Randy Seals, who’s lived in Madera County nearly his entire life, said when Board President Curt Pollock recently offered him the position of superintendent at Bass Lake Joint Union School District (BLJUSD), he didn’t let Pollock finish the sentence.
“I quickly exclaimed yes,” chuckled Seals. “It is a moment I will cherish forever. It’s difficult to put into words my level of excitement at this incredible opportunity.”
Seals, 49, has never before served as a superintendent. Born in Bakersfield and raised in Chowchilla from six months old, he began his educational career as a substitute teacher in 1991, then moved his way from assistant principal at Chowchilla Union High School to principal of Yosemite High School the last four years.
He said it was hard to move on after so many great memories as a Badger, but he was ready to take on the challenges of his new job.
“I was fortunate enough to forge some amazing relationships in my tenure at Yosemite High,” Seals said. “I will miss those day-to-day interactions with students, their parents, and the staff. But I’m excited to work collaboratively with our staff at BLJUSD to create new, meaningful relationships too. I want to continue building on its family atmosphere, because we know running schools and a district is like a business, but when we can run that business on the strongest foundation of a ‘family’ relationship, magic happens.”
Seals said his devotion to a small school experience, having attended and worked in them for decades, made him well suited to run BLJUSD, a kindergarten to 8th grade district.
“That magic is what separates small schools from large schools, “ Seals said. “That opportunity to create amazing first-class experiences for our students where everyone knows each other’s name, and is striving to make decisions and act upon what is in the best interests of our children.”
Seals said his philosophy follows three simple principles: Make decisions in the best interests of students, take actions that are in the best interest of schools and the district, and consider decisions that are in the best interest of the community.
Outside that, he said, he had few “non-negotiables,” but one stood out.
“Nowhere in that philosophy is making decisions that take precedence over our children,” Seals said. “We don’t make decisions that negatively impact our students that are in the best interests of myself, principals, teachers, or other staff members. That is not an option.”
“These issues, as well as increased pension contributions force districts like ours to make lemonade out of lemons,” Seals said. “It means we can’t afford to make mistakes in our decision-making processes.”
To meet those challenges, Seals said he would approach ideas to increase energy efficiency at school sites, bring technology infrastructure and communication systems up to date, and look to other investments to lower future operation costs.
“Working with our board, we are going to carefully analyze every situation with regard to the district,” Seals said. “Everyone will be encouraged to provide information and input. I believe in collaborative decision making. I want to hear from our students, their parents and families, community partners, classified staff, teachers, and all other stakeholders as we move forward.”
Another potential change could be partnerships with neighboring school districts - YUSD and Chawanakee Unified, among them - to help provide additional academic options for college or career preparation.
Seals praised the work of retiring superintendent Glenn Reid and said he had big shoes to fill.
“(Reid) is to be commended for his excellent work on behalf of our students and the entire BLJUSD family,” Seals said. “I’m excited to be working with our Board of Trustees. It’s clear they are committed to doing what they believe is in the best interest of the children of our district.”
Seals added he’s also invested in the community, as he and his wife Kelli Seals - a middle school math teacher at Wasuma Elementary School - have two students attending the school, and live and work out of Oakhurst.
To anyone who works at, or has a student attending a BLJUSD school, Seals added they should prepare to see him representing the district at school and community events.
“I learned at an early age from my parents, who owned their own business, that you never ask anyone to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself,” Seals said. “I believe wholeheartedly in servant leadership as a result. As your superintendent, you can plan to see me engaged in our schools. I will do whatever is necessary to provide our community’s children with a first-class educational experience.”
BLJUSD includes Oakhurst and Wasuma elementary schools, Oak Creek Intermediate, and Fresno Flats Day School.