PLEASANT HILL -- The Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools will continue to be an elected position, despite the desire of some Board of Education members to convert it to an appointed role.
After months of debating whether to try to place a November measure before voters seeking approval to select the superintendent themselves, county trustees have unanimously agreed not to pursue the idea at this time.
Board Vice President Daniel Gomes, who initially came up with the plan, said he ended up voting against his own proposal last month because it would cost about $600,000 to put a measure on the ballot, which he and other trustees considered too expensive.
"I personally prefer having a stronger board than we have now," Gomes said Monday, "where we have one focus -- or you might say command of the agenda -- rather than having it divided between the superintendent and the board."
When Gomes first proposed converting the position, he cited raises given by Superintendent Joseph Ovick to some top administrators during the recession as a reason the board should have control over the county's top education leader.
At that time, Gomes and some other board members who opposed the raises felt helpless because they could not overrule Ovick without rejecting the entire budget.
Ovick did not seek re-election in the June 3 primary. He will be replaced by Superintendent-elect Karen Sakata, who won the seat with 61 percent of the votes.
Trustee Pamela Mirabella said Monday that she would like to revisit the idea of changing the way the county selects its superintendent, but might enlist the help of the state superintendent of public instruction and local legislators to pursue a statewide measure asking voters whether county boards of education should be allowed to appoint their superintendents.
"I have people interested, but it's a real hard sell," Mirabella said Monday. "Voters have no clue what the county board does."
Trustee Cynthia Ruehlig, who has opposed the idea all along, said before the June 18 vote that she did not believe any problems exist in the current system, according to the draft minutes. Ruehlig said the board should focus on policy and procedures and responsibilities outlined in the Education Code, while the superintendent should be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the County Office of Education, the minutes state.
The County Office of Education runs special education and alternative education sites. It also approves the budgets of local school districts and oversees some charter schools.
Trustee Richard Asadoorian had previously favored appointing the superintendent, but said the cost of the ballot measure was too high, according to the minutes. However, he expressed support for Mirabella's idea to pursue a statewide measure.
Trying to persuade voters to give up their rights to elect the superintendent could be an uphill battle, said Trustee Christine Deane in the minutes.
To see a legal opinion provided to the Contra Costa County Board of Education regarding placing a measure on the ballot, along with video clips from previous board discussions about the issue, visit www.contracostatimes.com.