East San Jose school board members sit inside at a public meeting
The Alum Rock Union School District board chose an interim superintendent at a packed meeting on March 19, 2024. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

An East San Jose school board has appointed an interim leader on the heels of its sudden firing of the superintendent. 

The Alum Rock Union School District board of trustees unanimously appointed Imee Almazan, director of student services, as interim superintendent effective March 26. Trustee Minh Pham said Almazan is serving in an interim capacity until a permanent replacement is found and is unlikely to apply for the position.

Pham said Almazan has approximately 20 years with the district as a counselor, school principal and director in the district office. He said the board will begin the search for a permanent superintendent in the coming days. He said her salary needs to be negotiated, but shouldn’t exceed the current salary of $253,750 for the superintendent.

“As a whole the board will need to set the parameters, as well as ensure the community has opportunities to voice their opinions,” he said. “I strongly believe that the Alum Rock community must have an opportunity to weigh in on any candidate who seeks the appointment.”

Board President Corina Herrera-Loera said Almazan brings district experience to the position.

“She has been invested in our district for years, serving in various leadership capacities,” Herrera-Loera told San José Spotlight. “We listened to our community and took (into) account the qualifications they voiced this person should have. I look forward to continuing to have those in our ARUSD community involved as we move into determining who our next superintendent will be.”

Almazan’s appointment follows the board’s unexpected decision to fire Superintendent Hilaria Bauer on March 16. The board voted 3-2 to end her contract, with Trustees Pham, Linda Chavez and Andres Quintero voting in favor and Herrera-Loera and Andrea Flores Shelton opposing it. Bauer’s last day is March 25.

Sandra Rivera, president of Alum Rock Educators Association, said the union supports the board’s decision to terminate Bauer’s contract.

“There have been signs that the district needed a fresh new start and (the union) believes that the board took the appropriate actions to help Alum Rock,” she said. “We look forward to moving forward together.”

Rivera asked the board for transparency and an informed interim superintendent who understands the needs of the school district and actively supports students and teachers. She said transparency and clear communication with parents and school employees was lacking with Bauer.

Leaders are projecting a $20.8 million budget shortfall this year as the district contends with the loss of state and one-time COVID funding, along with declining enrollment. Bauer had recommended closing the middle school portion of Aptitud Academy to save $1.2 million, and while the school board decided to delay that decision, the district expects to close at least five schools to stay out of the red.

East San Jose leaders, including various neighborhood association presidents and the Mayfair Strong Neighborhoods Initiative board, said in a joint letter to the trustees that the decision to terminate Bauer was done in support of students and the community.

“Should you move to change this action, we will consider your actions… counter to the health and welfare of our students and schools,” they said in a statement. “We will not accept poor leadership any longer. Should you disagree with the community, you will find our answer at the ballot box.”

Not everyone agreed with the board’s decision. Parent Olivia Ortiz told San José Spotlight abruptly removing the superintendent lacked transparency. Ortiz said Bauer improved the district, provided resources and made it less dysfunctional. She said Bauer was engaged with the community and hopes the new superintendent will be as well.

“I do feel like the process was not what we are looking for. By them doing this out of nowhere, I feel very disappointed,” she said.

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected].

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