Shandon Joint Unified School District lost one leader and gained another in less than 24 hours this week as school leaders remain tight-lipped about the circumstances surrounding the termination of district Superintendent Rodney Wallace.
Wallace was fired Tuesday evening in a unanimous, closed-session vote by the school district's board of trustees.
By Wednesday afternoon, the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education had secured the services of retired Pleasant Valley Joint Union Elementary superintendent Tom Apkarian to lead the district’s transition starting Friday, said the Office of Education’s Assistant Superintendent Mary Jarvis.
The reason for Wallace’s termination wasn't made public because it’s a personnel matter, but rumblings of the district’s discontent emerged earlier this summer.
News of his departure prompted some students at the small North County district, which has fewer than 300 students, to picket Wednesday.
While district leaders declined to give more details, Jarvis said Wallace was simply “not a good fit.”
“But he’s perfectly qualified to hold a public school position,” she added. “I will say there’s no reason Mr. Wallace couldn’t continue his career in public education.”
Not knowing what prompted Wallace’s firing is the biggest concern for parent Mario Contreras.
“As a community member, don’t we have the right to know why?” he asked. “I don’t want people to make their own rules and it not be just. That’s why I’m upset. If he did something wrong, then let’s know what it is.”
Wallace didn’t violate the terms of his contract, Jarvis said, meaning the district has to continue paying him until the contract ends in June 2014.
His annual salary is $112,000. Apkarian’s pay rate will be similar, Jarvis added, but is so far limited to working three days per week on a temporary basis. Details about benefits for either one were unavailable Wednesday.
The county Office of Education was able to reach an agreement with him on Wednesday because expenses under $25,000 can be approved outside of a public meeting, Jarvis said.
As of Wednesday, a contract with Apkarian had not been drawn up, Jarvis said, but additional details in the agreement, such as Apkarian’s pay rate, will be released when a document is signed in the coming days. The agreement will serve as an interim action until the district’s next board of trustees’ meeting, on Nov. 12.
“What would happen after would be up to them,” she said of the trustees.
The Office of Education will also assist Shandon in searching for a permanent superintendent, she added.
Shandon Joint Unified thanked Wallace for his service “and wishes him well in future endeavors,” according to a news release issued by the school district Wednesday.
The statement also listed some of Wallace’s accomplishments since he joined the district in 2010. Among them: placing an emphasis on team building and team meetings and “allowing teachers to provide intensive support to students in a small group setting,” the statement says.
Wallace succeeded the district’s former superintendent, Chris Crawford, who left in 2009 to lead Greenfield Union School District. Crawford had served as the district's superintendent since 2001.
Wallace and several school board trustees couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.