Administrator looks back, moves on
August 28, 2005
Today is the first day on a job Barbara Davis didn’t think, didn’t envision, she’d had. Instead of preparing for her ninth school year as assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Lake Tahoe Unified School District, Davis is putting the finishing touches on a report detailing Pleasant Valley School District’s performance on state tests for a different, Southern California school board.
Davis, 56, has been with Lake Tahoe Unified School District during its highs and lows, its introduction to the federal No Child Left Behind Act and its five superintendents, including her stint as interim superintendent.
At 8:30 a.m. one day last week, Davis sat at the round table in her former office discussing her time in the district. In front of her sat a coffee cup empty of its morning goodness. It would not be refilled until an hour later.
“What’s it been like?” she said, repeating a question by a reporter at the onset. “I think it’s been a constant series of challenges and rewards. We’ve always had things going that were challenges but also some pretty significant successes.”
When Davis started at LTUSD in the 1997-98 school year, enrollment was at 5,862 students, more than 1,300 students of the projected 4,545 student enrollment for the upcoming school year.
One lauded program the district has excelled at, even becoming a demonstration site for, Advancement Via Individual Determination, was going into its second year teaching students how to properly take notes and organize notebooks.
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Davis would like to help bring AVID to Pleasant Valley School District, which has growing enrollment and a possibility of unifying with the nearby high school district,
Test scores were OK, but the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 put a spotlight on the district, as it did for others across the nation. Davis likes what No Child Left Behind attempts to accomplish in demanding all students become proficient in math and language arts but believes it “mandates gains at an unrealistic level or pace,” especially for English learners or special education students.
Davis has tried, and has had a taste, of being superintendent of Lake Tahoe Unified School District. After Rich Alexander left in 2000, Davis became the interim superintendent but did not apply for the position.
The school board decided to hire Diane Scheerhorn, who served until last summer. Lorraine Garcy was brought on board for an interim basis. When the search was on for a permanent leader, Davis applied, and was a finalist, but the board picked James Tarwater, now two months on the job and making $143,500 a year, roughly $20,000 more than Scheerhorn made.
If Tarwater’s hiring prompted Davis to move, she didn’t let on. She said she was “disappointed” in not being selected. She denied his coming on board made her jump ship and said if she knew of the salary being offered to the superintendent during the interview process she wouldn’t have applied for the position.
“He was the right person at the right time for this district,” Davis said.
As the district was caught in a tailspin brought on by declining enrollment some community members questioned whether Lake Tahoe Unified School District should even have an assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
And with the chief financial officer position vacant after Michael Curran resigned in June, Tarwater said one of the two jobs will be filled. It will likely be the assistant superintendent, possibly reclassified to a director, since Tarwater is confident in his abilities to crunch numbers.
Davis said the district should maintain someone specializing in curriculum and instruction, two areas receiving more scrutiny every year. She’s proud of the district’s literacy program and how most of the teachers have received training in instructing English learners.
Board President Wendy David, who held a party for Davis on Thursday night, called Davis a “real professional,” adding “she will absolutely be missed.”
“I think one of the greatest things she brought was her friendship as well as her professionalism to the district,” David said.
The board will take a slow, deliberate look at replacing Davis’ position as it goes through a possible staff restructuring period, David said.
Last week was a busy one for Davis. Although the walls were bare in her office, boxes were stacked. Numbers and words in education-speak were written on a wash board. Her last day at LTUSD was Friday. She was expected to report to her new job today.
“So much for a summer vacation,” she said with a characteristic smile.
– E-mail William Ferchland at email@example.com