After several weeks with San Bernardino City Unified School District, new superintendent Harry “Doc” Ervin has been busy getting to know the district and its staff and is now preparing a plan to set, define and accomplish new district goals within the next six months, all aimed to take the district to its next level of success.
Ervin came to SBCUSD from the Bakersfield City School District where he was superintendent since 2016. Ervin was selected from a list of 20 qualified applicants in a nationwide search that took place last year. He replaces recently retired Assistant Superintendent Harold Vollkommer, who had served as interim superintendent from Superintendent Dale Marsden's resignation in 2020 until Ervin's first day on Thursday, July 1.
Speaking on the current condition of the district, Ervin said, “The transition has been very smooth. Specifically when you transition to a new district, it takes time to get acclimated.”
He added that after being appointed in March he has had an opportunity to “get on the ground and lead as many people as possible and have a lot of conversations,” which included meet and greets along with listen and learning tours.
Ervin said the district is “at a good place,” and that he has been telling staff the “district is ready for the next level of success.”
He said, coming out of the coronavirus pandemic, the staff is “poised for more success.”
Ervin said his goal is to continue with the listening and learning tours until November to compile as much information as possible to see what things the district does well and what things the district needs to do better.
He said that parents and students have different needs following the pandemic and that this “is a time for new learning.”
He says after he “gather[s] all that information,” he plans to come back to the board of education to look at the district's values and mission and to provide “clarity,” to parents, stakeholders and community partners.
Ervin feels the district should be able to explain to the community in 30 seconds or less its values and mission. He said in January or February the district will have multiple discussions to make before approving four to five goals to focus on for the next three years based on the feedback that he and the district have heard from the stakeholders.
Ervin plan to then go on a “tour,” to let people know where the district stands and what he has learned and to communicate the next steps in “taking the district to the next level.”
Ervin also wanted to remind staff that they were all “doing great work, a lot of good things are happening here, there are pockets of success throughout the entire district,” but there needs to be “consistency across the board.”
For Ervin, getting to the “next level” means “continuing to provide quality services to students” post-pandemic, which includes “the social and emotional needs for students.”
He said those needs are at another level because some students have struggled with them during the pandemic and the district has to see what those students’ needs are going forward regarding social and emotional wellness.
Ervin also wants to “accelerate learning,” and “reassess where students are with their learning and determine what supports they need in literacy and math.”
He acknowledged, “Online learning doesn’t take place of a teacher. Nothing replaces a quality teacher in the classroom, ladies and gentleman, absolutely not.”
He also said that he “wants to continue to embed STEM,” because he wants to “make school a little more fun and exciting for kids.”
Ervin hopes the next school year “becomes a regular school year, we are trying to return to normal.”
Ervin said he knows that there are going to be challenges, but he is asking for the public’s patience and to “allow everyone to settle in.”
Regarding class sizes, Ervin said the district would continue to follow the guidance provided by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). He went on to say that the district has to “be creative across the board,” and give every school the “flexibility based on the size of the school, the physical make out and layout.”
In the case where a student cannot wear face coverings, Ervin said the district “will make accommodations on a case-by-case basis.”
Ervin said there will also be a “virtual learning option” available for students who are not comfortable returning to school.
Ervin said that he would hold district staff and students to high levels of excellence.
He said, “Everyone is a role model, we are all educational ambassadors [district staff] whether we are at work or off work.”
Ervin finally said, “Every decision I make throughout my entire career has been in the best interest of kids.”