Hutchins: 8,514 (47%)
Glentzer: 10,575 (53%)
The Grand Jury, and maybe even the DA, ought to look into the recent election for County Superintendent of Schools. Yeah, yeah, I was for incumbent Michelle Hutchins, and she lost by 2,061 votes while about 2800 voters chose not to vote for either Hutchins or Glentzer.
If Hutchins had prevailed in the creepiest, nastiest manner that elected Glentzer, I’d complain about Hutchins, too, but she ran an honest, transparent campaign, her opponent didn't.
But Hutchins ran an honest, transparent race, her opponent didn’t. Ms. G didn’t take a leave of absence to campaign, campaigned while she was on her vague job with Ukiah Unified, as did several of her supporters who also have school or school-related public jobs.
Which is illegal.
It was also the oddest election in this county that I can remember, and by far the meanest, the crummiest, most of it via secret slander by Glentzer supporters. There were no issues, not a single letter or comment that said, specifically, I’m voting for Glentzer because….. One would think at least one of the more than ten thousand people who voted for Glentzer would be able to explain why she should be elected and Hutchins defeated. Nope, not a one.
Mendocino County's edu-bloc —its collective faculty and support staff — went heavily for Glentzer because, apparently, they were afraid not to, given that the superintendents of the Fort Bragg and Ukiah school districts made it known that staffers had better vote for Glentzer or else. The Ukiah-Fort Bragg Axis was backed up by pockets of low down loons in Anderson Valley who’ve devoted their empty lives to destroying Hutchins, even after she left her Boonville boss job for the County position.
And then you had retired “educators” like Paul Tichinin, a former county superintendent of schools who went all the way back to when the agency saw a pair of his fellow administrators packed off to jail, when the entire operation was, as they say, ethically challenged. No prob for Tichinin, the ultimate go along to get along guy.
Another sleazy character who lent his flabby support to Glentzer is Damon Dickinson who, incidentally, was recently hired by Potter Valley to find that tiny school district a superintendent and came up with, ta-da, himself. This is how these opportunistic characters roll, and they get over in a county whose larges school district, and several of its smaller ones, are so utterly failed they’re either in a kind of state conservatorship or on the margin of a state takeover.
A illustrative exchange I had with a Coast woman was typical of the contest. “Well, I’m voting for Glentzer because I respect Becky Walker (then-Fort Bragg superintendent), and Becky Walker is supporting Glentzer.” Translation: I have no idea who these candidates are or what the County Office of Education does and could care less, and I’m too lazy to find out for myself what the issues are.”
Issues? There were none that anyone would dare talk about in public, but there was one, and it was a big one: Hutchins was the first superintendent in years, probably ever, who made sure that the small outback school districts got their fair share of attention, help and funding which, historically, went first to Ukiah, then Fort Bragg, Willits, and on down to Anderson Valley and maybe Whale Gulch.
Ukiah superintendent, Deb Kubin, the fiscal wizard who brought a multi-million dollar, all-weather playing field to Ukiah devoted to one sport, was hostile to Hutchins for the following reason, among other fiscally inspired beefs she had with Hutchins.
Why would Nicole Glentzer, an hitherto invisible Ukiah Unified School District administrator, suddenly decide to run against incumbent Michelle Hutchins for Mendocino County School Superintendent, especially since Ms. Hutchins has established the agency as effectively helpful to the far flung independent school districts of vast Mendocino County and there have been zero complaints about her administration?
(The prior admin of Paul Tichinin was a regular Laff Riot, and Warren Galetti seemed downright overwhelmed by the job and resigned to return to the Point Arena Fog Belt where the usual irresponsible school board made him boss at more money than he made presiding over all of Mendocino County’s school districts.)
Ms. Glentzer’s facebook page doesn’t offer much in the way of specific reasons for her campaign, boldly declaring with see-through vacuity, “With the right leadership, our schools can rise to any challenge and go above and beyond meeting student needs.”
And, “When teachers, parents, and administrators from across the county began approaching me to run for this position [Names! And why did they “approach” me?], it became clear that we needed change in the office, and that I could make a difference. The Superintendent of Schools should provide better support to our schools. The 13,000 children in our schools deserve dedication, experience, and common sense.” (How about intelligent leadership and smart teachers?)
We’re pretty sure Ms. Hutchins would say pretty much the same thing. Edu-speak is heavy on uplift, but uniformly vague, rhetorically the same here in the NorCal outback as in San Francisco, and always without so much as a hint of the grim fact that California schools, even as measured by the loose metrics of American educational standards, annually churn out millions of functional illiterates totally unprepared to cope in an imploding society.
Ms. Glentzer offered no specific reasons to unseat incumbent Hutchins; simply implying that Ms. Hutchins is not dedicated, experienced and lacks common sense.
Pure wind, thrown out there with zero evidence of the charges, but hard evidence that Ms. G has no issues, or no issues she cares to share because, as we shall see, that issue is so transparently without merit it would make her look grasping, not for students but for herself and her “upper-level management” colleagues.
We suspected there was some kind of insider bureaucratic dispute behind Ms. Glentzer’s run for County Superintendent. We asked Superintendent Hutchins if she had any idea why Ms. Glentzer decided to run. Hutchins speculated that it may have begun when Ms. Hutchins denied some money for Ukiah Unified for a program called “differentiated assistance,” i.e., state edu-money for underperforming school districts — which Ukiah Unified certainly is by most indicators.
Ukiah Unified features an abnormally high suspension rate and lagging academic test scores, a fact that the Ukiah district, with its over-large admin apparatus, probably prefers to hide from most of its consumers. If Ms. Glentzer and her fellow “upper level manager” are such effective administrators, how did Ukiah Unified’s edu-rating fall to the level of needing “differentiated assistance” in the first place?
Back in May of 2020 Ukiah Unified Superintendent Debra Kubin asked Hutchins for “differentiated assistance funds,” which Kubin wanted to spend on her own consultants which, Kubin explained, “could be extremely valuable in this area with our upper level managers,” and “a retreat we would like to hold.”
Hold it right there. Consultants? Upper level managers? Retreat? We've had years of these ripoffs out of Tichinin's seemingly endless reign at County Schools, and before him, the agency was operated as a criminal conspiracy that saw two “upper level managers” packed off to jail for stealing and what you might call “moral turpitude.” (An upper level manager named Hal Titen was making pornographic films with underage girls in the back room of his Ukiah bar using educational equipment he'd “borrowed” from MCOE. His “upper level manager” colleagues of course said they were “surprised and shocked.”)
Ms. Hutchins replied to Kubin's attempt to grab off a nice hunk of cash for her Ukiah-based upper level managers by citing the Education Code (Sec. 52071), which clearly requires that the differentiated assistance money go to County offices from which the assistance is provided to all county school districts. It's not supposed to be passed preferentially along to individual districts. Ms. Hutchins added that she and her County staff would be more than happy to work with Ukiah Unified to figure out ways to improve Ukiah Unified’s lamentable performance challenges but would not simply hand over the money for consultants and retreats for upper level managers. (Ms. Hutchins phrased it a bit more tactfully.)
Ukiah Unified was very unhappy. Prior MCOE administrations always played ball. And then some.
When Hutchins ran four years ago she ran against another Ukiah Unified administrator named Bryan Barrett.
Barrett, AVA readers may recall, was the ring leader behind trying to nail Ukiah teachers union rep Dennis Boaz as a racist for writing that Ukiah Unified’s administration was being “niggardly” in their salary negotiations. The Superintendent at Ukiah at the time was a black woman who commuted to the job from LA. There was certainly nothing niggardly about her salary and perks.
It's entirely possible that the common adjective found offensive by the Ukiah boobouisie was truly not recognized by Barrett and MCOE's Tichinin, educational standards being what they too often are among school administrators, but the wider public wondered out loud, “These dummies are running our schools?”
Ukiah Unified is the largest school district in the County by far and they don’t like it when their funding requests are denied, especially when those requests are for Ukiah Unified’s “upper level managers” and their preferred consultants — one of whom is that wacky Ukiah guy Steve Zuieback who based his “consulting” on this preposterous “enneagram.”
(The Ukiah City Council also thought Zuieback's lunacy was “clarifying.” Mr. Zuieback has since died.)
We didn't expect Ms. Glentzer to say much beyond vague claims of “leadership” and “making a difference,” but as it turned out, she didn't need to. We preferred the incumbent, who was not a captive of any one County school district, she's out and Ukiah's back in. (Mark Scaramella contributed to this article.)