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Our View: Welcoming aboard the new Hart district ‘super’

The Signal Editorial Board

Posted: August 14, 2010 6:08 p.m.
Updated: August 15, 2010 4:05 a.m.

As the newly hired superintendent of the Hart district, Rob Challinor is jumping right into the fire.

Fresh from the Muroc Joint Unified School District, he faces the challenges of managing a district wracked by budget cuts and shortfalls, crowded classes and a long-overdue new high school — not to mention going from overseeing a district with 2,050 students to one with roughly 23,000.

It’s the job one does that really matters, but first impressions also carry weight. Challinor made a good one when he sat down with the editorial board last week, coming across free of press-release spin and full of common-sense assessments.

While he dealt with declining student populations in Muroc, in his 27 years with the Hesperia Unified School District, Challinor managed a district with student-population growth. With the Santa Clarita Valley’s student population certain to grow in coming years, we suspect he is well-equipped to face the challenges growth will bring.

With politicians in Sacramento continuing to sit on their hands and delay a state budget, schools have been hit hard, having to institute furlough days, make staffing cuts and delay projects.

The William S. Hart Union High School District is financially stable for the moment, but the coming two to five fiscal years remain murky, Challinor said.

“We need to provide for long-term fiscal responsibility,” he said.

It is our hope Challinor takes the bull by the horns and does as much as is possible at his end to turn ideology into reality.

Challinor also spoke of the need to close the achievement gap graduating seniors are facing. There needs to be dialogue between high school and college instructors, he said, in how to ensure our young people are well-equipped and prepared in the transition to higher education.

We were encouraged to hear his concern for character-based initiatives — such as Connecting to Success — that strive to instill more than just reading, writing and arithmetic in the next generation, preparing them for life in the real world.

You learn a lot by asking a man about his reputation. When we asked Challinor to describe how he might be perceived in his former districts, he very simply said he was a straight-shooting, no-nonsense leader — the type who has the best interests of the community in mind.

The job of superintendent means dealing with the good, the bad and occasionally the ugly realities in our community — from impressive standardized testing scores and high-performing athletes to teacher layoffs and teen drug problems.

It’s Challinor’s job to be a responsive overseer. It is our responsibility as your community paper to keep a close watch on how our public schools are performing and being managed.

Sometimes that means asking tough questions public officials may be loathe to answer.

At the onset of Wednesday’s meeting, Challinor told us: “I’ll be as cooperative as the law allows me to be.” We’ll hold him to it.

Our schools are the incubators of our future. Challinor seemingly brings to the table both leadership experience and passion to do the job well and meet all expectations.

And so we welcome him aboard and wish him the best, urging him to indeed keep community first.


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