Merced County Times Newspaper
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Merced County Local News

MCSD leaders face ‘next steps’ after they fire superintendent 

Jimenez let go in her first year; Special meeting set for May 2


Union leaders and educators — including four elementary school principals — who spoke up at Tuesday night’s Merced City School District Board (MCSD) meeting appeared satisfied over the recent firing of Superintendent Diana Jimenez. 

They also urged board leaders to create more transparency, communication and staff involvement in what apparently is going to be yet another process of MCSD welcoming in a new superintendent — the fourth in four years.  

“Our message is to thank you,” said Jill Settera, the principal of Burbank Elementary School “Thank you for listening.”

She added: “Our school district has had the sad misfortune of hiring two superintendents — Al Rogers and Diana Jimenez — from outside our community, using consulting firms. … I’m here to tell you, you don’t need a consulting firm. You have over 1,000 employees to help you select the next right leader.”

The Board took no action on Tuesday night related to a search for a new superintendent — or the naming of an interim one — but another Special Meeting was set for next Tuesday, May 2, at 5 p.m. 

Board Trustees unanimously voted to fire Superintendent Jimenez last Friday, April 21, during the second of two special board meetings held that week. 

Board President Allen Brooks told the Times that MCSD staff and local union leaders had become increasingly concerned about the district’s leadership under Jimenez, and they were speaking up more and more at public meetings. 

Ada Givens Elementary Principal and longtime local educator Dora Crane gave a passionate address to leaders before their decision last Friday. It was just one of several during the meeting.    

“I have never in my life not known what the vision is for the district,” Crane said. “Every day is a battle for me to do my job and it shouldn’t be. … I’m asking you for better leadership that will drive us all and to have a true vision as we move forward.” 

Brooks later told the Times: “These are the people who are actually in the classroom and teaching our kids. Their voices really do matter — especially to the board.”

Jimenez’s employment contract was terminated without cause, according to a one-paragraph statement released by the District. Due to MCSD hierarchy procedures, Associate Superintendent Brian Meisenheimer was named as acting superintendent, according to Brooks. 

During Tuesday meeting, Principal Settera was joined in making comments to the MCSD Board by Hoover Principal Julie Rivard, Fremont School Principal Dawn Hubble, and Joe Stefani School Principal Jaime Calderon. 

The called for more consistency within district administration, more communication with staff, and an open dialogue regarding the direction of MCSD leadership, including the hiring of a new superintendent. 

Merced City Teachers Association President Diane Pust also spoke up, asking for transparency. 

“It’s time to stop being so secretive about the process,” Pust said. “Just like all other hires, MCTA and the California School Employees Association need to be on those interview panels.” 

Board Trustee Priya Lakireddy echoed the latter idea, suggesting to her colleagues that a broader community should somehow be involved in the process of hiring a new superintendent. 

“We heard loud and clear today the need to incorporate voices that have never been at the table,” Lakireddy said. “Teachers, staff, community leaders need or want to be part of this process, and I think we ought to do that.” 

The board hired Superintendent Jimenez, formally of the Winter Joint Union School District, last May with a reported salary of $260,000 a year. She took over for Doug Collins who left for a post in Chowchilla at the end of the 2022 school year. Collins had been appointed to the top MCSD position in Merced after Superintendent Richard Rogers resigned in July of 2021. Rogers’ term, starting in 2020, was rocked by a civil complaint filed against him alleging sexual harassment. He denied the allegations. 

When asked about everything that has happened since the firing of Superintendent Jimenez last Friday, Board President Brooks told the Times: “The board is strong. Ever since this new board has come in [including newly elected members such as Brooks himself, and Trustees Priya Lakireddy and Beatrice McCutchen] our goal and mission has been to keep it about the kids. We are going to stick to that vision. We are focused on student achievement, and we are focused on improving education in Merced.” 

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