Lancaster District Hires 4th Superintendent in 2 Years

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The troubled Lancaster school district hired its fourth superintendent in just over two years Wednesday, picking a Latino educator from Riverside County who officials said will be the first Latino to head an Antelope Valley school district in memory.

The Board of Trustees of the 10,800-student district voted 4 to 0 to give a three-year contract to David Alvarez, 37, a Mexican-American who has been the superintendent of the Coachella Unified School District since mid-1986.

Latinos, the fastest-growing group in Antelope Valley schools, account for about 15% of the district's students.

Alvarez is scheduled to start the job July 1 at a salary of $83,000 a year.

Alvarez will take over a rapidly growing elementary school district that has been rocked by administrative changes, and, more recently, with problems with budget shortfalls, crowded schools and controversy over planned teacher-aide layoffs.

Board members said they hoped Alvarez would give a new vision to the district. "He was the best candidate," school board President Frank Astourian said. "He has the intelligence and strength of character to really help the district."

Alvarez comes from a district that is about the same size as Lancaster's. The Coachella district has 11 schools--including elementary and high schools--and about 10,000 students, he said. The Lancaster district has 14 elementary schools.

The Lancaster district has about 850 full-time employees and an expected budget for the coming year of $39 million.

Alvarez told a reporter that the Coachella School Board had decided earlier this year not to renew his contract there, but said that was because the November election brought four new members to the district's seven-member school board.

"There aren't any surprises," he said. "They just wanted their own superintendent."

The school board's decision ended a five-month nationwide search that school district officials said attracted 51 applications. The school board interviewed 10 finalists, cut that number to three, and then school board members last week visited and talked with officials in the Coachella district.

The hiring of an outsider for the Lancaster superintendent's job marked a major change for the district. All three previous superintendents had been hired from within the district. But this time, the school board had decided to consider only outside candidates.

The Lancaster district superintendent's job had been held on an interim basis since July, 1989, by Edward Goodwin, the district's assistant superintendent for educational services, who will return to that job.

The school board had pushed out a prior superintendent, E. Jarold Wright, who succeeded Charles Gastineau. Gastineau was demoted in February, 1988.

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