In 6-1 vote, Shoreline board keeps Stubbs

David Briggs
After an April resignation following the school board’s decision not to renew his contract, Superintendent Tom Stubbs is looking ahead to a second year on the job in a district that is changing before his eyes. 
05/22/2014

Tom Stubbs, the superintendent of Shoreline Unified School District, will keep his job for another year after the trustees reversed their decision in a closed session last Thursday.

Mr. Stubbs’s resignation was not officially rescinded: since the board plans to increase the number of workdays from half to seven-tenths or three-quarters of full time, the trustees voted on a commitment to offer Mr. Stubbs a contract for the next school year with the terms discussed at the next regular board meeting.

With whoops and cheers, a packed house in the Tomales High School auditorium welcomed Mr. Stubbs back. 

Scott Mahoney, the consultant conducting the search for the new superintendent, immediately walked out the door as audience members waved goodbye. At the front of the room, the trustees were all smiling, perhaps relieved to have the pressure off after a difficult month of scrutiny. 

They can now return to regular business, like a creating a full-time music program at West Marin School without impacting the general fund and purchasing two new school buses with a grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to replace aging vehicles dating to before 1992. 

In the next year, Mr. Stubbs said he would continue building on the foundations he laid this year. Teachers from the different school sites are currently meeting to develop a unified curriculum in accordance with new Common Core standards, the Career Paths program will be developed at the high school and perceptions of the school culture and the reputation in the community will continue to improve.

While much might appear unchanged in the district’s leadership next school year, the recent crisis in leadership and the unified response of parents and teachers from north and south seemed to initiate long-term shifts in the way the district will operate, particularly in the management style of the board. 

Small changes are already taking place—the board members individually meeting with staff at West Marin School before the decision, Trustee Clarette McDonald attending a District English Language Advisory Council meeting this Tuesday and the founding of a committee on communication and compliance with the state’s open meeting law—but for many, the moment feels even more decisive, as if a new era is just beginning.

“There’s an excitement [at our school site] that there’s an openness to trying some new things. I can’t name what that might be yet, but it’s not just business as usual,” said Donna Faure, the president of the West Marin-Inverness School Parent Teacher Student Association. “I think what we’re seeing is that we want to have more involvement in the bigger decisions.”

Ms. Faure and many others thanked trustees for listening to their opinions and making the difficult choice to reverse their decision. But there were lingering doubts about what miscommunication had led to Mr. Stubbs’s ouster, and what changes would ensure it would be avoided next spring. Multiple people, particularly from Latino families, expressed higher expectations for how involved the school board should be in the district. Many want to see trustees at school sites on a more regular basis.

“A few years ago, when we had a cultural proficiency, when we were all gutted and we were exposed and we put ourselves back together, there was a section that was about you, and part of it said, ‘Come among your people,’” Anita Liebig, an instructional aide at Tomales Elementary School, told the board to applause. “We asked you, ‘Come among us. Come to our schools. Visit us.’ What do we have to say to get you to hear us? Please.”

At the meeting, the Light asked Jane Healy, the board president, about why she had not responded to emails for the past two weeks asking her to clarify how trustees would debate Mr. Stubbs’s contract.

“I don’t make my living being a school board member. I have children, some of whom live overseas, and I have been overwhelmed—I have a 91-year-old mother who’s living in the middle of the fires in San Diego,” she said. “I’m very sorry if anyone has been disappointed with my performance.… To be treated like an enemy by many of you breaks my heart. To be treated like this decision was undertaken in a gleeful or vindictive way when it was one of the most agonizing things we’ve ever done. To be second-guessed where we cannot answer your questions because we believe in the confidentiality of employee negotiations. 

“And I’m very sorry that I’ve disappointed you with my leadership,” she continued. “It is my own personal failing.  I would trust this board with my life. And the fact that you don’t trust us and you second guess us and you criticize us without knowing what we have been looking at and how we look at it.”

While she may not make a living as a school board president, Ms. Healy and four other board members—Jim Lino and Mr. Kehoe excepting—receive health benefits equivalent to those of a full-time employee, Susan Skipp, the district’s chief business official, said. 

Although it was not announced after the board returned from closed session, the Light has learned that the decision to retain Mr. Stubbs for another year was decided six to one. Ms. Healy cast the only dissenting vote.

 

The board will hold a special meeting—the eighth of the school year—in closed session to discuss an employee’s discipline, dismissal or release this afternoon, Thursday, May 22, at 4 p.m. at District Office at 10 John Street in Tomales.