For Loren Kleinrock, the goals for 2019 are simple yet valuable.
He is, for now, once again at the helm of San Marino Unified School District, serving as the interim superintendent since September when Alex Cherniss departed the district after more than four years on the job. Cherniss had succeeded Kleinrock in 2014.
“Most people don’t get to succeed their successor,” he observed in a telephone interview.
Kleinrock returns with largely the same school board he left in 2014, although one new member was just sworn in. The board will have to focus on a February election to renew a parcel tax, but it also aims to hire the next permanent superintendent by the end of spring. Given the timer on Kleinrock (his contract currently runs through June), his aims sync up with the school board’s.
“My goals as an interim don’t really differ from what the school board is trying to do,” he said. “It just makes sense that way.”
Another focus, he added, will be addressing numerous issues raised by community members throughout 2018, much of which was amplified by the election. Kleinrock said although he did not care for the tone some candidates and residents set with their rhetoric, he felt there was a clear opportunity to repair community relationships with more insight and information or by changing the way the district interacts with the community.
“I want to get more people pulling on the same side of the rope again,” he said. “It’s all part of trying to respond to what seemed to be a message of
not really being able to do any harm by getting people more engaged.”
An obvious opportunity for this will be during the process to hire the new superintendent, for which the board and district officials have already signaled an interest in soliciting input from a wide variety of community interest groups. Reliably high expectations for the district, which already is consistently the state’s top-scoring district academically, is another factor that pressures officials.
“One of the challenges of being really good is a real drive to be better,” Kleinrock said. “We need to get information out better that talks about the positive accomplishments within the community. I think it’s all about making sure the people understand what the process
for the district is all about and what our staff is trying to accomplish.”
Improving school websites is one way to engage families more, Kleinrock said, and the district also recently approved a social media policy that will hopefully serve as an effective tool for the district. At meetings and in other interviews, Kleinrock also hasn’t shied from critique by others and has defended the district from suggestions of impropriety when it comes to public records or money.
“When we hear some things that are not accurate, they’ve got to be corrected,” he said. “We want to partner with those in the community who have thoughts and ideas that can make us better. Even if I don’t agree with everybody, these are smart people. If they can step up and share their ideas, we will be a better a district.”
When he was appointed, Kleinrock had been working for the district in a consulting arrangement. He also had recently stepped in at San Marino High School as an interim assistant principal when one of the positions became vacant this year. Once he leaves the superintendent office a second time, Kleinrock said his future with SMUSD could go either way, given his desire to remain retired from full-time work.
“I won’t close the door on it,” he said. “It all depends on the district’s needs. The school district has been great to me since the first time I walked in the front door in 1975, and I want to give back in any way that I can.”