The new superintendent of the San Bernardino City Unified School District, Harry “Doc’’ Ervin, was criticized at the Sept. 21 school board meeting by seven parents who spoke to the board members about their perceptions of Ervin’s behavior while visiting classrooms and setting guidelines for staff and students regarding COVID-19 protocol.
Ervin was unanimously approved by the school board in March 2021 and began in his role as superintendent in July 2021. He formerly was the superintendent of the Bakersfield Unified School District.
During public comments, the seven parents spoke about the behaviors they have witnessed or heard about Ervin during his visits to the San Bernardino schools.
Lilia Cisneros said she saw Ervin act conceited and set up an atmosphere of insecurity among the schools.
Teresa Alba said she questions how the board approved Ervin as superintendent.
“Some principals said they want to fire him,” Alba said.
Catalina Castillo said she believed he was not listening to anyone during a town hall meeting and that transparency was non-existent.
The parents spoke during public comments because there was an item under Closed Session on the agenda regarding the superintendent evaluation.
No action was taken at that meeting.
Two weeks later, on Oct. 5, the board heard 2.5 hours of public comments from 33 people in support of Ervin.
Judy White, former superintendent of the Riverside County Office of Education, said she understands the challenges of the position and the scrutiny of their roles. She said she believes the board should not act hastily on the matter.
“Every good organization allows individuals time to transition, time to acclimate and time to perform,” White said.
Dan Varney, a retired teacher, said he met Ervin 10 years ago and can count on one hand the number of administrators that he trusts. Varney said that Ervin has never wavered from his commitment to the students or the schools.
Varney said that Bakersfield School District was one of the lowest performing school districts and that Ervin transformed it into one of the highest performing districts.
He encouraged the board to remain committed to Ervin as superintendent.
“You made an intelligent decision four months ago,” he said.
Carolyn Tillman said she questioned what was at the heart of this sudden change. She said it sounds to her like a power play from members of the board and that the seven women were used like a “poorly scripted puppet act.’’
Maria Garcia, communications officer for the school district, said “A small group of parents with current or former students in our district expressed concern with a variety of issues including COVID-19 safety measures, the culture of the district, and their personal perceptions or assumptions of the Superintendent’s leadership style. Doc has met with hundreds of SBCUSD parents in various settings since his arrival in June but as of the meeting date he had not had the opportunity to meet with many of those seven speakers personally.
Garcia said that the board of education reported no action as a result of this discussion. ‘The District is however increasing its efforts to gather information from parents and employees about their concerns especially those related to COVID-19 safety protocols and communication.“
A previously scheduled collaboration meeting with Ervin and the leaders of four different parent groups (including DELAC) took place on Sept. 29 and he specifically asked those present at the meeting for their feedback, in light of the public comments the previous week.
“Doc Ervin is moving forward with his Listening and Learning Forums and remains committed to leading SBCUSD,” Garcia said.
Ervin responded to the concerns in an email to the Highland Community News.
“I respect the concerns and appreciate the support of everyone who spoke at the past two meetings. My goal is to help take SBCUSD to a higher level of excellence with better outcomes for the kids in our schools. Our district has great people and programs going for it and we want to build on the solid foundation that’s already here. Change is not easy and educating children is hard work in the best of times. With COVID, these are not the best of times. My hope is that as we start moving forward everyone will come together to do what’s right for kids just as they did in the past three districts I led.”