Central Unified didn’t have to look far to fill its superintendent position.
The school district announced the hiring of Andy Alvarado, currently the superintendent of Golden Valley Unified in Madera Ranchos. The board approved his hiring on 5-2 votes in closed and open sessions Tuesday night.
Board President Cesar Granda and trustees Rama Dawar, Richard Solis, Phillip Cervantes and Ruben Coronado voted in favor. Terry Cox and Richard Atkins voted no.
Healing a Community
Alvarado sees his role as healing a rift in the Central community.
“The biggest challenge right now is just the current state. I take a lot of pride in enlarging people and bringing people together,” Alvarado said in an interview with GV Wire. “I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge to this to try to bring the union together again. And that’s what I’m going to focus on the first 60 days.”
By union, Alvarado borrowed a phrase from Abraham Lincoln. He says he’s proud of his work thus far and feels it will carry over to his new job.
“Ultimately, it’s my responsibility to try to win over the community. I think that once they see that see my work ethic and my engagement with the staff and parents and students and community alike, I think my actions speak for themselves,” Alvarado said.
“I’m not going into this with any reservations. I know what I’m capable of doing. It’s going to be on me to be able to change that course that they’re on now. I look forward to that.”
Alvarado Replaces Sutton
Alvarado’s hiring caps a four-month contentious search for the school district after the Feb. 27 firing of Mark Sutton. Some community members rallied around Sutton and were upset that the board provided no public reasoning for its 4-3 vote to dismiss him.
At one point, a group formed to recall two board members for their perceived role in Sutton’s dismissal. The effort to remove Richard Solis failed; signatures for a recall of Phillip Cervantes are due in July, but are likely to fail as well.
Granda said that he is happy to have Alvarado aboard.
“When we met with him, we were impressed with his experience, leadership skills, and professionalism. We look forward to him working with our staff, students and community for years to come,” Granda said in a news release.
The district also highlighted many of Alvarado’s accomplishments in a news release:
“All traditional schools have earned California Distinguished School status. The district’s academic scores are one of the highest in the Central Valley and district schools have won several prestigious recognitions such as CSBA Golden Bell awards, Bonner Virtues in Character Education awards, and multiple league and section titles in their athletic programs.”
Alvarado will take over for Interim Superintendent Kelly Porterfield, who told GV Wire that he applied for the position. Porterfield also said he would remain with the district in his assistant superintendent capacity if not hired. Porterfield did not attend the meeting last night because of a death in the family.
Alvarado Has Sailed Rough Waters Before
Alvarado is familiar with the contentious removal of a superintendent. He experienced it himself at Golden Valley.
Alvarado served as Golden Valley’s superintendent from July 2011-February 2015 and again from September 2015 to the present.
In February 2015, the Golden Valley school board voted to dismiss Alvarado (ironically, the same night that Sutton was removed from his previous superintendent job by the Selma Unified school board).
A community group loyal to Alvarado successfully recalled the three members who ousted him.
As the Fresno Bee reported at the time, “The recall election came in response to a newly configured school board’s abrupt ousting of Superintendent Andrew Alvarado in February. The three trustees fired Alvarado even though more than 400 parents, teachers and citizens showed up at a board meeting to support him.”
Weeks after the recall, the board rehired Alvarado as superintendent.
A Large Jump
Just Tuesday night, the Golden Valley school board gave Alvarado a performance review where he “exceeded expectations.”
Alvarado is jumping into a much bigger district. Approximately 1,900 students attend Golden Valley schools compared to nearly 16,000 students in Central Unified.
The Central board offered Alvarado a three-year contract at $200,000 per year plus benefits, starting July 1. His predecessor, Sutton, earned $1,571 more per year.
Alvarado’s contract with Golden Valley runs until June 30, 2021, and calls for $166,130 per year. [Note: this figure has been updated including the cost of living adjustments from the initial contract.]
He said that he plans to sign his Central contract by the end of the week and officially resign from Golden Valley.