Best Set to Become Next DJUSD Superintendent

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – It won’t be official until April 21, but the decision has been made and, after an eight-month job search for the replacement to John Bowes, the board is sticking with the in-house candidate and will elevate Matt Best to full time Superintendent.

Best exemplifies the notion of “homegrown” talent.  He has been with DJUSD for 22 years, starting out as a student teacher at Davis High and moved up the ranks from teacher to Principal, to Administrator, Associate Superintendent, Interim Superintendent, and finally Superintendent.

But the board took the long path to get him there, naming him interim Superintendent when John Bowes left last summer, but then spending eight months searching.  According to a release, “The Board partnered with an executive search firm to conduct a competitive hiring process, which included gathering and reviewing community feedback from DJUSD staff, students, families and members of the Davis community.”

The district reports that the Board received 28 applications and interviewed three out of seven top candidates before reaching a final decision.

They will then formally approve the employment at the next regularly scheduled meeting on April 21.

“I learned from the Superintendent search that the Davis Joint Unified School District attracts outstanding candidates and that we are able to select the most qualified person,” said DJUSD Board President Tom Adams in the district’s release. “Matt Best has the knowledge and skills to be a Superintendent, but more importantly, he has the heart of a parent and teacher.”

“Best has been serving as the District’s Interim Superintendent since August 2021 upon the departure of Dr. Bowes, and he has led the District operations through a very challenging 2021-22 school year,” the release said.

“The search produced candidates of the highest caliber, but Matt’s skill set to lead DJUSD during these most challenging times and moving forward into a post-pandemic era of public education completely matches our needs and values,” said Board Member Betsy Hyder.

“Matt has a proven record of dedication to our district, students and community,” said Vigdis Asmundson. “His passion for ensuring opportunities in education for all, his empathy, and his vision for our schools are exemplary. I am thrilled that he will continue to lead the District with us.”

“I am deeply grateful for Matt’s 20 years of service to DJUSD,” said Joe DiNunzio. “I am confident that in his new role, he will lead our dedicated staff in pursuit of an excellent education for all of our students—and he will do it with humility, grace and great determination.”

Lea Darrah added, “I look forward to working with Matt Best as our next Superintendent for DJUSD. I am glad that the teachers’ association and our classified union are in support of this selection as well. I believe Matt has the collaborative approach, inclusive mindset, and willingness to address issues head on that Davis needs as we move forward in our District to serve all children and families.”

Best said in the release that he was “humbled and honored to continue to serve the school community he considers a second family.

“I will continue to serve with dedication, integrity, and humility for the remainder of my time in DJUSD. We will continue to foster a love of learning and equip all students with the knowledge, skills, character, and well-being to thrive and contribute to an evolving and increasingly connected world, while doing all we can to ensure that educational outcomes cannot be pre-determined by race, ethnicity and socio-economic status,” said Best.

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. David Greenwald

      I agree, the hire makes sense, the process not so much. Why hire a recruiting firm, do a nationwide search, have community involvement and then hire the obvious, in-house choice?

      1. Keith Y Echols

        Why hire a recruiting firm, do a nationwide search, have community involvement and then hire the obvious, in-house choice?

        Because you can’t do a well thought out and objective search for the best talent and fit for the position unless you cast a wide and well planned net…..even if Best the inhouse candidate is likely the best fit.  And it’s only “optics” if the DJUSD Board had no intention of considering anyone other than Best.

        1. Ron Glick

          It should have been obvious. The last three Superintendents stayed the requisite amount of time before moving on to bigger districts. With 22 years at DJUSD Best is obviously more invested in the community than any candidate from outside would be.

        2. Keith Y Echols

           With 22 years at DJUSD Best is obviously more invested in the community than any candidate from outside would be.

          How do you know that Best is better than what a candidate from the outside has to offer unless you interview candidates from the outside?  Being “invested in the community” does not necessarily automatically make one the best candidate for the job.  Fearing the possibility that a Superintendent may move on in the future shouldn’t hinder the consideration of the best possible candidate to fill the role right now.

        3. Ron Glick

          Even so they could have hired someone for one class at Emerson for five years to teach Mariachi Puente for the cost of one teacher.

          My point is there are other things they could have done with the money. Also why do you need to go out to try to find the best when you already have the Best in house. They still could have done a search without hiring a firm for a bunch of money. If the Trustees, with their stellar resumes, can’t handle this on their own we are in real trouble.


          1. David Greenwald

            I don’t disagree overall. I found the whole process strange when it seemed likely they would hire Best anyway.

        4. Richard_McCann

          Often times the best hire is not the “most talented” based on some hypothetical criteria. Continuity and familiarity along with enthusiastic support of the organization’s mission can outweigh any potential benefits of hiring from the outside. Given Matt’s qualifications and record, a better approach of the District might have been to evaluate its current strategies and assess whether these needed a change in direction, and if not, then assess whether any from the outside could bring substantially greater skills that outweighed Matt’s obvious familiarity and commitment to the local district. After that process, then go to outside recruitment (and tell Matt that he’s not the next one.) That would have been more cost effective and would have produced a usable additional product of an internal assessment.

          I fully support Matt’s appointment–he’s the Best for the job.

      1. Ron Oertel

        As I recall, you mistakenly concluded that someone on the school board was “white”, by making an assumption based upon his appearance.

        (And for that matter, we all assumed that he was a him in the first place – but that this apparently turned out to be correct.)

    1. Alan Miller

      Its ironic that the people who constantly complain about being too focused on race are the only one’s bringing up race.

      No one is complaining about this article in bringing it up today.  It’s an observation about the lack of it when it has been front and center in the past.  One may wish to ask:  why?

  1. Ron Oertel

    Suggested questions from the interview panel:

    1)  How do you feel about closing down unneeded schools in an oversized system?

    2)  Do you believe that doing so would save the district money?

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