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Apodaca: School board must set personal feelings aside

January 28, 2011|By Patrice Apodaca

Now that Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard is on leave while he prepares for his upcoming trial, Newport-Mesa school board members must face the next set of difficult and uncomfortable issues.

They must, of course, prepare for the possibility that Hubbard could be convicted, and they'd be forced to begin a search for a new schools chief.

But what if Hubbard is able to return to his job? Should he be welcomed back?

To answer that question, the trustees must put aside all personal and professional regard they may have for Hubbard and address the most pertinent issue: What is best for the students?

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Hubbard has been a highly regarded leader, and up to this point, the district has fared well under his supervision. Board members may also have reason to consider Hubbard a friend, or at least a friendly colleague. When the criminal complaint against him was initially filed in December, some trustees took a bit of a head-in-the-sand approach, saying they believed the charges stemming from actions during Hubbard's tenure as head of the Beverly Hills public school system were relatively minor and that they'd soon be resolved in his favor.

But this is a moment that calls for professional detachment, not wishful thinking. The board must now address the future with a cool eye and a reasoned assessment of Hubbard's past behavior and his possible effect on the school system going forward.

Certainly Hubbard is guilty of appallingly bad judgment. It's clear that he was less than candid regarding his relationship with his codefendant, a former consultant for the Beverly Hills Unified School District. Hubbard is charged with two counts of misappropriating funds by allegedly giving the woman an illegal $20,000 stipend and increasing her car allowance.

After the charges were filed, Hubbard denied to a Daily Pilot reporter that he'd had a personal connection with the consultant outside of work. This contention was later contradicted by the public release of sexually suggestive e-mails between the pair.

Newport-Mesa school board member Martha Fluor downplayed the relevance of the e-mails, telling a Daily Pilot reporter that they were merely correspondence between consenting adults. She also defended the banter contained in Hubbard's e-mails, saying that the superintendent often refers to colleagues using terms of endearment, such as "babe" and "sweetheart."

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