BRENTWOOD -- Doug Adams' first day as the interim superintendent of the Brentwood Union School District on Thursday started early and was filled with meetings with staff and parents, which is what he did on a daily basis during his 17 years as the district's leader.
"I love getting in those classrooms," Adams said of his planned school visits. "What I love best is to listen to people."
Adams was selected as the district's temporary superintendent by the Brentwood school board after it opted to fire his replacement, Merrill Grant. The Wednesday night closed-session vote to terminate Grant came nearly a week after the board announced it was placing him on paid administrative leave and taking disciplinary actions against three unnamed district employees.
These recent board actions come in the wake of a public outcry from Brentwood parents over the district's handling of special education teacher Dina Holder, who was convicted of kicking a 5-year-old student with autism in 2010 but allowed to continue teaching.
In addition to his own reputable history with the district, Adams' late mother, Jeanne Adams, taught for nearly 30 years in Brentwood schools, including special education classes.
"It is not a job. This is a matter of the heart," Adams said of his return this week. "The district has been struggling for the last couple of months. It is my responsibility to help it out and get it back on track."
Brentwood school board President Carlos Sanabria said parents and staff are gratified to see Adams return. He added that Adams has helped other school districts "through different crises" since his retirement from the district in 2007.
"This sets a different tone," Sanabria said of the leadership shift on Thursday. "He sets a positive tone."
Adams said he has performed consulting work in recent years for struggling districts and has coached new superintendents, which the Brentwood school board has shown some interest in for the district's future leader. Adams said his immediate focus is on the continued staff training on mandated reporting of abuse incidents; fostering ongoing parent involvement in the district; and the immediate search for a permanent replacement for his temporary position.
"We are going to find a top-quality, new superintendent who is a good fit for Brentwood," he said.
The district plans to have a permanent superintendent in place by June.
Meanwhile, the Brentwood Community Advisory Committee and district leaders have been working to improve the district's approach to mandated reporting, effective documentation of employee concerns and complaint procedures.
Brentwood Community Advisory Committee co-chairwoman Marie Fajardo has said that the special education advisory committee is a connection between the board and families with special-needs students, but it wants to expand its outreach to all of the campus PTAs.
"The communication among the special ed community is great, but now we need to reach out to the general ed parents because we need to realize that this has not only affected us but also them," she said.
Other recent or future actions include ongoing online training for all district employees on mandated reporting; collaboration with the Child Abuse Prevention Council; training of all substitute teachers; parent forums in April; and possible student training. The Community Advisory Committee also plans to review the district's documentation procedures.
During his tenure, Adams oversaw the opening of seven campuses in Brentwood. He said he is also focused on the July opening of Mary Casey Black Elementary School.
Upon his retirement, Adams was described by colleagues and peers as bright, reasonable, open, honest and a good problem-solver. Jana Aubert of BUSD Concerned Parents and Teachers said Adams' return should help build trust within the district again.
"I'm hoping that by his coming back, he knows that parents are extremely displeased with the district, and he would continue to make changes for the school district and not allow administrators to let this happen again," she said. "This type of behavior will not be tolerated."
Contact Paula King at 925-779-7174 or firstname.lastname@example.org.