When Newport-Mesa school board members traveled to Chico last week to investigate their choice for superintendent, their counterparts divulged Robert Barbot's character flaws.
" 'He doesn't like to use e-mail. He doesn't play golf.' The kicker was, 'He under-staffs and he promotes from within,' " Newport-Mesa Trustee Martha Fluor said. "Those are the . . . worst things they could come up with. They didn't really want to let him go."
But Barbot will start Aug. 1 as head of the 20,000 student Newport-Mesa Unified School District, after trustees approved him unanimously at their meeting Tuesday night.
Barbot said the Newport-Mesa post is a sort of homecoming. He was a counselor, teacher, assistant principal and principal at Marina High School in Huntington Beach until 1980, he attended Cal State Fullerton and Chapman University, and his older brother, Joe, lives on Balboa Island.
"I thank the board and the community for their trust. I guarantee you it won't be misplaced," Barbot said. "To work in an area that could be a model for the state--what a terrific opportunity."
Barbot, 52, was superintendent of the 14,000-student Chico district for seven years.
"We heard nothing but wonderful reports about his leadership," said Linda Mook, president of the Newport-Mesa teachers union. "It seemed like he really had the kids' interests at heart."
School board President Jim Ferryman said Barbot is compassionate, yet has the ability to be a strong administrator. He said those qualities will come into play as the district faces its immediate concerns: an unbalanced budget and teachers union negotiations.
Barbot emerged from a field of 51 candidates after a nationwide six-month search. Barbot's salary will be $126,000 annually.