SEATTLE - Seattle school board members are expected to vote Wednesday to approve Jose Banda as the next superintendent of Seattle Public Schools. Monday’s announcement came after the two other finalists pulled out of the race.
Banda is currently the superintendent of the Anaheim, Calif. School District.
In a phone interview with KING 5's Robert Mak, Banda said he received the offer last night when board president Michael DeBell called him, and pending a vote, has formally accepted the job.
"I was very excited and very elated," Banda said. "I was very impressed with how much people, not only the district folks, but even the community members and the parents, with how committed they are to the whole Seattle Public Schools system."
DeBell said in a statement "We believe [Banda] is a strong fit for Seattle."
School board members say when they met Banda he did not propose any big changes, and that's what they liked.
"We want a superintendent who will support what is already working in our district, not somebody who's just going to come in with their own agenda,” said Sharon Peaslee. "He's going to spend a year getting to know us, without making any big changes. There's a year of strategizing.”
"He is interested in collaborating with his school board,” said Marty McLaren.
The board is expected to formally announce Banda Wednesday, then vote on a contract in two weeks. Banda would start July 1, if a contract is approved.
Banda acknowledged a challenge ahead in unifying a school district that has been experienced turmoil over the past year. However, he said he is eager to make himself available to community members who want to know more about the future of Seattle Public Schools.
"The challenge is you have a lot of groups out there who have an idea about how education should be done, and so the challenge is to bring these groups together," he said. "My leadership style is very collaborative, very open, but also making sure that we set high standards and high accountability for all the things that we do, starting with myself."
Banda said during his first year he hopes to establish a strong community presence, meeting with not only parents, but community stakeholders.
"What drives me is the new challenge and the opportunities to be able to work with a new school community, build those partnerships, build those collaborations that support the instruction and support the education of our children," he said. "I'm very accessible, I'm very approachable, I want to get out in the community to make sure folks have the opportunity to dialogue with the superintendent."
Fermin Leal is an education reporter in Orange County, where many of the parents work at Disneyland and the surrounding tourist community.
Leal says, Banda has experience with low-income students who are learning English, but his district is less than half the size of Seattle's and only has elementary schools.
"I am surprised because even here in Orange County he is not one of the most notable superintendents,” said Leal.
The two other finalists, Steven Enoch and Dr. Sandra Husk, announced they were withdrawing from the race Saturday and Monday, respectively.
"In my communication with people inside the district last week, it became apparent that there are competing approaches as to where the district should go and how it should get there,” said Husk in a statement to the Statesman Journal of Salem, Ore.
"This decision is strictly a personal decision as I have concluded that what Seattle needs is a younger person, potentially able to provide longer stability and direction for the district," Enoch said in a letter to the school board.
Word of Husk's withdrawal came before the school board made its announcement.
Seattle Board members insist they did not choose Banda by default.
"This search did not come down to no candidates left standing, because last night, when we met, there were still two candidates,” said Peaslee.
The search of a new superintendent began after Maria Goodloe-Johnson was fired more than a year ago following reports of wasteful spending. One of the key players in the scandal, Silas Potter Jr., is accused of bilking $250,000 from the school district when he ran the Regional Small Business Development program. Potter pleaded not guilty.
Interim superintendent Susan Enfield accepted an offer in February to become superintendent in the Highline School District.