers. It does call into question their fiduciary responsibilities.

    Still I don’t blame the current board. They are just the ones stuck with the bill after losing confidence with their executive. I think the problem lies with the people who extended the superintendents contract too far into the future and well after their tenure expired. I think that is the lesson here, a board that is going out should not tie the hands of the new board coming in beyond providing continuity of leadership during the transition. If the superintendent had a contract that was a year shorter the community and the incoming board would have been better served and saved a lot of money.

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