The Tehachapi Unified School District should more actively recruit participation in district leadership and its board should receive further training on communication and ethics standards, according to a Kern County grand jury report released Thursday.
This report comes as current TUSD Superintendent Susan Andreas-Bervel announced her resignation in mid-March and will be leaving at the end of this month. There is still no permanent replacement for her position, but a search firm was decided upon at a meeting May 8.
After Andreas-Bervel leaves at the end of this month, Jacobsen Middle School Principal Paul Kaminski will step in as an interim superintendent.
Andreas-Bervel said Thursday in an emailed statement, "The Board of Trustees will review the Grand Jury report that was released. Board members may disagree with several of the findings, but will respond in due course as required by law. The Board takes its obligations under the Brown Act seriously and will continue to provide training opportunities for Board members."
TUSD board president Leonard Evansic said Thursday he could not comment on the jury's recommendations without first having a discussion with the Board of Trustees. However, he said a special meeting will be scheduled to go over the jury's findings.
The grand jury report states that the district should "encourage community participation" given that a majority of the school board members were appointed to their positions and subsequently ran unopposed.
"We want to encourage as many people as possible to run," Evansic said at Tuesday's board meeting. He added that not many people run for school board positions.
Come November, four seats on the board will be up for re-election. The stipend for each board member was voted May 30 to be $35 per month.
The jury also reported an email chain to be a potential violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act, which provides guidance on conducting public business in public during open meetings. The jury recommends further training on this rule in addition to ethics training.
Meeting minutes did not note the recusal of a board member from an agenda item that would have granted payment to a family member, according to the report. The jury wrote that this "may have contributed to the perception of conflict of interest," which can "lead to distrust of officials."
Evansic said he agrees with the recommendation that the board needs more training on the Brown Act and said this need has been discussed in the past. He said he was comfortable commenting on this recommendation given that all board members are required by law to follow this legislation.
"The Brown Act is a constant for us ... it's part of the background that we work within," Evansic said.
Other recommendations by the grand jury were for the board to "guard against personal bias" and "overcome existing disharmony."
The grand jury received a complaint about the district, prompting its Health, Education and Social Services Committee to investigate. However, the grand jury in its report did not reveal the nature of the complaint.
Tehachapi News reporter Cara Jackson contributed to this report.