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  • Conner Emery

Administrator praises former charter school principal

The sooner-than-expected departure of Clayton Valley Charter High School Principal Jeff Anderson in late September left many wondering how leadership would progress at the Concord school, but the intention to manage without a principal has drawn less concern for now.

On Sept. 22, interim executive director Dave Fehte disclosed Anderson’s resignation to parents on the grounds of “personal circumstances.”

The resignation was a surprise to many. “It was widely understood that Mr. Anderson was planning his retirement at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, although nothing formal had been presented to the Governing Board,” said Jennifer Lauricella, chair of the CVCHS Governing Board.

The position of principal hasn’t always followed an easy path at Clayton Valley Charter. The position was first added to the administration staff in 2015 by then executive director David Linzey. The school’s first principal, Jeff Eben, resigned after roughly a year. Governing Board member Patrick Gaffney served as an interim principal for several months until the hiring of John McMorris in early 2017, who was replaced the following school year by Anderson.

However, the school’s Governing Board said that the position of principal isn’t as critical in an organization that also has an executive director. “Typically, charter schools do not have a principal and an executive director,” Lauricella noted.

“At this time, the Governing Board is not planning to replace principal Anderson,” said Alison Bacigalupo, a community-at-large member of the Governing Board. “As a school of about 2,300 students, the position of principal can easily be handled by the executive director, and, in fact, for the first several years of the charter, the school did not have a principal at all.”

As the 2022-2023 school year approaches, the “position of principal will be reevaluated,” Lauricella said, adding that “the Governing Board has been advised in the past by a recruitment firm that the best time to hire for positions is during the second half of a school year. This is when the most eligible and qualified candidates are considering potential offers of employment.”

Gaffney, director of Special Education and Counseling at CVCHS, said when he served as interim principal he was aided by the fact that the school had a “pretty good system in place.” The focus, he recalled, was really to “continue to facilitate endeavors.”

Fehte and the other administrative staff will be distributing Anderson’s responsibilities in a system reminiscent of the early years of the CVCHS charter. Fehte became interim executive director in July after his contract was renewed and then executive director Jim Scheible resigned.

The Governing Board selects the executive director specifically to be their spokesperson and campus supervisor. The success and evolution of programs and policies at CVCHS are to be evaluated and reported by the executive director, who in turn can initiate the hiring process for most positions so that the best candidates support the school environment as they know it.

“We are kind of the go-to people because all the other members of the board have other jobs,” said Sarah Lovick, a staff representative on the Governing Board. “We are boots-on-the ground people.”

Discussing turnover at Clayton Valley Charter, Lauricella classified it as “average or below average” for the “administrative level.”

Many students — particularly freshmen and sophomores — had little experience with Anderson whatsoever given the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the faculty and administrative community said they felt a distinct loss.

Fehte said, “He had a good pulse on the school.”

To remember how many principals had overseen CVCHS in his 11 years, Sayed Anwar, a social sciences teacher, began to count on his fingers with an air of humor. However, his regard for Anderson was quite emotional.

“I didn’t get the sense that he was ‘above,’” said Anwar, identifying his management style as “very personal.”

Shannon Lunardi, a mathematics teacher at CVCHS going on five years, didn’t hesitate to remark that she was “sad” about the resignation of Anderson. “I liked him a lot.”

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