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LAUSD’s Matt Hill a finalist for superintendent of Burbank schools

Vanessa Romo | April 15, 2015

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Matt Hill

Matt Hill

One of the last top tier LA Unified executives who was instrumental in launching the disastrous iPad and MISIS programs, is one step away from getting a new job.

Matt Hill, the district’s Chief Strategy Officer, is believed to be the favorite among two finalists for the superintendent position at Burbank Unified School District, a position he would assume upon the retirement of the current leader at the end of the school year.

“We will be making our final decision tomorrow,” Charlene Tabet, Vice President of the Burbank School Board told LA School Report. She would not reveal the name of the other finalist.

Hill has survived two rounds of interviews by the board and is a “strong contender,” according to Tabet. His name was first presented to the school board by Leadership Associates, a California-based superintendents search firm, which submitted four potential candidates for consideration, now down to two. “He’s really impressed us,” Tabet said.

But Hill, who did not respond to a message seeking comment, is already facing opposition.

Through a series of email blasts, the Burbank Teachers Association is rallying teachers to block Hill’s appointment. Union officials are urging the board to reject him and continue the search.

The teachers’ greatest concerns involve Hill’s role in the LA Unified iPad program that brought the FBI to the district’s doors as part of a federal investigation into procurement procedures. They have raised questions about his leadership role as well as his involvement in the district’s monumental technological mess that is MISIS, the student data management system that continues to bleed money by the millions.

Just yesterday, the board approved another $8.5 million expenditure to pay for fixes in the MISIS system.

Burbank teachers also object to Hill’s lack of experience in the classroom. He has never served as a teacher nor as a school principal. Prior to his career in education, Hill worked in Black & Decker’s business development group. He’s also been a strategy consultant in the financial services industry.

Hill’s resume, however, is a bonus, said Larry Applebaum, another member of the Burbank board.

“I’m a business man,” he said. “I’m the first to admit that not everything I’ve touched has turned to gold.”

“Hill was able to articulate what he learned from those failures, what he would do differently, and he convinced us, through a very rigorous interview process, that his vision could help get us where we want to go,” Applebaum said.

Teaching credentials are also unnecessary for the job according to Applebaum, who argues that Burbank’s existing instructional team has established a district full of high achieving schools. What Hill does bring to the table, said Applebaum, is extensive experience in managing systems and technology.

“He has a lot of experience and background that will help the district overcome some longstanding issues that have much more to do with human resources, business, technology, and facilities. A lot of that has direct impact on what happens in the classroom on a day to day basis,” he said.

In recent months, Hill was stripped of many of his duties as the head of LA Unified’s most prominent technology endeavors, for which he apologized to the board and the public at school board meetings. Both the iPad program and MISIS were championed by former superintendent John Deasy, who framed the billion dollar iPad program as a civil rights issue. But it was Hill who recommended to Deasy sticking to the district’s timeline on MISIS, a mistake that has cost the district the nearly $60 million thus far, and has caused massive disruptions on school campuses.

After the resignation of the district’s Chief Information Officer, Ron Chandler, in October Superintendent Ramon Cortines, Deasy’s replacement, asked Hill to share oversight of MISIS, but he has since been pulled off of that project to oversee the Information Technology Department.

Still, Cortines wrote a letter of recommendation for Hill in his application for the Burbank job.

Hill is one of the district’s highest salaried employees, earning an annual salary just under $200,000. Applebaum suggested Hill will be earning close to that amount if he gets the job.

“At the highest it’s possible he could make up to $250,000,” Applebaum said.

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