• A building with green trees and red roof and large doors

      PUSD headquarters (Photo – ColoradoBlvd.net)


      Three senior staff have left the district in recent months.

      By Rena Kurlander

      Dr. Barnes, PUSD’s Chief Finance and Operations Officer,  was very competent, as her many responsibilities attest.  The losses of Barnes and her management colleagues (first the district’s Chief Technology Officer and then the Director of Maintenance, Operations, Transportation and Facilities) are big losses for the PUSD. These cannot be coincidences.

      Barnes is a veteran business officer. She prepared the information for the Pasadena USD facilities and technology bond passed by the voters in 2020 and was going to be responsible for the implementation of its over $500 million in projects, of which some of the technology parts (large purchases of new computers for students and staff and infrastructure upgrades) have already occurred. In the finance arena, she engineered a dramatic turnaround in the district’s financial position while also negotiating historic increases in compensation for the many valued employees of the district.

      One has to wonder why Barnes and her colleagues in Technology and in Maintenance would leave their positions. One clue can be found in some recent coverage by this newspaper, when compensation increases for administrative staff were questioned by PUSD board members in a recent meeting. Other clues would take a deeper look at what has been taking place in the district since the 2022 election for members of the Pasadena USD Board of Education.

      The majority of the board changed in 2022 from one that respected its management staff to one that has a very deep disrespect for its management staff and who are usually critical of the district. The board had more career educators as members before this change, people who had respect for administrative leaders in management positions. In addition, the members of this new majority have been supported by the district’s faculty union in recent elections. Faculty unions are well known for their maligning of management, and any union leaders who are too collaborative with management will soon be defeated in union elections, as was the case in the spring of 2022 when the president of the district’s faculty union was defeated.

      The union wants power over the decisions of the district, plain and simple, for their own benefit, and the new majority wants to effect that by removing the decision-making power of management staff.  Micromanagement has therefore increased under this new majority. This is no doubt a major, unspoken reason for the departure of senior PUSD staff, as micromanagement is also a form of disrespect of professional management, and one that is very hard for senior staff to endure.

      Rena Kurlander is a resident in the San Gabriel Valley.


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      1. Jennifer Gottlieb says:

        I definitely agree with Jonathan Gardner about the author’s dubious intent to discredit the union’s perspective and interests. The line near the end, “The union wants power over the decisions of the district, plain and simple, for their own benefit,” shows a common misconception about the aims of teacher’s unions. As a former elected leader in United Teachers Los Angeles, I know the gross mischaracterization by politicians and pundits of the goals of teachers unions. When we act collectively, we act for the members and the students. Support for students and support for teachers are one and the same, when it comes to financial resources, health and safety issues, conditions that foster higher achievement, and trusting those that do the job of teaching on a daily basis to have the most expertise related to ensuring student success.

      2. Ted says:

        She was micromanaged by a board member. That board member’s behavior is well known to all in PUSD circles. Always negative about PUSD, always questioning all the numbers and constantly adding tons of pointless work to staff. Currently blocking a K-8 in Altadena Arts and Eliot because it is a positive idea for Altadena’s families and positives aren’t her thing. Hernandez left just a few weeks ago, on, so no, it wasn’t because she had more work as she only worked one day a week on facilities. And it’s false that there has been a lot of change in the top leadership. There hasn’t been much. The timeline is accurate. The UTP endorsed an elitist private school person and supported his documented false attacks (which were assisted by the well-known UTP-supported board member who sued the district and cost the district money needlessly in order to score political points about Covid) against Michelle Bailey-a PUSD graduate whose grandkids are in PUSD, in the 2022 election. This is also public knowledge.
        Why would UTP do all of that? Because they didn’t just want input, they wanted total domination. The board member in question wants total domination too. Everyone knows that too.

      3. Roberta Smith says:

        Barnes left because she was micromanaged by a Board Member. Everyone knows this.

        • Victoria says:

          Barnes is accountable to the superintendent so could it be that she was given too much work after her colleague, Leonard Hernandez, left and she got all his work in addition to hers? Maybe she decided it was time to get out too? There has always been a lot of change in the top leadership, so is that the board’s fault or someone else’s?

      4. Jonathan Gardner says:

        Attacking the union for wanting stakeholder input from labor partners, community partners, parents and site staff is not productive.
        Barnes is likely not content that her close colleague in Dr. Rudchenko is being passed over for the Chief of HR role is MUCH more likely and direct a reason and would match the timeline FAR more accurately.

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