The board members obviously had no problem with the details of Mr. Ghysels' departure from the Mountain View Whisman School District, where he worked as superintendent from 2005 to 2010. He left that job voluntarily after it became public that he was in a romantic relationship with an elementary school principal who reported directly to him. Both he and Principal Carmen Mizell were married to other people, but were filing for divorce at the time they told the school board about the relationship.
But this incident, and a few other concerns raised last year about Mr. Ghysels' oversight of Ms. Mizell, obviously did not give pause to the Menlo Park district's five board members, who for the most part raved about the district's new boss, and voted to give him the job.
Remarkably, not one board member mentioned Mr. Ghysels' indiscretion in their public statements at the meeting when he was offered a three-year contract. All five members praised their choice and one, Terry Thygesen, said that while conducting reference checks she had been impressed by the "breadth and depth of support (he) has" within the school community "at all levels."
Board president Maria Hilton said that all board members knew about the relationship with the principal even before they interviewed him. And after "doing our due diligence," they were satisfied that Mr. Ghysels' conduct in Mountain View should not disqualify him from the Menlo Park position.
In our experience, few superintendent hopefuls make it to the final cut with even the slightest blemish on their resume. But in this case, after all six finalists for the job were interviewed, board members voted, in a blind-ballot process, to rank the candidates. It was a straw poll, but Ms. Hilton said all members ranked him No. 1.
In fact, the board may have been too eager to get to a vote on Mr. Ghysels' contract; it voted during a closed session without listing a public comment period on the agenda before that session. Some have said this is a violation of the Brown Act, which governs public meetings, a charge disputed by the district.
But although a public comment period was not included on the agenda, President Hilton offered everyone at the meeting a chance to comment before the board went into closed session, and there were no takers.
So given the enthusiasm shown for Mr. Ghysels by all five board members, who are solely responsible for hiring and firing the superintendent, it is clear he has the support he needs to take over the Menlo Park district, whose academic performance is among the best in the state.
All Mr. Ghysels has to do is maintain that record, bring in a major construction project at Hillview Middle School on budget, while dealing with one of the most challenging budget environments in the district's history. To accomplish these and other goals, he'll certainly have his hands full in the months and years ahead.
This story contains 551 words.
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