Superintendent Roberson Believed to Have Accepted a Position with Glendale School District

Superintendent Winfred Roberson at a 2014 press conference
Superintendent Winfred Roberson at a 2014 press conference

On Wednesday afternoon, Davis Joint Unified sent out a statement from Board President Madhavi Sunder, noting, “We have learned that Glendale Unified School District has released a statement indicating that their Board of Education has approved extending an offer of employment to Winfred Roberson to serve as the Superintendent in that district.”

Ms. Sunder added, “While the offer has not been finalized, we recognize the work of Superintendent Roberson has been admired in our region and beyond. Over the next few weeks, our Board will work closely with Superintendent Roberson to ensure there is a clear timeline and a plan for maintaining a strong leadership structure and consistent vision for Davis schools.“

This followed a noticed public announcement for the Glendale School District in Davis, stating that they would be “interviewing members of the public with reference to potential employment of an applicant for the position of Superintendent of Schools.”

On Wednesday they announced that they voted unanimously to extend a job offer to Winfred Roberson.

“The board is very excited about the opportunity for Winfred to bring his leadership and experience to Glendale Unified,” Board President Christine Walters said in a news release. “We believe that his vision and passion for public education will allow us to continue our tradition of excellence and to continue our work of preparing our students for their future.”

Mr. Roberson did not return a text message from the Vanguard on Wednesday evening.

The school board met in closed session on Sunday, January 24, at 8 am to discuss the Superintendent’s performance evaluation. The Vanguard was told by Board President Madhavi Sunder that there was no additional information to report following the meeting.

Performance evaluations are considered personnel matters which are confidential by law.

However, the impetus for that meeting was that the district and school board had been notified by Superintendent Winfred Roberson that he “has been named the preferred candidate for the superintendent position in a professional search by a school district in a different region,” Ms. Sunder told the Vanguard on Saturday.

Madhavi Sunder stated, “Over the last six years, our school district has advanced under Winfred Roberson’s leadership.”

The school board hired Winfred Roberson as Superintendent in June 2010 following the abrupt departure of previous Superintendent James Hammond, hired just three years prior. Mr. Roberson had no previous experience as Superintendent and had been hired to be principal at Davis High School just the year before, after serving as principal previously in another district.

Under Superintendent Roberson, we have seen the district transition from the emergency funding days of the great recession to more stable funding under an improving economy.

Last week, the district announced that it will receive $3 million in funding under the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), plus a one-time fund from Proposition 98. DJUSD has been disadvantaged under the LCFF, which puts much of its resources into an under-served population.

DJUSD under Winfred Roberson’s leadership passed additional parcel taxes and renewals in 2011, and twice in 2012. Last week, Mr. Roberson’s Associate Superintendent Bruce Colby noted that Davis is an “average-funded district,” despite the $530 that most homeowners pay in parcel taxes. The average school district receives $9200 per year in per-pupil funding, and Davis receives just under that at $9170. Without the parcel tax, the per-pupil funding level would drop to $7,922, they said.

The last two years have been punctuated with controversy. In 2014, a dispute over the handling of a volleyball coach’s VSA (Variable Services Agreement) and that volleyball coach’s treatment of a student-athlete exploded with a controversy that ultimately led to the resignation of school board member Nancy Peterson. Adding to the controversy was Ms. Peterson’s daughter, who was central to the dispute with the coach, the conflict of interest in Ms. Peterson’s intervention, and the district’s $22,000 legal expenditure on an investigation.

Ms. Peterson would be replaced by Alan Fernandes in May 2014 and, by November, it was an entirely new school board with the exception of holdover Susan Lovenburg

Meanwhile, last year, it was a policy dispute over the GATE program that captured parents’ and community attention. The Superintendent ultimately gained some consensus over a compromise that will phase in major changes to the size and qualifications of the long-standing but controversial program.

It is unclear if this marks the end of the era, what the timeline is for a decision, and how the board will proceed in a search. In 2007, following the retirement of long-serving Superintendent David Murphy, the board conducted an extensive search which led to young Superintendent James Hammond.

Three years later, it was a quick internal search that led the board to elevate Winfred Roberson to Superintendent.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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  1. Davis Progressive

    it looks like the next shoe has dropped.  i will be interested who they hire next – hopefully it will be a woman of color.  have we ever had a woman superintendent?

        1. Davis Progressive

          As someone who has literally hired or been part of dozens of hiring processes, there is never “best qualified.”  There is always a weighing of strengths and weaknesses among the top candidates.  It almost always comes down to a subjective judgment call.

        2. Barack Palin

          There’s always a best qualified, those qualities may be about many different things, not only education and experience.

          Do you think best qualified should also include one’s race, sexual preference or gender?

        3. Davis Progressive

          i disagree that there is always a best qualified.  a lot of it is subjective in what you’re looking  for.

          “Do you think best qualified should also include one’s race, sexual preference or gender?”

          i would state “could” not “should” depending on the position and what you’re looking for.

        4. Barack Palin

          “Do you think best qualified should also include one’s race, sexual preference or gender?”
          i would state “could” not “should” depending on the position and what you’re looking for.

          Hello?  The conversation is about a co-ed school system, not a female only institution where your statement might have merit.

          i disagree that there is always a best qualified.  a lot of it is subjective in what you’re looking  for.

          Wrong, there’s always a best qualified even if there’s some subjective traits that the hirers are looking for.  But in this instance where it’s a co-ed school system the applicant’s race, gender and sexual preference shouldn’t be part of those subjective preferences.

      1. DavisAnon

        Barack Palin has the right idea. Let’s do a wide search (i.e. national, not internal) and find the best person we can for the job, not just play politics. Male, female, transgender, other, whatever shade of skin color, but let’s hire the person who has the critical thinking skills, training, experience, work ethic, and dedication to provide the best education we can for each and every child.

        1. Barack Palin

          I doubt they’ll get two people who are exactly equally qualified. But if that were to happen I’m sure there will be something that makes one stand out over the other and shouldn’t be determined by race, gender or sexual preference.

          How would you decide among equally qualified applicants Don Shor?

        2. Davis Progressive

          Barack: how many people have you hired over the years?  how do you determine who is “best” qualified?  Do you have objective standards?  How would that work in hiring a superintendent?

        3. Barack Palin

          Do you have objective standards? 

          Yes I do because my selection wouldn’t be based on gender, race or sexual preference.

          How about you, would you have objective standards?

          Your quote makes me wonder:

          hopefully it will be a woman of color.


        4. Davis Progressive

          you ignored my question about how many people you’ve been involved hiring.  i don’t think you have objective standards, i think you go into an interviewing looking for the person whose background, experience, and other attributes will fit the best needs of the organization.  i think my views would differ from others.  that’s generally why you have a team of interviewers – precisely because there aren’t objective standards.

        5. Davis Progressive

          you’re missing the point.  my point is that the entire process is subjective, is there usually not one candidate who is the best and if there is, hire them.  but all else being equal, look for diversity.

        6. hpierce

          Well, first, I’d be sure that the criteria would include experience in “working and playing well with others” within and without the organization, and leadership skills (which may not be apparent in the submitted resume).  Litany of degrees earned, years of experience (1 year of experience repeated 20 times, vs. 15 years of progressive experience) are not so important.

          Hard to measure some of those without serious background checks.

          A lot of the former DJUSD superintendents lacked the ability to work and play well with others, particularly with the City of Davis.  We’ve already mentioned one, from years ago.  They were more focused on their career path, and/or keeping a low profile, than actual “service” to the school and larger communities.

          To answer one poster, I’m thinking if not a national search (which I doubt would have fantastic results), a multi-state regional one, and DEFINITELY a State wide one is appropriate.  Advertising in the Bee, Enterprise, Daily Democrat, here, and/or the employee bulletin boards will probably not yield a strongly qualified candidate.

    1. SlowSoDaMa

      We did try that; it was a disaster.  Her name was Eva Long. Not because she was a woman, not because she was a woman of color. Because those were her best qualifications. DJUSD needs to do a national search to find the best qualified candidate regardless of color or sex or ethnicity. We can’t expect school superintendents to stay forever. National searches are expensive and time consuming, but necessary.

        1. hpierce

          That was a disaster… the Board paid her to leave… buy out her contract as I recall… there was a year or so that DJUSD was paying two “superintendents”…

  2. SODA

    This whole story has seemed awkward from the start. Performance evaluation then indication he was being considered then Glendale folks interviewing Davis residents??

    BTW, I am continuing to have to log into DV repeatedly on iPhone. Anyone else?

  3. Misanthrop

    The last thing we need is a national search. Such a search is likely to be expensive at a time when the district is going to be asking the community to pony up a parcel tax renewal. Look no farther than the Co-Op to see that a national search can be a disaster. How about they fly it like any other job and see who applies before they spend a bunch of money. I bet they get more than enough qualified people. You demand a national search and we will end up with some California Schools Board Association vetted Broad Foundation hack with an Ed.D from some pay to play, for profit, diploma mill University. Exactly what we don’t need.

    Winfred who had only a single year as a principal before being promoted showed that its not that difficult a position to fill. What we need is someone with leadership ability who understands the needs of the community, both educationally and culturally and knows how to get things done. There is already such a person on staff and I hope they have the wisdom to at least put that person in charge as an interim.

    1. Davis Progressive

      “Winfred who had only a single year as a principal before being promoted showed that its not that difficult a position to fill.”

      not a difficult position to fill, the quality of that fill though is up for debate

      1. Misanthrop

        He had a lot to learn on the job but he managed to hang in there and get the parcel taxes through. Sure he wasn’t perfect, who is, but he had it together enough to get hired by a district three times bigger than Davis.

        The real question is why you think a big expensive search is going to get someone better than simply advertising the position and having the board sift through the candidates themselves? Wouldn’t it be prudent to at least try to save the money and see if anyone good applies. We have connected people in our community through our proximity to Sacramento and UC Davis. Its not like enough good people aren’t going to hear about the opportunity. You even pointed out that finding the best candidate is a judgement call depending on the needs of the community and the skills of the candidates. So why wouldn’t the school board, the elected representatives of the community want to be involved? Why would they want to let someone from outside the community do the vetting?

        1. Davis Progressive

          “Sure he wasn’t perfect, who is, but he had it together enough to get hired by a district three times bigger than Davis.”

          a lot of the people i have considered the worst officials have gone on to bigger and better jobs.  why?  that’s a good question.  there were good and bad things about the superintendent, that’s for sure.

  4. Tia Will

    I also do not see a compelling reason for a “nationwide search”. I have extensive experience with hiring over a ten year period and  feel that often the very best hires have been locals with whom we have direct experience. I am open minded on the issue however, and would like to hear the rationale behind the opinion that a nationwide search is needed.

  5. Frankly

    Fascinating debate going on here.

    Reading the posts of BP and DP, I can see clearly the race-biased verses color-blind merit-biased perspectives at play.

    DP says that all hiring is subjective… basically implying that all hiring decisions will be biased.

    BP says that this is bunk…

    I think BP is more right, but DP has a point.  The problem with DP is that he fails to understand that the “bias” in this case is using judgement to hire the person that is the best fit for the job.  Judgement IS bias… but it is bias based on an assessment of hundreds if not thousands of considerations.

    1. Barack Palin

      Frankly, what I got out of it is those that want to hire a certain race or gender would find ways to work the hiring process in order to slip through their preferred race, gender or sexually oriented candidate regardless whether someone else was more qualified.  They would find some subjective trait that they would use to say that it validated their choice.

    2. Don Shor

      It wouldn’t surprise me if a five-member school board came up with 3 – 5 ‘best’ candidates with roughly equivalent resumés.
      Who would communicate best with the public?
      Who might be most effective in reaching the policy goals of the board? How would those goals be ranked?
      Who seems most likely to administer the budget well?
      Superintendent is a job that is partly political, partly public relations, partly administrative. It’s unusual to find a candidate who is good at all those things. The only thing that is objective is getting to the field from which the finalists will be winnowed. And given the fairly thin resumé that Roberson brought to the job, it’s clear that isn’t the major hurdle.

    3. Davis Progressive

      frankly: the problem is that traditionally, even since the 1970s when restrictions against hiring women and blacks have formally come down, the best applicant is usually a white man.  when that norm is challenged, i get accused of bias.  i find that very interesting.

        1. Davis Progressive

          no, you took my comment out of context.  what i was arguing to frank and barack palin is it’s funny how traditionally, the “best applicant” has typically been a white man – whether that’s an institutional bias due to hiring and promotion and educational factors or outright prejudice remains to be seen.

  6. Misanthrop

    This obsession with identity politics is so tiresome. Old white guys clinging to their last vestiges of privilege while trolling the vanguard. As they like to say at Princeton, “Check your privilege.”

    Who the district needs to hire should be based on the criteria set by the board in consultation with the community. Whether that is a figurehead based on identity politics or a policy wonk based on managerial skills or whatever else people identify as the pressing needs of the district should guide the board in picking its next leader.

    1. wdf1

      More than focusing only on a narrative of “white privilege,” it’s important that a superintendent have some genuine awareness of what it’s like for a family to grow up in a lower income situation, without the privileges of college education.  In Davis there is a growing spectrum of income levels and parent education levels.  The typical situation that I find in Davis for college educated families (a majority in Davis) is that they are given more latitude to make choices for their children’s education.  For lower income, less-educated families, there is a tendency to patronize those families by suggesting that their kids should go into certain programs, or maybe expecting that their children should avoid certain programs.  It is all well-meaning attitude on the part of school staff, but often lacking reflection.

      In a college town like Davis, I can find college-educated Latino or African-American adults (both male and female) who seem to lack a genuine awareness of what it’s like to grow up poor and without college-level education in the family.  So choosing a new superintendent only to fulfill, visually, a criterion of diversity may miss opportunities to genuinely address achievement gap issues.

      But statistically it is likelier that a Latino- or African-American will know what it’s like to grow up with educational or economic disadvantage.  And statistically, women make up a larger percentage of the K-12 teaching force, so it wouldn’t be unexpected to find women administrative candidates who have a background understanding the ground level classroom experience.

      1. Barack Palin

        I agree with everything you stated here.  But would your search entail looking for a person of color or a female or would your search involve looking for the person best suited to fill all of your qualifications that you just listed regardless of their gender or ethnicity?

  7. Barack Palin

    This obsession with identity politics is so tiresome. Old white guys clinging to their last vestiges of privilege while trolling the vanguard. As they like to say at Princeton, “Check your privilege.”

    Oh really?  It wasn’t I who stated “hopefully it will be a woman of color”.

    I only stated that the most qualified should be hired, I never stated it should be a white male or brought race or gender into it.

    Do you have a problem with that?

    BTW, it’s your post that is trolling


    1. Misanthrop

      But you got all bent out of shape about someone suggesting a woman of color and you took the bait and went directly to the anti-affirmative action tired old rhetoric  of “most qualified.” The discussion then spent a large number of boring posts re-litigating Bakke, an old debate that Davis has been ground zero for since the 70’s. You didn’t bother to articulate what you thought defined most qualified thereby adding nothing to the discussion about what the school district needs at this time. All of these posts debating “most qualified” are a waste of time, boring and lack anything new or constructive to add to the discussion.

      1. Barack Palin

        Now hiring the “most qualified” is considered racist?  Who knew.  I think hiring someone just because of their race is the actual racism.  I thought we as a society were trying to get away from that.

  8. MrsW

    Seems like these articles are all jumping the gun.  It’s a good idea to see how your resume looks out there.  Mr. Roberson could still say “no” to Glendale’s offer.  I appreciate his service and feel he still has more to offer our community. I will be sorry to see him go, if he so chooses, and delighted if he chooses to stay.

    1. wdf1

      Good point.  And I agree with you.  This district and our community probably has more to gain by his staying than with going.

      It seems that for many careers, changing positions every 5 or so years is considered good practice.  I believe that there is an under-appreciated benefit in K-12 education for establishing experience and building on it within the community.

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