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Jason Walsh: Young hiring quells the whirlwind at Sonoma Valley Unified School District

“There are some things you learn best in calm,” wrote Willa Cather. “And some in storm.”

The Sonoma Valley Unified School District is going to try the “calm” route this time.

That much was evident last week when the district board announced it was hiring Charles “Chuck” Young as its interim Superintendent of schools to step in for the time being for outgoing Supe Louann Carlogmagno, who’d resigned last month over frustrations with a board she alleged was making it impossible for her to do her job.

Young, 85, was the longtime Chancellor at the University of California Los Angeles and brings a much-needed level of stability and credibility to a school district that’s been described as in “turmoil” for much of the last school year. (If anyone doubts Young’s cache – yes I mean you, Trojans fans – his Wikipedia page features a picture of him with then-President Bill Clinton at a UCLA event in 1994.)

A strong supporter and fundraiser for the Sonoma Valley Unified School District since he and wife Judy moved to Sonoma in 2010, Young says his reasons for stepping in as interim Superintendent are “complex and simple at the same time.”

In an email last week to SVUSD supporters, Young said the board’s “dysfunction” has resulted “in the resignation of a superb Superintendent.”

“My main job will be to make the Board a functional body again, doing what a Board should do and not what they would like to do,” wrote Young, “and reigning in some members who have strayed far from their appointed tasks.”

Young has been one of the board’s most vocal critics in the wake of the surprise resignation of Carlomagno, who alleged that the strong-arm behavior of newly elected board member John Kelly was a primary factor in her accepting a Superintendent position with the Hillsborough school district in the South Bay.

Young, a supporter of Carlomagno, had floated the idea of a recall effort if Kelly’s conduct didn’t change.

In effect, the waters could have gotten even rougher for the SVUSD, not only dampening potential fundraising efforts – the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation’s Red & White Ball fundraiser takes place in August – but also diminishing the prospects of recruiting top-line candidates who may steer clear of taking on an unstable and highly stressful Superintendent position.

But by partnering with Young, the district most likely has, for the time being, righted the ship – at least to the point where it can concentrate on finding a well-qualified permanent Superintendent. At the same time, school officials continue to map out the long-term future of each campus and their respective spending priorities via the recently passed $120 million school bond.

The board was unanimous in its approval of the hiring of Young.

In a press release last week, school officials said longtime Human Resources Director Loyal Carlon would work closely with Young on operational matters for the district, with Young focusing on “board cohesiveness and on sustaining the current positive trajectory of District schools.”

Board president Dan Gustafson echoed the need for cohesiveness.

“We need a strong, inspiring educational leader who knows our community and can fix our board,” said Gustafson.

The bailing seems to be over. Now it’s time to steer the ship.

Email Jason at jason.walsh@sonomanews.com.