Oxnard educators pin their hopes on new superintendent

Ventura Unified administrator chosen to take the helm at Oxnard School District

By David Michael Courtland 08/18/2011

Hoping to get back on track after spending the past year without a permanent manager, Oxnard School District trustees have picked a longtime local school administrator to be the new superintendent.

Jeff Chancer, Ventura Unified School District’s assistant superintendent in charge of educational services for the last eight years, will take over the helm as soon as the school board approves a contract, presumably at its Aug. 17 meeting.

OSD’s board of trustees voted unanimously, in a closed session Aug. 3, to tentatively select Chancer, making the announcement afterward at a special meeting attended by Chancer and representatives of OSD’s teacher and classified associations.

“I found out about the vacancy, and knowing some of the people in the district, I thought it would be a good way to end my career — a challenge, something where I could have a positive effect on the community of Oxnard,” said Chancer, who was OSD’s assistant superintendent of human services from 2001 to 2003.

Chancer began his career as a teacher, was a principal in Santa Paula and Oak Park schools and became an associate superintendent in the Ocean View School District in 1996.

OSD’s last regular superintendent, former California Deptartment of Education official Anthony Monreal, took over in July 2009, but was put on paid leave without explanation by the school board on Feb. 18, 2010.

Monreal retired with a $116,600 settlement in June 2010, the same month the board hired Julian Lopez to fill in as interim superintendent.

Trustees have consistently used personnel confidentiality rules to duck out of explaining Monreal’s departure, but OSD staff say there has been a persistent breakdown in communication with administrators in recent years.

“Because they keep moving [supervisors] around, there’s no stability,” explained Oxnard Support Services Association President Andrea Bleecher. “We no sooner get used to a supervisor than they’re gone.”

Bleecher, a speech therapist, and Clara Ramos, a migrant services technician who is president of OSD’s California State Employees Association chapter, said staff hasn’t been getting consulted on decisions that have been made by management in a top-down manner, as opposed to a more collaborative one.

“It’s like being a child told ‘because I said so’ by a parent — not a happy place to be,” said Ramos, adding that recent contract negotiations have “felt like smoke and mirrors.”

Ramos and Bleecher said they became optimistic after hearing Chancer’s presentation to a selection committee the previous week and think he will raise morale in the district.

OSD’s board must still meet with Chancer to discuss goals, but one trustee says he expects one issue to take priority.
“The priority is always education, but it’s been tough because of the budget,” said OSD trustee Denis O’Leary. “As one of the five board members, I see that he will need to address the budget uncertainties that all districts in the state are looking at.”

O’Leary said OSD is one of the few school districts in California that has managed to avoid teacher furlough days, although “We may be looking at furlough days this year,” possibly shortening the school year from 180 to 175 days, since the board is anticipating mid-year budget cuts about May 2012.

“Even if we settle on furlough days [with the teacher’s association], we’ll buy those back,” O’Leary said.   


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