HAYWARD -- School board members who decided to bypass a search for a permanent superintendent, instead giving interim schools chief Stanley Dobbs the job, said they are confident their vote will help the struggling district move forward.
The surprise vote at Wednesday's board meeting came after nearly 20 community members expressed support for the job Dobbs has been doing, and after trustees decided to abandon their earlier plan to hire a firm to find a new superintendent.
"Mr. Dobbs is doing a tremendous job. As a district, we're moving forward. Why would you want to interrupt that?" trustee John Taylor said Friday.
The board's action was unexpected. The meeting agenda item referred to the superintendent search process, not an appointment.
"You've done your search, the search is over," said Mercedes Faraj, president of the teachers union, told the board members before they decided to appoint Dobbs. "We have a viable candidate in Stanley Dobbs."
The board's 4-0 vote did not include trustee Luis Reynoso, who voiced his objection to the direction the board was taking and then walked out of the meeting before his colleagues made their decision.
Trustee Annette Walker later called Reynoso's action irresponsible. Trustee John Taylor said he wasn't surprised that the often-contentious Reynoso did not take part in the vote.
"He grandstands," Taylor said.
The Hayward school district has routinely posted low test scores, coming in last in Alameda County in 2012. This year, the district's score's saw a slight uptick.
"Dr. Reynoso has always stood on his principles of things he's passionate about," Dobbs said Friday. "I accept him walking out of the room as his show of passion."
Reynoso did not return a call for comment on Friday.
Before taking any action Wednesday, trustees repeatedly asked their attorney, Mary Hernandez, if a vote to appoint a superintendent that night would be legal. She replied that the board could take a vote, though it could be challenged.
"The worst-case scenario, if someone challenged, you would need to ratify again at a later meeting," Hernandez told the board.
Board President William McGee said he supported Dobbs, but asked that trustees vote only on whether to conduct a search to avoid any challenges. However, after a motion was made to appoint Dobbs, McGee joined his fellow board members in the unanimous vote.
The board's actions were legal, trustee Lisa Brunner said Friday, and she stands by her vote supporting Dobbs, calling him the best person for the job.
But, she added, "I think we should agendize and take a second vote to avoid any future challenges to the appointment."
Dobbs took over as interim superintendent in July. He is familiar with the Hayward district, having served 18 months as assistant superintendent for business services in 2011 and 2012 before serving a short stint as chief financial officer for the San Diego school district.
Speaker after speaker at Wednesday's meeting urged the board to make Dobbs' appointment permanent, saying he had begun a momentum to improve the district.
"I think Mr. Dobbs brings to the district a level of energy, enthusiasm and accountability that is contagious," Councilman Al Mendall said. "I've seen that contagion in the staff, I've heard it from business owners, I've heard it from parents, from residents, and I feel it myself."
The Rev. Chuck Horner of Calvary Baptist Church said he had not heard a single negative comment about Dobbs from the community and urged the board to stick with him. "As my daddy said, if it ain't broke, don't fix it," he said.
After the vote, audience and staff members gave the board a standing ovation.