BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The Kern High School District has selected a new superintendent amid concerns from the community about the hiring process.

The KHSD board met Monday with four candidates for superintendent, each an assistant or associate superintendent within the district. However, community members addressed the board to re-think their decision, hoping that their pleas would make the board consider a candidate outside of the district or even conduct a nationwide search to find who is the best fit for the job.

That did not happen; instead, the board announced its decision to make Associate Superintendent Dr. Michael Zulfa the district’s next superintendent. The decision took around three hours, and many felt it should have taken longer to find the right fit for the district.

“We think their decision is wrong and we think they are being very short sighted in their decision making,” said Dolores Huerta, community activist and President of the Dolores Huerta foundation. “We want them to expand the search to bring more people of color into the district.”

Ucedrah Osby, the Executive Director of Community Interventions, shared Huerta’s frustrations.

“A lot of our kids are being pushed out and that’s because they’re doing business as usual,” said Osby. “We’ve seen what they can do. They’ve shown us, they’ve shown us their best hand and yet it is not good enough.”

Yet, Board President Bryan Batey shared that this is the district’s process when you have qualified candidates inside.

“The high school district has a loyalty from teachers who have worked in the district to then serve the district and we know them,” said Batey. “So the process is to reward those who have done excellent work.”

Dr. Michael Zulfa has worked with the district for more than 25 years, and has worked in superintendency for the last 13. Now as the district’s 22nd superintendent, he said he looks forward to working with the community and stepping into the position.

“I am passionate about finding ways to keep kids in school, about meeting their needs, and ensuring that they have access to their education,” said Zulfa. “I’ve devoted my life and my career to this community, to our students, and I look forward to continuing the good work that our district is doing and make a difference in the future of our students.”

According to the district, Zulfa will begin his new role in February 2024.