Scoop: Shakeup at the top at NJUHSD (again)

Dear Staff:

I am writing to let you know that last night the Board of Trustees took
action to release Marianne Cartan from her position as Superintendent of the
Nevada Joint Union High School District without cause. The Board is meeting
next week to discuss future plans for the Superintendency.

In the meantime, all communication that would have otherwise gone to the
Superintendent should be directed to Assistant Superintendents Trisha Dellis
or Karen Suenram.

Thank you for your continued hard work and dedication to the students of our


Katy Schwarz, President
NJUHSD Board of Trustees

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

9 thoughts on “Scoop: Shakeup at the top at NJUHSD (again)”

  1. With two new students at NU, I don’t know enough to know how much to care about this, though such shake-ups in the middle of the year can’t be good.. So far today, I’m more upset I can’t see my kid in the video about NU’s choir behind The Union’s paywall. ARGH!

  2. From The Union’s follow up: “Cartan terminated as high schools superintendent”
    I think there’s an apostrophe missing!

  3. I thought the Friday article in The Union by Brian Hamilton and Jennifer Terman was thorough and informative. I don’t imagine Chris Bishop, a frequent commenter here, will be helping us out any by telling us why the teacher’s gave Cartan a vote of no confidence recently, or why she received a good review from the school board in December, 2012. But it sure would help. Lots of mysteries that need to be solved.

    I don’t like mysteries when it comes to public officials, whether elected or appointed. Our local high district needs to err on the side of disclosure, and I think they failed us here. This was a split vote as well, which only increases my concern. I had two children go through NU in the 1990s, with mixed results. This looks to me like a lot of same ol’ same ol’. I now have 2 kids in elementary and middle school and at the moment NU is not where they’ll be going to high school.

    Sorry NU, but until this revolving door stuff stops, my ADA money will be voting with its feet on another campus.

    The Union had an editorial in today’s Saturday edition that was quite forceful in demanding that the joint high school district cough up the goods ASAP. Bottom line, the editorial board wrote: “And most important to those who will elect the next school board, why did the trustees vote the way they did?”


    1. michael,

      why? in a nutshell, still no “collaborative leadership model” (cited in a past accreditation report) at nu:

      “thorough and informative” = “lots of mysteries that need to be solved” ? the problem with small newspapers like the union is that their sourcing stinks. the union got its news tip from here, which was an internal memo. they are good at getting the official “no comment” in time for the next-day deadline and sometimes (but i’m not sure in this case) attending public meetings. but not so good at inside sourcing.

      they got “scooped” on this one, right in their supposed “wheelhouse.” instead of writing editorials that others should “cough up the goods,” they should “dig up the goods.” pitiful, really.

      this is because the union’s corporate culture is not to ruffle feathers in the community, often at the expense of journalism. it’s still an integral part of “good old boys” network with the community’s “powers that be.”; a lapdog, not a watchdog. alternative media, like moonshine ink, is the only hope for our community in this regard.

      as for the shakeup at NU, the memo is clear that the dismissal was “without cause.” the superintendent didn’t do anything improper. (people love to gossip around here, like the daytime talk shows, but it’s fruitless in digging up the truth).

      the issues are more straightforward: labor relations but also the fallout from NU’s accreditation problems, first reported here. remember? “An octopus with no head” was the metaphor used inside the school in summer 2011 (AKA, “little evidence of a collaborative leadership model (at NU) that promotes decision-making in order to ensure that the established expected school-wide learning results and academic standards are achieved,” as stated in the accreditation report).

      some of the board members β€” the “new blood” β€” were elected to help guide that process along. it wasn’t working β€” no “collaborative leadership model.” so the majority of board members voted to sack the superintendent. the teacher survey was added pressure to act, rather than defer, the decision.

      this provides yet another window into the challenges faced by our schools on multiple fronts: it’s a tough business nowadays, not “happy go lucky” or “leave it to beaver.” as a small community, one of the problems we face is attracting skilled people who can lead us out of it. our tendency is to blast the newcomers. it’s not a very friendly place to spark “change.”

    1. Thanks Chris, you have affirmed my suspicions.

      Jeff, I appreciate your work on this story so far, but it is still a work in progress. I’m not really very interested in bad guys and good guys, I just want some progress, somehow, some way.

      Like I said, my ADA money will vote with its feet, and there are a whole lot of other parents in the same bucket. Look what happened to the Nevada City School District–when I moved here in 1988 they were #1. Then the charter system was approved at the state level in 1991, and ever since then it has been chaos in Nevada City. Grass Valley as well for that matter, but at least they were prescient enough to create a charter program within GVSD, which paid off big time.

      The fact that Cartan received a good review in December 2012, and then a vote of no confidence from the teachers in January 2013, has nothing to do with Cartan or the teachers. It speaks to a completely dysfunctional management culture that should be totally redone.

      Going back to what you said, Jeff, about old school and new school, I can’t help but think that this is too simplified. Instead, we need school board members who are willing and able to identify the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century, who can reinvent the public school system away from what we have been doing for the past 150 years. This is not about good old boys. This is about how Nevada County fits into an emerging world culture, and many Nevada County millennials are leading the way.

      NU better get on the stick. If they don’t, the Internet will make them obsolete in short order, if not in one decade certainly in two. The Ridge Rd. campus will be a ghost, just like the old Grass Valley Group campus on Bitney Springs Road.

      Michael A.

      1. Michael:

        I’ll be slightly off-point for a moment, but since you mention the ghostly former GVG campus at Bitney Springs, let’s hope their ever-shrinking Nevada City campus doesn’t meet a similar ghostly fate.

      2. If NU is going to “get on the stick” it will require people on the board who have the insight and skill to lead the way. This requires those type of people to step forward.

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