Berkeley Superintendent of Schools Jack McLaughlin has five days to decide if wants to accept an offer to take over Nevada’s top education post this weekend.
But after turning down a superintendent position in Salem, Ore. and being edged out for San Francisco’s top school post last May, he seems to be interested in taking over an office that oversees 400,000 urban, suburban and rural students.
“It appears to be a different kind of challenge. I’d say it’s very intriguing,” he said.
Nevada officials announced the decision Saturday and McLaughlin, 59, said they will send him a written offer today. If he accepts, McLaughlin said the hardest part will be saying good-bye to the Berkeley Unified School District and its 9,500 students.
“It will be very difficult to leave Berkeley because of the friends I’ve made. We don’t always agree on everything but it’s been real fun – real rewarding,” he said.
One school board official hopes McLaughlin chooses to stay.
“It’s not certain he’s going to leave. He has five days to decide and I hope he stays with us. He’s a great superintendent and he’s doing a great job,” said Ted Schultz, Berkeley Unified School District board of directors. “But if he does choose to move on, he’s given us six good years and I wish him good luck.”
Schultz said the board has yet to decide on how to find a replacement.
During his 37-year career, McLaughlin served as assistant superintendent in the South San Francisco School District, and was superintendent in Sunnyvale and Hemet before coming to Berkeley in 1994. In those years, he faced challenges such as implementing the Unz initiative – which halted bilingual education and navigating the charter school issue.
That experience, McLaughlin said, gives him an advantage in Nevada, where those issues are still on the horizon.
In Berkeley, McLaughlin said he is particularly proud of the school renovation and remodeling that is underway, as well as raised test scores throughout the district. But he’s quick to dismiss full credit for any of his accomplishments.
“It’s not something I did, it’s something we’ve all done together,” he said.
The biggest challenge, McLaughlin said, was the recent situation in which a 12-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted at two Berkeley middle schools over a two-week period.
“The incidents at the middle school level have been very difficult,” he said. “We always wonder what we could have done differently to make sure that didn’t happen and won’t happen again in the future.”
On Friday, a third incident was reported during that same period in which another 12-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. See front page story.
McLaughlin said he is concerned about the report and assured that he and his staff will be looking into it this week.