Temecula Valley Unified School District superintendent to step down

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Temecula Valley Unified School District Superintendent Tim Ritter will retire later this year, it was announced at the Tuesday, March 3, school board meeting.

The board received Ritter’s retirement notice in closed session, and moved to appoint Jodi McClay, Temecula Valley Unified’s current deputy superintendent, to fill Ritter’s position, according to TVUSD spokeswoman Laura Boss.

Ritter has served as superintendent since 2010.

“We want to first thank Mr. Ritter for his 19 years of service to the students and families of our district and his 36 years of dedication to education,” Board President Sandy Hinkson said in a statement provided by Boss. “For the past 10 years, he has led us as Superintendent, always with compassion and caring and a vision that has positioned TVUSD as an example of excellence in education. In the upcoming months, we look forward to his assistance as we transition into new leadership. We wish Mr. Ritter and his family the best as he moves into this next chapter of his life.”

Before taking his current position, Ritter served as principal at both Chaparral and Great Oak high schools and as assistant superintendent of education support services.

Hinkson said the board put a “great deal of thought into the desired qualities of our next leader and whether to do an outside search for candidates” before deciding to appoint McClay as the new superintendent.

“In considering the challenges facing our district in these times, we feel the benefits of elevating our homegrown insider, who has an extensive history in our district and community and a detailed knowledge of our values and vision, greatly outweigh any benefit that might come from engaging in a broader search,” Hinkson said. “We have the utmost confidence in Ms. McClay’s ability to maintain our forward momentum, while at the same time bringing new ideas for growth.”

Hinkson told Valley News in a later email that Ritter had been sharing openly for some time that he planned to retire at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, and with that knowledge, the TVUSD board had been having regular discussions on the topic and options during closed session since the end of January.

“As a matter of formality, Mr. Ritter provided his official resignation and retirement notice to the board in closed session during the regularly scheduled board meeting on March 3,” Hinkson said. “As a result of the board’s previous closed session discussions, the board was prepared upon receiving Mr. Ritter’s notice to move forward with announcing the promotion of Deputy Superintendent McClay to the position of superintendent, effective Aug. 1, 2020.”

Jeff Kingsberg, president of the Temecula Valley Educators Association, the union that represents TVUSD teachers, said he was disappointed in the route the district board took by conducting much of the selection process for the new superintendent behind closed doors.

At the Feb. 18 board meeting, the educators association presented a petition signed by hundreds of teachers calling for a “robust vetting process” in choosing the next superintendent. Kingsberg at the time called on the board to “move away from the ‘we know best’ approach in favor of a ‘let’s determine what’s best’ framework that empowers all community stakeholders,” according to a news release published by TVEA at the time.

Kingsberg told Valley News via telephone March 4 that while he thought McClay would serve the district well, he wished more time had been taken to evaluate who should replace Ritter, and that the announcement of his successor should not have been made so soon.

“The fact that those two things were linked together and especially that they were done in closed session without any feedback – there’s not a whole lot of transparency,” Kingsberg said.

Hinkson responded by saying the district values its relationship with the teachers’ union and understood their expressed concerns.

“This was a decision that we grappled with from the perspective of not wanting to adversely affect or inhibit our stakeholder’s engagement opportunities in a selection process,” Hinkson said. Ultimately, the board has one employee that we are responsible for hiring, the superintendent. That responsibility relies on us as a governing body, and it’s not something we took lightly.”

Hinkson said McClay’s “experience, skills, breadth of knowledge, institutional memory, leadership ability and overall alignment with the board’s priorities” were deciding factors.

“We are a district that lauds itself for ‘growing our own,’” Hinkson said. “We currently have over 200 graduates who have been recognized for returning to TVUSD now as employees and giving back to our district. We feel the same way about our leaders. Ms. McClay has proven herself as a worthy, talented, and capable leader who has garnered her experience and skills over 20 years serving up through the ranks within TVUSD to now be our next superintendent.”

Ritter’s final day as superintendent will be July 31, 2020.