SIMI VALLEY — Despite protests from teachers who complained that normal hiring procedures were being bypassed, the Simi Valley school board interviewed a Thousand Oaks man in its search for a schools chief, ending its session early Wednesday.
In a 3-2 vote, the Simi Valley Unified School District board then decided to conduct follow-up phone calls to current and past employers, as well as background checks on superintendent candidate Dan Flynn, starting this week.
At the same time, the board is continuing with a plan to hire a search firm. On Friday at 5 p.m., trustees are scheduled to hear from four companies bidding to conduct a nationwide search to find the best person to lead the 19,400-student district.
The decision was made about 2 a.m., after a two-hour board interview of Flynn in closed session, said board President Norm Walker.
"This is not a change in the process," said board member Caesar Julian. "It is an evolving process. We had no idea we were going to get [Flynn's] application. There is no step A, B, C and D."
But 150 people showed up at Tuesday night's board meeting, many of them teachers who said the board's decision to interview Flynn was out of line.
Flynn is a Thousand Oaks father of six children and a Head Start coordinator in Los Angeles County. For three years in the early 1990s, he was the principal of the county's juvenile court schools. In 1994, he ran unsuccessfully for superintendent of Ventura County schools against current Supt. Charles Weis.
According to his resume, which he passed out to the media this week as well as to the board, Flynn graduated with a doctorate in education from UCLA in 1996. He also is a Rotarian, a member of St. Jude's site council and a member of Promise Keepers, a nationwide evangelical Christian men's movement.
About 900 members of the Simi Educators Assn. and the California School Employees Assn. had signed petitions, given to the board Tuesday, urging the school board to first hire an independent search firm. The consultant would ask the community what it wants in a new superintendent, post the opening across the nation and select a new schools chief from the cream of the crop, said Hal Vick, executive director of the educators association.
"I go back to the world I know," Vick said. "You post a position. You have a screening process. My objection is that this is not a good way to do business."
Added union President Ginny Jannotto: "This has the perception of a hidden agenda. It's perceived as a premature step. The board hasn't developed a criteria of what they want in a superintendent. There are no standards to compare Flynn to."
Others, including Ventura County Board of Education President Marty Bates, came out to support Flynn, calling him a positive, people-first kind of man.
"We need someone like him," said Don Otto, president of the conservative California Republican Assembly in Simi Valley. "His children will attend our schools. He's young enough to work 20 years in this community. He's personable, caring and family oriented."
Walker said a point in Flynn's favor is that he lives nearby.
"Why should you spend the money to find out what you know right now?" Walker asked.
Board members Carla Kurachi and Diane Collins vehemently argued against interviewing Flynn, saying that a search firm should be allowed to do its work first.
"Seven days ago, out of the blue, a candidate's name was raised," Collins said. "Within one week, the process was entirely different. The argument was: Because it would save us money.
"Saving $18,000 [on a search firm company] is ludicrous. This candidate has already sued and gotten $120,000 from his last employer. I can guess it will cost us a lot more than $18,000 if it doesn't work out."
After Flynn lost the election against Weis, with 48% of the vote, his $62,000 annual contract as principal of juvenile court schools wasn't renewed based on a poor job performance evaluation. One infraction was in 1993 when he reportedly was reprimanded by Phil Gore, director of the juvenile court schools, for failing to report a purchase order to the right department. Other charges in a 1994 year-end evaluation conducted by the county included: "Mr. Flynn's unwillingness or inability to hold staff accountable" and his failure to attend a variety of administrator meetings.
Flynn filed a $3-million lawsuit against Weis and the County Board of Education. In 1996, he received a $120,000 settlement for what he called wrongful termination and political payback after the election against Weis.
Kurachi also said that Flynn still owes the county paperwork relating to the 1994 campaign.
According to Christina Valenzuela, a deputy clerk at the county elections division, the account for the Committee to Elect Dan Flynn is still open and is missing campaign filings for 1995 and 1996. A letter recommending investigation has been sent to the district attorney's office.