CUSD board contemplates Casteel successor - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

CUSD board contemplates Casteel successor

March 12th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
CUSD board contemplates Casteel successor

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

The Chandler Unified School District Governing Board is hoping its next superintendent will be able to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.
Before the board starts to interview candidates to replace outgoing Superintendent Camille Casteel, it met on March 4 to discuss finding an applicant who can help the district recover quickly from the impact of the pandemic.
The board outlined three overarching goals it wants Camille’s successor to achieve: reverse the district’s declining enrollment, fill learning gaps caused by the pandemic and preserve Chandler’s equity initiatives.
Since the board is hiring a temporary superintendent for the time being, the candidate only has about a year to complete all of these tasks.
“We’re going to really need someone who can hit the ground running,” said board member Lindsay Love.
The hiring process is happening during a particularly abnormal time, Love noted, so the board will need to find a candidate who can steer CUSD through one of its most tumultuous eras.
The district has seen hundreds of students leave over the last year as it struggled to adapt to the peculiar circumstances caused by the pandemic.
As a result, district finances have been heavily impacted and administrators are trying to figure out how to lure back the students that have fled.
While the board perceives its next superintendent as having to handle some difficult tasks, board member Joel Wirth is viewing the hiring process from a different perspective.
Because the board is appointing an interim superintendent for up to a year, Wirth said he’d like to recruit internally from within the district’s administration team.
The board should save its energy for later in the year when it will be searching for a permanent replacement, he said.
Love noted the complex problems CUSD has had to deal with over the last couple of years and emphasized her desire for an interim candidate who can navigate these complicated issues.
The topic of equity has been especially divisive in the district ever since Casteel announced in 2018 that CUSD would attempt to address achievement and discipline disparities among different racial and ethnic groups of students.
Some parents have regularly voiced their opposition to Chandler’s equity initiatives, claiming they find them to be counterproductive and a distraction from the district’s academic priorities.
Since some families still don’t understand the purpose of equity, Love said it’s important to find a new superintendent who can articulate the initiatives clearly.
“I want to see how they’re going to continue to put us on this path forward to equity,” Love said, “knowing that we have a community that has been contentious around this issue.”
Chandler’s demographics are changing, Love added, and the next superintendent should be willing to listen to parents who may have previously felt left out of the district’s governing process.
“We need somebody who is going to recognize that and reach out to some of our more diverse community members and elicit some of their feedback,” she said.
Board members further indicated they want a leader who will be creative, innovative and skillful at raising the morale of district employees.
A recent survey shows some of the district’s 5,000 employees have concerns about transparency, accountability and communication with whomever is appointed to replace Casteel.
The survey’s respondents said they are distressed over the direction CUSD was headed coming out of the pandemic and worried that the district’s vision for the future had become stagnant.