The Garden Grove Unified School District named its first Latina superintendent Tuesday night.
Gabriela Mafi, the district’s assistant superintendent of secondary education, will replace retiring Superintendent Laura Schwalm as of July 1, the school board decided Tuesday night,
The appointment caps a month-long hiring process that detractors called insular and unnecessarily swift. Trustee Bao Nguyen said his initial inclination was to vote against Mafi’s appointment.
“We’ve heard a lot from the community, but I feel that we haven’t heard enough,” Nguyen said. “I feel the process didn’t allow us to listen to the stakeholders who are important. Many are Vietnamese speakers who comprise the majority of parents in our school district.”
The district, which is 33 percent Asian and 53 percent Latino, held one community meeting on Feb. 2.
Some who attended Tuesday night wondered why Mafi was the only candidate interviewed.
“How many people were given the opportunity to apply?” a retired teacher asked.
“None,” an audience member shouted.
In response, Trustee Bob Harden said the search was a lengthy one that began in his living room six years ago. That was when Schwalm told him of her eventual plan to retire.
“I started pestering Dr. Schwalm about a succession plan,” Harden said. The board then went through the process of defining the qualities it wanted to see in its school leaders. They codified that plan two years ago.
Mafi was approved in a 5-0 vote, with Nguyen agreeing on the appointment to show his willingness “to work with the new superintendent in a spirit of collaboration and community.”
Schwalm, who leaves a district where she spent her entire 40-year career, will stay on during a transition period as “emeritus superintendent.”
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