HESPERIA • Mark McKinney, the long-time superintendent of Hesperia Unified School District, was at the center of a highly volatile meeting Wednesday night that was called by the board to discuss his possible termination.
Little information was released as to what prompted nearly four hours of closed session discussion, with officials citing personnel privacy laws. But when the meeting was over, the district's board of directors announced they'd unanimously decided to keep McKinney at his post, voting to save him 5-0.
"There was supposition that this was all about firing Mark: I'd like you all to meet your superintendent, Mr. Mark McKinney," said board member Lee Rogers, who was cut off by cheering and clapping hands that turned into a standing ovation.
"Our staff has all been walking on eggshells for a long, long time," Rogers said. "They don't have to any longer. Mr. McKinney, our superintendent, is our employee — that's the board's employee. We will give Mr. McKinney direction. He will follow the direction and take care of business. If he doesn't, we will talk to Mr. McKinney... We are all together on this, every single, solitary one of us sitting here."
The meeting, which was scheduled only 24 hours in advance, drew a large crowd of protesters who held up signs and chanted "we support Mark." As the community rallied around their superintendent, the board agreed to allow everyone who wished to comment on Mckinney's behalf to do so, extending the public commentary time by an additional 20 minutes.
"Mark has been essential in guiding us and this district through the challenging times that we are facing now in education," said Tom Kerman, president of the Hesperia Teachers Association. "It has been the steady leadership of him and his cabinet that has guided us through — while funding was being cut and regardless of what else was going on, we were able to maintain central services because we never took our eye off what was our priority an that was our students in the classroom."
Kerman's comments drew loud cheers, stomping and waving of signs as the board continued to listen to what every person had to say about their beloved superintendent.
"Christmas is coming and I was supposed to be at Macy's tonight," said Leslie Rockwell, a career and college counselor at Hesperia High School. "I love to shop and I love Christmas but I love that man more than shopping at Macy's, so let's get on with it," Rockwell said as she pointed to McKinney and the crowd cheered.
McKinney said afterwards that he was truly humbled by the outpouring of support he received from the community, adding that the experience has forced the board to reach a new level of trust in each other.
"We are unified in our focus and direction and I commend our board for being able to lay down that foundation," McKinney said.