In the interim

Kelly Staley’s new title is interim superintendent of the Chico Unified School District. “Interim” is a tricky modifier—it sometimes means temporary, and it sometimes means transitional.

Here, I sense the latter. She may revert to assistant superintendent next year, but she clearly is trying superintendency on for size.

“It wasn’t something I saw coming,” Staley said in a phone conversation Tuesday afternoon. “Things developed rapidly. It’s an honor, but the board made it very, very clear that they’re going to do a national search.”


“I’m here,” she said, “and I don’t want to be a placeholder. There’s always room in any organization to get better…. We certainly have the things we do well, and our warts, but we’re part of the community and need to reach out.”

That’s a significant shift. CUSD has had a culture of isolation. One of Staley’s prime goals is improving communication—“interacting with the community instead of being our own island. Sometimes we’re ‘the people over there.’ ”

Staley predates Chet Francisco, who went off into retirement just 21 months after arriving (ironically via national search).

So far, she’s had only general conversations with the board, which is working out a contract settlement with her former boss. That comes on the heels of three-year budget projections showing a $3.1 million shortfall.

“We’ve reached a tipping point,” she said, referring to a learning-assessment plan championed by Francisco, but just as applicable to district operations as a whole. If she gathers the support of trustees, teachers and staff, she could be the agent of much-needed change.

Taking a stand: Chico State has grown accustomed to national recognition for its students, but Erin O’Connor’s nomination for the 2007 Wilma Rudolph Courage Award delivered something unexpected: a loud slap.

The Women’s Sports Foundation this week declared that O’Connor, “along with two of her teammates, Jennifer Borror and Haley Ford, deserve to be recognized for standing up and speaking out to help their sport of basketball reach a higher level. These ladies did not want verbal abuse in the game they love. Their coach was the one at fault, and they didn’t let her get away with it.”

Just how big a deal is this?

Look at O’Connor’s fellow nominees: the Imus-bashed Rutgers women’s basketball team; teen surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm in a shark attack; basketball player Pamela Malcolm, who returned to the court after getting paralyzed in a car accident; cancer-battling basketball coach Kay Yow; and basketball player Jennifer Harris, a lesbian who stood up to discrimination at Penn State. These are national figures—in the case of Hamilton and Yow, international.

By honoring O’Connor, the WSF also has taken a stand against her former coach.

Molly Goodenbour, hired a year ago, has denied allegations of profanely insulting her players (detailed in the CN&R’s April 5 cover story, “Fast break-up”). She affirmed she has a blunt, demanding style, and the university administration—including President Paul Zingg—has supported her, even in the face of public outcry.

Of course, that was when the headlines were local. This could become a national story in no time.