HomeDistrictOfek appointed as superintendent amid concerns from staff and community

Ofek appointed as superintendent amid concerns from staff and community

Published March 7, 2024

BY SARA EYJOLFSDOTTIR

Appointed by Carmel Unified School District’s school board in a 4-1 decision Jan. 24, CUSD’s new Superintendent Sharon Ofek is taking over management of the district amid numerous lawsuits, a considerable change in administration and concerns from staff and community about the state of the school district.

After previously serving as interim superintendent following the resignation of former CUSD superintendent Ted Knight in August, Ofek will be the district’s seventh superintendent since 2015. The 4-1 vote for her appointment during a closed-door session with the school board was mirrored during a Feb. 14 meeting that approved a $285K contract with Ofek, with long-outspoken critic Anne-Marie Rosen once again serving as the sole dissenter on the board. 

“This board really needs to give a good reflection back to what the community has to say whenever they take a look at things,” said Rosen in the Jan. 24 school board meeting. “I am concerned about the legitimacy of our public school institution.”

Sharon Ofek is CUSD’s seventh superintendent since 2015. (courtesy of SHARON OFEK)

During the search for superintendent in mid-December, CUSD’s hired education consulting firm Hazard, Youth, Attea and Associates conducted a Leadership Profile Assessment using the results from interviews, focus groups, forums and an online survey completed by shareholders. Of the 364 survey participants, primarily CUSD parents and some staff members, only 7% agreed that the district is headed in the right direction and 6% agreed that there is “transparent communication from the district,” according to the survey report from HYA.

“The results from the two surveys that recently went out made it very clear that the majority of employees in this district don’t feel safe with our current leadership,” said CHS English teacher Carli Barnett on Jan. 24, referencing concerns over recent sexual harassment claims.

With a significant percentage of survey participants conveying a need for change within the district and concerns of a lack of transparency continuing to grow, community members, including former board member Rita Patel, have expressed concern over what they perceived to have been a limited search for superintendent. 

“I am a proponent of following protocols and policy,” said Patel in an interview with The Sandpiper. “I do so because when questions arise regarding how things were conducted or outcomes, it is easy to show the public the process and make it easy for people to understand the rationale behind decisions. While this board’s process regarding this search would not have been preferred, I wish the district much success.”

For some, Ofek’s appointment is a welcome sign of stability, providing hope that district matters were heading in the right direction. Carmel Middle School P.E. teacher Jake Glazier hopes that this change will take the spotlight off the turmoil in the district and redirect the community’s focus to the incredible achievements that CUSD staff and students are completing every day. 

“The students do a great job every day, and I work with people that crush it,” Glazier says. “It’s a bummer that that’s not the community’s focus and that that doesn’t make the headlines.”

But for other community members and staff, the security of a new permanent superintendent isn’t a given. According to Barnett’s statements on Jan. 24, requests made by her and other staff members for assistance dealing with feelings of fear and distrust weren’t directly addressed during Ofek’s visit to the high school.

“In times of turmoil, people need leaders and people they can go to who they trust,” said Barnett on Jan. 24. “We don’t feel like we have anyone to go to that we can trust.”

When asked what the district could do to improve working life during classified listening sessions conducted by the California School Employees Association, one primary concern from participants was rebuilding trust between the district and sites, said CSEA chapter president Lisa Brazil-Fosler in the Feb. 14 board meeting. Other responses include having district staff spend more time on campus, recreating the sense that everybody is on the same team and, overwhelmingly, responding to email inquiries in a timely manner. 

Many CUSD parents share these concerns over a lack of transparency and openness.

“At this point, I would really appreciate it if the board could come forward to the community and say this is why we decided to appoint her rather than open it up to a pool of people,” says CUSD parent Amy Williams. “I know that the school board voted four in favor and one against, so I would love to hear the reasoning of why for and why against.”

Williams stands among many other community members who are looking for more involvement in key decisions including the appointment of Ofek and the $770k settlement agreement with Knight earlier this year. Another advocate for improving transparency with the district, Patel opposes the $285k contract with Ofek that will run through June 30, 2026 and implores the school board to be more fiscally responsible. But for now, the former school board member and CUSD parent hopes that the district will be able to spend more of their time and resources on their initiatives and core goals after having to navigate through an unprecedented pandemic, personnel changes and a significant amount of lawsuits.

“Speaking as a teacher and parent, I am pleased that we have a permanent superintendent in place,” says English teacher Barbara McBride. “I am looking forward to an era of stability so that we can move forward with initiatives to improve upon our systems and enhance the learning experience for all students in our district.”

Superintendent Ofek could not be reached for comment.

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