He goes by many names, though he might not know it. Whether it be the Dr. Dumbledore of school district management or super super superintendent, William D. Barr, Hollister School District’s interim superintendent, has built a solid reputation among local school districts.
“There was a lot of inexperience in our board but with his experience he was able to answer a lot of the questions,” said Kevin Cordeiro, board member at Gustine Unified School District since 2016.
According to Cordeiro, Barr helped put things in order when he was the interim superintendent for six months in 2017 at the school district west of Merced. Barr worked with the district on a bond measure and helped inexperienced personnel stay within their role boundaries.
“He got things done in a professional manner,” Cordeiro said. “He didn’t escalate problems.”
Hollister School District trustee Robert Bernosky shared Cordeiro’s regard for Barr.
“I don’t think Dr. Barr overreacts to anything,” Bernosky said. “He is the Dr. Dumbledore. He is the patient one and knows people very well and he is going to keep you on a straight and narrow path. I could surmise he does not do drama and I think that’s what we need.”
Barr was hired by HSD on July 6 after superintendent Lisa Andrew resigned.
Bernosky said there were three qualified candidates for the interim position, but Barr’s sage advice was what the board needed. He called Barr a specialist with the skill set of a CEO.
“He is there to hold the rotor and stay the course we are on,” Bernosky said. “Education has become very complicated, very regulated and from my point of view his position is to make sure we stay in compliance with everything that needs compliance.”
With his doctoral degree in organizational leadership from the University of La Verne, 40 years in education as superintendent of the Monterey County School District and as a lecturer at San Jose State University and University of California Berkeley, along with countless awards received along the way, Barr said he feels right at home in his new position.
“I’m not going to allow bad decisions to take place,” Barr said. “I’m going to support good decisions. I’m going to make decisions where they are needed to be made. It’s not something I’m worried about or afraid to do. I’ve done this for years and years.”
Barr said he came out of retirement because education is something he enjoys and has a passion for. He said he likes to believe he still has some energy left to contribute to the industry by helping people and school districts.
Barr said some of the challenges the school board will have in finding a full-time superintendent relate to timing. With schools being days away from starting up the school year, there are few candidates who haven’t found jobs already. The process takes several months just to start narrowing down candidates, he said.
Candidates for Hollister’s full-time superintendent position are superintendents of smaller districts, or assistant supes looking to advance, according to Barr.
However, he believes the district, with its outstanding teacher groups and administrators, dedicated school board and supportive community can attract qualified candidates. He made it clear during his first board meeting on July 24 that he has no intention of taking on the full-time position.
“The day they appoint a new superintendent I step down,” Barr said. “They may want me to advise the new superintendent for a few days. That’s a choice they have. But they gave me a contract and it basically says my contract ends the day the new person’s contract starts.”
Barr’s 46-day contract can be extended through June 2019. He said he believes the extension is there in case the board is successful in appointing a new superintendent early and they want to use his unused days to mentor the new superintendent or do trainings once a month.
But if the board cannot find a full-time replacement before Barr’s contract expires, he cannot work past his contract without affecting his CalSTRS pension, which he is not willing to do.
He said the board would have to find another interim if his contract expires.
Bernosky seemed unconcerned about taking on a second interim.
“I’m hopeful that we will work really hard to get that permanent replacement, highly qualified, the right person in as quickly as possible,” Bernosky said.
Although he is capable of making important decisions, Barr said he is not looking to bring major changes to the district that the new superintendent will then inherit. He said his job is to make decisions on everyday matters.
“I’m going to be in support of them choosing the very best person they can to take over,” he said. “And I will do everything I can to give that person all the advice I can to be the best at the new job they have. That’s the end of me.”