New supe: It’s a good thing

The Chico Unified School District has a new superintendent, and by almost all assessments, Chico is lucky he wants to take us on. Chet Francisco is an experienced, talented superintendent who in Riverside County has overseen the building of schools, chart-topping test scores and, with the help of admirable communication skills, won the praise of community members at large and even the media.

There were many praiseworthy aspects to the outgoing supe, Scott Brown, who chose the right time to bow out. He hired energetic new people. He took chances on up-and-coming young administrators. And, despite having to deal with millions of dollars in cuts, Brown knew how to budget. He could be abrasive and arrogant, but he was also smart and cunning.

The CUSD is paying dearly for Dr. Francisco—$170,000 a year plus benefits, nearly $40,000 more than Brown was making. The school board says he’s worth it, and with the CUSD in the midst of a money-sucking enrollment slide that’s closing schools and killing programs, he’d better be.

Francisco will likely enjoy a long honeymoon period with the board, all five members of which wholeheartedly sing his praises. That could make it hard for trustees to see any shortcomings that may emerge with the new supe. Expect a love-fest.

Also expect still-angry supporters of ousted Marsh Junior High School Principal Jeff Sloan to try to bend Francisco’s ear. Expect more budget cuts—even more school closures—as the state continues to flail. Expect union discord as the district enters its third year with no significant raise for teachers. Expect more tough times for the CUSD, but expect good things, too.

We, like the trustees, are optimistic. The new superintendent is a chance for a fresh start, and we trust that he will bring many good things to the CUSD.