Politics continue to plague K12 as more superintendents lose their jobs

Newly elected school board members are replacing superintendents without much warning or explanation.

K12 politics continues to upend leadership in districts nationwide, as newly elected school board members act quickly to replace superintendents without much warning or explanation.

Gunn Marie Hansen
Gunn Marie Hansen (Photo: Orange USD)

Most recently, Gunn Marie Hansen, who had been superintendent of Orange USD in Southern California since 2017, was dismissed on Jan. 5 during a special school board meeting that had been scheduled only about 24 hours earlier, according to EdSource. The 4-3 school board vote was led by a group of conservative members, some of whom had won their seats after campaigning for “parents’ rights,” the website reported.

As the decision loomed, Hansen—a former deputy superintendent and assistant superintendent for educational services in the district—received vigorous support from parents, teachers and other community members who may now launch a recall bid against the school board members behind the superintendent’s firing, EdSource said.

In fact, only one out of the 60 public commenters at the special school board meeting spoke in favor of ousting Hansen, the Orange County Tribune reported.

“Orange Unified has seen improvement in all areas of the California School Dashboard and last year was accepted to the League of Innovative Schools,” reads the bio of Hansen that remained on the district’s website as of Jan. 12. There is also no mention of Hansen’s dismissal on the news section of the district’s site.

In a move that’s outside the political turmoil currently roiling education, Marlon Styles, the first Black leader of Middletown City School District in Ohio, will step down at the end of February to become a partner at the nonprofit Learner-Centered Collaborative. “In five years the district has evolved,” said Chris Urso, the board of education president. “What our students learn, how they are taught, and the climate of our schools has shifted dramatically under his leadership,”

In other superintendent news:

  • Lorree Houk will replace Michael Leitera as superintendent of the Mohawk Area School District in Pennsylvania on Feb. 18, the New Castle News reported.
  • Todd Sanders will become superintendent of RSU 16 in Maine on July 1, 2023, taking over for Ken Healey, who is retiring. Sanders is currently the superintendent of MSAD 58, also in Maine.
  • David Alexander, superintendent of Ascension Public Schools in Louisiana, announced that he will not renew his contract when it expires on June 30, 2023. “It has been the highest honor of my professional career to serve as superintendent of this very successful school system,” Alexander said.
  • Superintendent Doug Williams has announced that he will retire from Sunnyvale ISD near Dallas. The announcement did not specify the date.
  • The Jackson County School Board in Mississippi announced that it will not renew the contract of Superintendent John Strycker when it ends in June, WLOX reported.
  • Jahmal Mosley has resigned as superintendent of South Hadley Public Schools in Massachusetts, nine months after he was placed on leave by the school board, the Daily Hampshire Gazette reported.

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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