On the heels of the bizarre retirement confusion of Dr. Scroggin as Superintendent of Simi Valley Schools (she’s retiring; she’s retiring but we’re not talking about it; okay she’s not retiring anymore; did someone violate the Brown Act?), the Simi Valley School Board is now considering a contract extension for Scroggin. The School Board meeting this Tuesday, October 8th at 6:30pm at City Hall, will include the contract extension on the agenda where School Board Trustees are expected to vote on extending Scroggin’s contract to June of 2015. A high level summary of the contract highlights have been published by opponents of the extension:
1. Term now to be set to expire June 2015. The agreement will automatically renew unless the Board takes action to send a notice to the Superintendent within the proper notice period.
2. Two board members can force the district to keep the Superintendent in place even if a majority of board
members believe there has been gross negligence, violations of law, gross insubordination, and/or material harm to the district. Even if the Superintendent held up the operations of the school district and caused the district and the Board to break California and/or federal laws, the vote of four out of five board members would be required to remove the Superintendent from her position as “Chief Executive Officer”, secretary, district superintendent, and primary person responsible for execution of Board policy.
3. If 4 out of 5 Board Members vote to terminate the agreement without following the contract’s strict due process requirements to show material breach or neglect to perform duties, the district must then pay the Superintendent’s salary for the remainder of the term.
4. Salary: $213,319 + car allowance of $650/mo. 22 Vacation days per year.
5. Each Board member is REQUIRED to promptly refer all criticisms, complaints and suggestions called to his or her attention to the Superintendent for study and recommendation. This includes any criticisms, complaints, or allegations of misconduct regarding the Superintendent herself.
6. The district must pay for the Superintendent’s defense of any legal action (including criminal defense) related to incidents occurring within the Superintendent’s scope of employment.
Item #2 is interesting. Item #5 is odd. Overall, considering her initial intent to retire, entertaining any contract extension, even one that doesn’t so obviously serve to “circle the wagons”, seems like a strange idea.
The Superintendent wields a lot of power in the Simi Valley Unified School District. I’m not educated enough in standard school board policies to know whether or not that’s normal. Reviewing documents made available at simivalleyschools.org, it seems apparent to me that the Superintendent can make major financial decisions without requiring board oversight. If you look at page 143 of the very large document linked here which represents several significant C4 Bond funded project proposals marked “for board consideration,” you can compare this workshop agenda packet and see many of those same projects moving forward into a status of “In Design and Planning.” Without input from the Board, I’m assuming Dr. Scroggin herself moved these projects forward. There’s no board oversight for projects of this cost and significance?
I asked Dan White about the February workshop agenda asking if he challenged the fact that C4 funded projects move forward without a board discussion and he indicated that the workshop had been cancelled in favor of another board member’s Super Bowl party — I did not verify that. He also pointed me to a document that I had initially missed which represents his email requests for more details on how C4 Bond funds are spent (see it here). Though I have to admit that I’m not at all educated on school board operations and procedures, I share Dan White’s belief that the board should provide oversight on bond funded projects and that no one person should control those decisions.
When I really look at all of this, I get the impression that a majority of the School Board is content to defer to the Superintendent on critical financial issues, despite concerns from the VCOE that the district is running out of money. I also get the impression that they want to protect her job at all costs, locking her into the position in such a way that it is nearly impossible to dismiss her (see Board President Rob Collin’s remarks about “job security” by clicking here). Considering current district concerns along with the fact that Dr. Scroggin appears to have strongly considered retirement very recently, I’m not at all in support of a contract extension, at least not with the stipulations highlighted above. This feels to me like the board is handing the Superintendent way too much power and protection.
If my understanding of all of this is incorrect, I’d appreciate hearing from you.