Hart District to discuss letter about superintendent search, transparency

The William S. Hart Union High School District office
The William S. Hart Union High School District office

The William S. Hart Union High School District’s governing board is set to discuss a letter addressing allegations of an open-meeting law violation with respect to its recent search for a new superintendent.

During their Wednesday night meeting, board members are expected to discuss a change in future search procedures after Santa Clarita resident Steve Petzold submitted a “cure and correct” letter to the board, in response to trustees naming current Deputy Superintendent Mike Kulhman as the successor to Superintendent Vicki Engbrecht when she retires.

A “cure and correct” letter is sent to a legislative body when an individual believes that body, in this case the Hart District’s governing board, has violated the Brown Act, which is California’s open-meeting law. The legislative body can respond to a cure and correct letter by either: informing the concerned individual the body is making a correction; informing the individual the board is not taking action; or ignoring the letter, according to the First Amendment Coalition.

In his letter, Petzold said the board didn’t properly disclose to the public that the district was looking for a successor to Engbrecht, which, if true, could constitute a Brown Act violation.

“The decision to appoint Mike Kuhlman as superintendent-select should be rescinded by the board,” Petzold’s letter said.

In the district’s proposed response to Petzold, board President Bob Jensen says the board is disputing the facts as portrayed in his letter, and that board members didn’t violate the Brown Act. However, the letter states the board would make a correction in the future.

“In order to avoid unnecessary litigation, and without admitting any violation of the
Brown Act, the board hereby unconditionally commits that it will cease, desist from, and not
repeat the challenged past action as described above,” reads the letter that would be sent from the board to Petzold if the board approves it.

The letter does not address whether the board would vacate its decision to name Kuhlman as the next superintendent, but the letter states a future decision regarding the position of superintendent would be made in open session, and if made during closed session, would be reported out to the public.

“The board may rescind this commitment only by a majority vote of its membership taken
in open session at a regular meeting and noticed on its posted agenda as ‘Rescission of Brown
Act Commitment,’” the letter reads.

The board is expected to vote on the letter during Wednesday night’s meeting, thereby adopting the policies it details.

Jensen was unavailable for comment as of the publication of this story.

The regular meeting of the governing board of the William S. Hart Union High School District is set to begin at 7 p.m. at the Administrative Center located at 21380 Centre Pointe Parkway.

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