In Full Reverse by Superintendent, McHale Now Recommended for DHS Principal

Two weeks ago DJUSD was set to hire outside candidate Lee Fleming from San Diego County as the next principal of Davis High.  But that was before teachers from DHS protested the hire.  Roughly 70 teachers showed up to a closed session meeting complaining about the process and the decision to hire an outside candidate over longtime DHS teacher, vice principal and current interim principal Tom McHale.

The school board announced that they had withdrawn the consent item for the hire.  Now in a full reversal, the district is prepared to hire Tom McHale.

District PIO Maria Clayton confirmed that while there has been “no public announcement at this time,” the district sent a message “internally to Davis Senior High staff earlier this week letting them know that Mr. Tom McHale is being recommended for the principal vacancy at Davis Senior High School.”

In an email from John Bowes, acquired by the Vanguard, the message to high school staff confirms that Mr. McHale “is being recommended for Board of Education approval…”

He writes that “we appreciate the feedback received on the matter from staff and the broader community.”

Mr. Bowes stated, “As part of DJUSD, Davis Senior High School has a critical leadership role in accomplishing the important goals for our District set forth by the Board of Education.  Your individual and collective actions supporting the work of Principal McHale will enable Davis Senior High to accomplish remarkable things in the coming years.”

The question that many will have is how did this happen?  The teachers learned of the decision at a staff meeting the day before the board was set to vote on the recommendation for Mr. Fleming.  As one teacher described during public comment, “It was dead silent.  People were crying and afterwards people got angry.”

Within a day, the teachers were able to mobilize 70 teachers to come to the closed session portion of the meeting.

Kelly McInturf, reading a letter, stated that the administration could not give the teachers a straight answer for what their vision for DHS was. She concluded, “I feel that by not hiring Tom as principal, the district is continuing to demonstrate a lack of respect for educators which makes me wonder if DJUSD is the place for me to teach long term.”

That was a common theme, Holly Istas said that she feels the decision sent a clear message that the teachers’ input “was not valued, that surveys and meetings were just lipservice and the district office was going to do what it wanted to do regardless of how it impacted the teachers, students and staff.”

She said, “Today the teachers and staff are demoralized, defeated and angry. They feel betrayed and let down because the district is doing again what it has done before – hiring someone from the outside who will come in with an agenda and who will leave in a couple of years after they get a better job offer at another school.”

At the same time, others had misgivings about hiring Mr. McHale, including students and the administrators.

The school board plays a role in ratifying hires, but the hiring process itself and the recommendation is made by the superintendent and his staff.  The board hires directly only the superintendent and thus had no say at all in the hire until the matter was placed on consent with a recommendation for hire.

—David M. Greenwald 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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  1. Howard P

    Would that be Lee Fleming vs Flemming?

    For perspective, the ‘life expectancy’ for a City Manager is 3-5 years, on average… HS principals about the same, maybe 4-6 years… if they’re really good, it’s on the low side of that… they get better offers, and move on… if they’re lousy, again on the low side, as they get pushed out, and decide to cut their losses and move on before they are terminated… the truly mediocre are the ones that have the longevity… it is what it is…


    1. David Greenwald

      So if you had six in a ten year spam, that would be a problem, no? But I’m not sure that (a) HS principals are about the same (citation for that?) and (B) that the life expectancy is optimal (just because that’s on average how long someone lasts, doesn’t make it good).

  2. Tia Will

    I was struck by the difference in opinion of the seventy teachers who showed up to oppose the outside hire, and the few students who spoke against the local candidate.

    The bigger picture here is that it does not appear that the board took into account any opinions from the affected school before decision making. Since I am not experienced or knowledgeable in school hiring decisions, this may be “the way things are”, but I cannot help but feel it is a bit of an autocratic process if no input is sought in advance.

  3. Howard P

    A) experience… feel free to call it apocryphal, but before you do, look at Davis CM in the last 10 years…

    B) never said it was optimal… it just is…

    Longevity, with some exceptions (several notable) is tied to going with the flow, not making waves, pick your metaphor… DTA apparently figures their choice will not be a threat to the way they want to do things…

    Is it Fleming or Flemming?  Someone who appears to be ‘screwed’ in their current district, where they were “outed” as looking elsewhere…

    Perhaps you should consider answering questions posed, before you ask you own… just a suggestion…

    1. David Greenwald


      The Davis CM situation is not good either: Emlen, Navazio, Pinkerton, Rogers, Brazil, Webb since 2010.  None of them stayed more than three years – two were interims, but still four full time city managers over that time.  And yes, comments have been made about the need for stability.

    1. Howard P

      Maybe that’s it… DTA opposes an upwardly mobile female principal?… or is it the principle of the thing? [Rhetorical questions, not aimed at you, John]

      Find it interesting that two other new principals were just named… one or both not from the district… no protest there…

      1. David Greenwald

        It’s important to note that DTA was not involved in this at all, in fact the DTA president not only was not involved, but caught off guard.

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