The superintendent of Lucia Mar Unified, San Luis Obispo County’s largest school district, announced Tuesday that if all goes as expected, he will be leaving for another job just weeks after resolving a stormy contract dispute with the teachers union.
“I think for Lucia Mar, it is time for a change,” Superintendent Jim Hogeboom, 56, said. “Seven years is a long time to be superintendent in one place — most only last three years. I think it is time for Lucia Mar to get some new ideas in here.”
Hogeboom has been selected as a finalist for the superintendent opening in the smaller Novato Unified School District in Marin County, which enrolls about 7,600 students, compared with Lucia Mar’s 10,400.
“A few months ago I was contacted by a recruiter about the job, and at first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it,” Hogeboom said. “Our initial timeline was that we would leave once our son, Jack, who is a sophomore, graduated. But after talking it over with my wife, we came to the idea that these things don’t always come around often or when you think you want them. The timing for this now seems to be really good.”
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His hiring is pending finalization of an employment contract and a site visit by Novato officials to interview some of Hogeboom’s co-workers. Hogeboom declined to disclose how much his salary would be in Novato. He currently earns $167,851 plus benefits annually with Lucia Mar.
If an employment contract is finalized, Hogeboom said, he will likely miss the Lucia Mar Unified Board of Trustees meeting next Tuesday in favor of the Novato Unified School District meeting the same night.
If approved, he would start his new job July 1.
Hogeboom came to the Lucia Mar district from the Corvallis School District in Oregon in April 2008. He replaced former superintendent Deborah Flores who moved to Gilroy, leaving the district without a superintendent for 10 months.
Hogeboom said he has worked hard to ensure the district “can give our students everything they need to be successful in the world.”
“I am proud of all that we have accomplished here in Lucia Mar over the past seven years, and really believe we have improved student learning in a very positive way,” he said, noting that one of his biggest accomplishments was surviving the “pretty horrific budget cuts” the district faced in his first few years at the job.
Lucia Mar trustee Colleen Martin said Hogeboom has been instrumental in moving the district forward, both through encouraging more sustainable practices such as a solar-power project to securing grants to help prevent mass layoffs.
“Jim has been an inspiration for us here at Lucia Mar,” she said. “He has asked all of us to do the best job we can, and inspired us to do that. I’m very sad for us to be losing him, but happy for Jim because I know up north is where his heart is.”
But the job has not always been easy for the at-times controversial superintendent. From a smattering of employee layoffs early in his tenure, to upset over principal switch-ups, Hogeboom’s decisions have not always been positively received by the public.
Most recently, the district and its teachers union were locked in an intense stalemate regarding contracts and during that time, some union leaders accused Hogeboom of mismanaging the district and misplacing priorities regarding teachers’ compensation.
The two sides came to a tentative agreement for a 6 percent raise over two years, which teachers approved on April 16 in a 59-to-41 percent vote that signaled widespread dissatisfaction. Following the decision, Hogeboom acknowledged that tension remained across the district.
“Lucia Mar has gone through an unprecedented period of turmoil and strife over the past six months,” he said in a statement on the district website. “The dissension in our district has caused relationships to be broken, feelings to be hurt, and disparaging accusations to be thrown. While an agreement has been reached by our two negotiating teams and ratified by the teachers awaiting county and board approval, there is much healing to be done.”
Though he would not say whether the recent tension was a reason for choosing to leave now, Hogeboom did say he thought it was time to move on to a new district.
Once his contract with Novato is finalized, Hogeboom said the Lucia Mar district will begin the process of searching for a new superintendent.
Martin said she and the board will likely be looking for a replacement who is a good communicator, a problem-solver and resilient — all qualities that she says the district encourages in its staff and students. The board has not yet had the chance to meet to discuss the replacement procedure, she said, so nothing is official yet.
The process could take several months, though Hogeboom said he hopes it will be concluded before he would move on to his new position.
Lucia Mar Unified Teachers Association President Donna Kandel said the union wishes Hogeboom “all the best in his new position.”
“Going forward, it is our hope that the school board, in a spirit of transparency and collaboration, will use this opportunity to engage and consult with the district’s rank-and-file employees regarding the selection of a new superintendent,” she said. “We are ready and willing to work with the board to find the best match for our district, and subsequently to begin to build a mutually cooperative partnership with new management.”