Shoreline adds administrator at Tomales

04/12/2012

As part of a personnel move that adds over $20,000 in expenses to a budget already accommodating the recent $33,000 acquisition of an interim principal, Shoreline Unified School District last Thursday introduced Nancy Neu as an additional administrator at Tomales High School for the remainder of the academic year.

The hiring comes amid a period of exceptional turmoil and scrutiny for the district that began after a controversial March 11 meeting in which then West Marin School principal Anne Harris requested the termination of a bilingual teacher’s contract; two weeks later Harris abruptly resigned, and an evaluation of district superintendent Stephen Rosenthal is ongoing. 

Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke hired Neu, who retired last June after serving the past 12 years as principal of Redwood High in Larkspur, to both ease the transition for incoming full-time Tomales High principal Adam Jennings, who will begin next year, and allow Rosenthal, who also currently serves as the high school’s principal, more time to focus on his role as district chief. Neu will begin Monday.

“I’m really excited to do this,” she said. “I’m here in a support role—it’s going to be fun. This is the end of the year—there’s lots of activity going on and it’s a stressful time when you’re ending a school year and starting up the next year, so I’m going to do whatever it takes to help make that a smooth transition.”

Neu will be paid $666 per day. Including travel and other expenses, the total cost related to her hiring comes to over $32,000, nearly $11,000 of which will be paid by the county. The extra cost to Shoreline Unified adds to the approximately $33,000 the district is paying for the temporary hiring of Jim Patterson, who stepped in as interim principal at West Marin School after Harris’s departure two weeks ago. Harris remains a paid employee until her resignation becomes effective at the end of the school year.

Concern about Shoreline Unified’s ability to incur the extra cost was somewhat mitigated by Thursday morning’s news that the U.S. Department of Education was paying the district another $645,000 as part of its reimbursement for lost property taxes related to Point Reyes National Seashore’s location within district boundaries. The government funding, called Federal Impact Aid, is granted periodically to some 200 districts in the country primarily because of lost property tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt lands. For the current fiscal year, Shoreline Unified had budgeted $1,125,000 for the impact aid; including the newly announced funds it ultimately received a total of $2,388,000.

“When we receive [the funding] is very unpredictable, so it was a surprise but not a shock,” said Susan Skipp, the district’s chief business official. “I knew that there was some money they might be sending us, but I didn’t know about timing—if it would get here before the end of the fiscal year.”

The introduction of Neu at Thursday’s meeting came as the district continues to seek mended community relations amid a firestorm of criticism related to the swift resignation of Harris and what many perceived to be unduly hasty and opaque district personnel decisions.

The board was also confronted with questions about swirling rumors related to a Tomales High teacher recently placed on administrative leave, including one rumor posted on Facebook alleging a pornography investigation. After a tense exchange with a parent concerned about a lack of sufficient official response regarding the rumors, Rosenthal denied any criminal investigation. When pressed with other questions on the issue, he and board members said they were unable to comment.  

“There are many talks about what is going to happen and what are the best steps for the district to take,” trustee Kegan Stedwell said about the board’s action related to the teacher. “It’s something that’s being carefully looked at, carefully examined.”

While the board met in closed session at the high school, several parents wandered aimlessly through the school’s empty halls, re-reading posters and gazing at student artwork; others chatted in clusters inside the small auditorium where the meeting took place. 

After more than two hours, board president Tim Kehoe emerged from the private talks to greet a mostly fatigued group of parents before returning for further discussion. His message was simple: “No reportable action.”