Harry “Doc” Ervin was unanimously chosen to lead the San Bernardino City Unified School District (SBCUSD), the 9th largest district in the state, last July. He is not new to the Inland Empire and has had very short stints at several schools in the area, Ervin was at Colton HS as Principal, Assistant Principal at Fontana HS, and Principal at Yucca Valley HS. It also appears that Harry “Doc” Ervin is certainly not a stranger to controversy.
In fact, in 2005 Ervin was hired as Principal of Colton High School, which did not end well. He resigned shortly after firing staff and teachers, which led to a student and staff protest and a call for his resignation. Before that, in 2004, he was allegedly fired from Fontana HS, something I remember well having been an active advocate in the district at the time. Quite honestly, I felt it was just blatant racism and a result of the teacher’s union hating his association with the Los Angeles Partnership and Antonio Villaraigosa. There is not much info about why he left Yucca Valley, but it was a notably short gig of one year. So what’s the problem?
Much of the trouble and controversy seems to be centered around a couple things. One, there seems to be a disconnect with the Latino Community, and two, his no-nonsense approach to “fixing problems” seems dizzying to many, including teachers and students who don’t always agree with his style and judgment calls.
Doc Ervin seems to have a history of trouble wherever he goes. Let’s take a look at his bio:
Alliant International University, San Diego
Administrative services credential, 1998.
Multiple subject teaching credential, 1994.
M.A., Educational Administration, 1995.
B.A., Liberal Studies, 1993.
Teacher, Mesa Verde Middle School (94-98)
Asst. Principal, San Marcos HS (98-00)
Administrator, Fontana HS (00-03)
Principal, Yucca Valley HS (03-04)
Principal, Colton HS (04-05)
Principal, Heritage College-Ready Academy HS (05-08)
Asst. Supt. of Instruction, Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (08-14)
Superintendent, Greenfield Union School District (2014-2015)
Superintendent, Bakersfield Unified School District (2015-2020)
Superintendent, San Bernardino City Unified School District (2021-
The current issue with him as Superintendent of SBCUSD is really not all that surprising. Earlier this month, Doc Ervin found himself in a pretty familiar place, on the closed session agenda for the Board of Education. Now, I am going to be perfectly honest about the district. I live here in San Bernardino and have a child in the district. I know all of the board members and plenty of parents and personnel at the schools. I understand the politics of this community. That said, I was truly disappointed to know that the issues we are having with the Superintendent have been made racialized versus being about accountability.
After several parents, who happen to be Latin@, voiced complaints about the Superintendent, the matter was placed on the agenda. Now, keep in mind that personnel matters involving administrators MUST be placed on the agenda and MUST be discussed in closed sessions. I think this was lost on many black community leaders who came forward at the board meeting to urge the board not to fire the new BLACK superintendent, making it appear that Ervin was on the agenda because of his race rather than because of his poor performance thus far.
San Bernardino has had people of color in administrative positions for many years. Art Delgado, a Latino, served a total of 12 years as Superintendent and, frankly, was mostly ineffective. And as a Latina, I can tell you that race didn’t matter. He was just not a good leader. So, as someone who has always believed that the Black/Brown divide is ever-present in the Inland Empire, this episode of black leaders stating that the district must keep the Superintendent because he is black was not productive and very divisive. I think the arguments that literally called on the board to support Doc because he is black were really troubling. I believe the real argument on his behalf is simply that he is too new and deserves a chance to improve in problem areas. That’s it. What we cannot ever do is keep someone on contract because of their race.
So, hear me out. Here’s what we cannot do. We cannot bring race into a situation that demands accountability. I do not believe he was ever really in danger of being fired because of a few complaints, but as an administrator, accountability happens in closed sessions. I personally do not think he needs to be fired, but I also know that he needs to work collaboratively with many groups, including the predominantly Latino community in the district, something which he has not done well in the past. We will be following this district closely to see what happens going forward.
You can read more about Doc Ervin using these links
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