Newport-Mesa Unified picks interim head until replacement for Supt. Lee-Sung is found

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District office in Costa Mesa. Trustees on Tuesday named Hank Bangser interim superintendent.
Newport-Mesa Unified School District trustees on Tuesday named Hank Bangser interim superintendent, starting Aug. 3.
(File Photo)

Having acquired an interim superintendent to temporarily replace outgoing leader Russell Lee-Sung in a unanimous vote Tuesday, Newport-Mesa Unified School District trustees are headlong into a national search for a permanent replacement and are seeking community input.

Board President Karen Yelsey said Thursday officials are working with California-based consulting firm Leadership Associates to gather feedback from a wide range of district stakeholders through virtual small group meetings and by circulating an online survey to district residents through June 30.

The survey, offered in English and Spanish, asks respondents to identify strengths and challenges the new candidate may face at Newport-Mesa Unified and share more about the traits and experiences they would like to see in a leader.

“We want to go out and get input from as many people in the community as possible — anybody and everybody,” Yelsey said Thursday. “Then, we’ll have a summary that will kind of give us what other people feel we should look for when we’re interviewing.”

Interviews are anticipated to start sometime around mid-August, and Yelsey said the board is hopeful that if all goes well, they could have the candidate field narrowed down to a final candidate sometime in September.

To ensure a smooth transition between Lee-Sung’s anticipated Aug. 3 departure and the selection of a permanent replacement, board members in a regular meeting Tuesday approved a temporary work agreement with retired superintendent Hank Bangser.

The not-to-exceed $48,248 contract begins on Aug. 3 and offers a daily pay rate of $1,200, with a $200 daily housing allowance and workers’ compensation coverage. An end date was not specified in the contract.

Newport-Mesa Unified trustees on Tuesday approved a contract for interim superintendent Hank Bangser, starting Aug. 3, 2021.
Newport-Mesa Unified School District trustees on Tuesday approved a contract for an interim superintendent, Hank Bangser, who will temporarily replace outgoing Supt. Russell Lee-Sung until the board hires a permanent replacement.
(Courtesy of Newport-Mesa Unified School District)

According to the agreement, the interim superintendent will provide a weekly work calendar charting his duties in the week ahead. Yelsey said officials anticipated Bangser would meet with Lee-Sung before the current superintendent’s departure to ensure a seamless transition.

“He really is the bridge to the next superintendent,” the board president clarified.

Bangser has 31 years of experience as a superintendent, most recently at Ojai Unified School District. Before that, he served as a high school principal, assistant principal and teacher, according to a district release issued Wednesday.

The longtime educator earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Williams College and went on to earn a master’s in teaching and a doctorate in educational administration from Northwestern University.

Yelsey expressed optimism that the district’s good reputation would draw a good field of superintendent candidates, but said trustees have a lot of work ahead of them to identify just the right person.

“We’re not on summer break,” she said. “We’re really working hard on getting a great superintendent.”

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