The new superintendent of Burbank schools, Matt Hill, is making the rounds here in B-town as he continues a personal campaign of “100 days of listening ” Launched on July first, Hill told me in an email that during his first 100 days on the job he plans on “visiting all of our schools, attending PTA meetings, community event(s), sending out a survey to all students, parents, and employees, etc. I want to hear everyone’s thoughts on what is working well and where we have opportunities for improvement.”
On day 56 of that campaign, last Wednesday, Hill spoke to a gathering at the weekly meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Burbank in the Ray Sense Room of the Burbank Community YMCA on Magnolia Boulevard. Hill ignored the podium. Instead, he walked around in the front of the room with a mike and gave a speech, that was both interesting and informative, without notes. Right off the top, Hill admitted”I don’t have a traditional background for a superintendent.” That prompted what he called “a little bit of a storm in April.” Actually, it was more like a whirlwind of controversy, which threatened to derail his selection to succeed retiring superintendent and long time district employee, Jan Britz.
The major complaints and gripes came from Burbank teachers who vehemently criticized the school board for selecting a candidate for the top post in the BUSD who does not have experience as an educator, or classroom teacher, and someone whose background as an administrator included a position in the troubled Los Angeles Unified School District. As the chief strategy officer at LAUSD, Hill was involved in the district’s controversial and apparently ill-conceived $1.3 billion iPad program.
Still, the Burbank School Board voted to hire Hill at a volatile meeting last April. Veteran school board member Larry Applebaum has brushed off the criticism of Hill, saying the Burbank schools have plenty of educators; what is needed is a good manager and systems professional. New school board member and educator, Dr. Armond Aghakhanian, who was at the Kiwanis meeting, says he has been won over by Hill’s communication skills, ability to get stalled projects moving, and desire to create career pathways for students.
Hill told the gathering a “diploma means nothing without a job.” He says every Burbank student deserves 100 percent of the district efforts to get them from “cradle to career.” Overall, Hill says he’s “excited about where we are in Burbank” … there’s “… a lot of potential” and “… the sky is the limit.”
During a Q and A session at the end of his speech, Hill stressed his commitment to the creative arts in Burbank schools as well as keeping up with cutting-edge technology. He says the district’s website is getting tweaked and it now has a Facebook Page.
By the way, Hill’s beefing up his educational resume. He has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, an MBA, and is now pursuing a Doctorate in Education Leadership for Social Justice at Loyola Marymount University.