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Apodaca: If Hubbard should leave, Reed is more than capable

January 21, 2012|By Patrice Apodaca

I'm going to go out on a limb — not a particularly long one — and predict that Jeffrey Hubbard won't be Newport-Mesa Unified School District's superintendent much longer.

Of course, if Hubbard is convicted it would be a fait accomplis. He is charged with three felony counts of misappropriating funds during his previous job as head of the Beverly Hills public schools; a guilty verdict would send him packing.

But even without knowing the outcome of Hubbard's trial, which is in jury deliberations, it's hardly a stretch to assume that the accumulated weight of all of the schools chief's baggage will result in his departure in the not-too-distant future.

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Regardless of the verdict, Hubbard has become a highly polarizing figure in the community. He has lost support among teachers and parents, particularly in light of the sexually suggestive e-mails he sent to a co-defendant, and his controversial five-month paid leave last year.

Some school board members have staunchly defended Hubbard, but even their support could wear thin under pressure from a disgruntled public. After all, the November elections are looming. If Hubbard is acquitted, it's not inconceivable that his friends would engineer a thinly disguised face-saving exit for him.

Which would leave the district precisely where?

The school board would presumably move quickly to replace Hubbard in an attempt to close this seedy and embarrassing chapter.

But until then, the district would be in the capable hands of Paul Reed, the deputy superintendent and chief business official who has filled in for Hubbard during his absences, and who — one could easily argue — should have been in charge all along. He is the go-to guy who has steered the district on a relatively steady financial course at a time when districts throughout the state are on the brink of insolvency.

Reed doesn't aspire to the Miss Congeniality award — the person watching the bottom line is seldom the most popular — but he is intelligent, refreshingly forthright and intent on making responsible decisions to preserve the district's solvency.

With his gray hair, sweater vests and avuncular looks, Reed resembles a slimmer version of the actor Wilford Brimley. He has a dry, gallows sense of humor, and seems to enjoy the role of amiable curmudgeon. He attributes his demeanor to the fact that, "I've been in this game way too long."

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