Q & A

Dean Waldfogel, acting superintendent of Irvine Unified School District

When Irvine Unified School District Superintendent David E. Brown left in October to take the top job at Napa Valley Unified School District, only one of the district's three deputy superintendents expressed absolutely no interest in the job. Dean Waldfogel, 53, deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction since 1982, said he was happy with his work and had no ambitions to take on the broad administrative duties of the superintendent. But because the district's two other deputy superintendents are competing for the job, Waldfogel was named acting superintendent until a decision could be made. After the county bankruptcy pushed the school district into fiscal crisis, the search for a new superintendent was put on hold until July 1. Ironically, Waldfogel, the one school district administrator who did not want the superintendent's job, will continue to serve in the position for another seven months during the biggest crisis in the school district's history. He spoke recently with Times correspondent Russ Loar. Q: Why do you not want the superintendent's job?

A: My passion is really for teaching and learning. I'm pleased to be able to play this role for the district right now, as painful as it is. It's important at this time to have someone in this position who has a history with the district and who knows the people here.

Q: Did high expectations cause the district to take unnecessary risk by borrowing $54.5 million to invest in the county pool?

A: We did not take unnecessary risk. The homework was really done on this. This was a secure, thought-through approach and was analyzed by people who have expertise in this area. We've tried two different parcel taxes that didn't pass, we've established our own education foundation, we have been engaged on a $10-million capital campaign. We have lots of expenses that are part of enrolling a student in school that fall outside the state's support of public education. The Board of Education was looking very carefully to find very secure ways to obtain additional funds to support a quality education program in the face of a state that has been, depending on your point of view, either unwilling or unable to do that.

Q: You have said the district faces a minimum $2-million budget cut next school year, which could in fact grow much larger. Where is this school district headed?

A: It's too early to know. It's going to be very painful. We have cut almost perennially since Proposition 13 was passed in 1977 and we're now funded, like all school districts in the state, at only 80% of the national average. We're at a place now where a $2-million budget cut will make it extremely painful in trying to meet very, very high community expectations.

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