Burbank school board approves contract for controversial superintendent candidate

Former Los Angeles Schools Superintendent John Deasy's legacy is impacting the candidacy of a one-time deputy, Matt Hill, who is seeking the job as Burbank Unified superintendent.
Former Los Angeles Schools Superintendent John Deasy's legacy is impacting the candidacy of a one-time deputy, Matt Hill, who is seeking the job as Burbank Unified superintendent.
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Updated Friday 11:45 a.m.: New Burbank Unified leader to mend fences with teachers

New Burbank Unified Superintendent Matt Hill “will be going out to talk to teachers and principals over the next two months,” said school board member Larry Applebaum on Friday morning after a late night, contentious meeting.

During the meeting Applebaum and his colleagues approved a three-year contract for Hill, Applebaum said, at a yearly salary of $241,000. Hill will not receive any money to pay for a car, cell phone, or expenses other than out of town professional meetings.

In 2011 former L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy hired Hill to push initiatives such as the massive iPads for students project and the district's new student data system, know as MiSiS. Both projects encountered serious setbacks. But the Burbank school board liked what Hill said he'd done to fix the problems.

“I’m very excited because he has an exceptional skill set that dovetails with what Burbank’s needs are right now,” Applebaum said.

Teachers’ opposed to Hill’s nomination resorted to “bully tactics” during the Thursday night meeting, Applebaum said, and that prompted board member Dave Kemp – who was set to leave the board anyway – left the meeting saying he was resigning after teachers’ comments.

Updated Friday 8:44 a.m.: Burbank Unified approves superintendent candidate

In a contentious, late night meeting Thursday, Burbank Unified’s school board approved a contract for L.A. Unified Chief Strategy Officer Matt Hill to become the next Burbank superintendent.

Thursday 7:06 p.m.: Controversy swirls around Burbank Unified school superintendent candidate

Fallout from Los Angeles Unified’s high-profile technology troubles is being felt in a neighboring school district.

Teachers in Burbank Unified School district are up in arms over a superintendent candidate who helped direct the LAUSD technology programs and whose hiring is before the school board Thursday night. 

Matt Hill, Los Angeles Unified's chief strategy officer, was a deputy of former LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy and was hired by Deasy to guide that district’s technology and curriculum improvements. 

If Hill is approved by Burbank Unified’s school board, he would take over as superintendent of the 16,000-student district in July, succeeding Jan Britz who is retiring.

Hill's involvement in the LAUSD iPad and MiSiS projects have been cited by his opponents who argue he should not hold the top job in the Burbank district.

His connection to Deasy, who frequently clashed with the Los Angeles teachers union over such issues as teacher evaluations, has brought out union members who view Hill as a reformist in the Deasy mold.

At a public forum this week in Burbank, teachers grilled Hill about his views on job protections and teacher evaluations, and his role directing Deasy’s controversial tech programs.

Teacher Dana Ragel told Hill he shouldn’t be superintendent if he hasn’t taught in a classroom.

"I’m sure that you’re a wonderful person and parent but someone without an instructional background should not have been considered for the position of superintendent," Ragel said.

Hill distanced himself from his former boss.

"Working for our superintendent, with John Deasy, was very aggressive and combative, and sometimes that baggage comes with me as part of that leadership team," Hill said "As you can tell, I have a different style. I believe in the outcome he was trying to achieve. He knows he burned some bridges, but I have a different approach."

Hill said he would follow the Burbank school board’s direction on issues such as charter schools, accepting funds from pro-charter school foundations, and using student data for teacher evaluations.

Burbank Teachers Association President Lori Adams said Hill’s LA Unified resume has some negatives.

"We found out he was directly involved in the iPad scandal, directly involved in the MiSiS program, which caused teachers not to be able to take attendance or know which students were in their class," she said.

School board member Larry Applebaum said Hill owned up to the mistakes made at LAUSD and talked about how he helped fix the problems.

Applebaum said Burbank Unified’s students don’t need a superintendent who is a master teacher. The district’s teaching is good, he said. Instead, Applebaum said, the district needs someone to create a long-term plan for its finances, staff, and facilities.

"We cobble together policies and are without a cohesive long-term strategic plan as an organization," Applebaum said.

While her union has voiced strong opposition to Hill’s appointment, Adams says she’ll respect the board’s decision on Hill.

"I will work with anyone, but I definitely will keep a very strong eye on him and I will make sure that he follows the rules. I will watch any hirings and firings," she added.

This story has been updated.