San Miguel dismissal reasons explained in investigation

The former superintendent of San Miguel Joint Union School District inappropriately used his position as a school administrator to develop a relationship with a former student, who is now 18, according to an investigation by the district.

The investigation and subsequent termination agreement outline nine charges that led to the termination of Dean Smith, 55, and his rebuttals to those statements.

Documents claim Smith admitted to “having romantic feelings” for the former student before her 18th birthday but waited to declare those feelings until she was legally an adult. Smith said the district’s lawyer interrogated him and that the phrase “romantic feelings” was the lawyer’s. Smith wrote in his response to the report that he told the lawyer he “cared about (her) and her well-being while she was a minor and thereafter.”

Smith declined to speak to The Tribune, but many of his statements saying the charges are unfounded are outlined in the document.

The Tribune obtained the documents Friday through the Freedom of Information Act. The Tribune is withholding the former student’s name because she was a minor when she and Smith met.

Smith — whose former North County district serves about 550 students — was put on paid administrative leave in February and formally resigned March 8. His leave will continue through June, the district said. He became superintendent July 1, 2005, according to documents.

The investigation

In the documents, the district claims Smith used district computers to communicate with the teen from 2007 to 2009 and brought her to numerous local district social functions and meetings.

A San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department investigation into the relationship in May 2009 found no criminal activity, officials said this week.

Smith, a former Santa Barbara pastor, met the woman while she was in the seventh grade at Templeton Middle School when he served as principal.

Smith told the district, according to the documents, that the relationship began when she needed a father figure, and it remained platonic while she was a minor. He wrote in the report that time spent with him over the years was platonic and approved by her mother.

He kept in touch with the girl after leaving Templeton to lead San Miguel Joint Union, including e-mails, text messages and on the social networking Web site Facebook.com.

About May 2009, the documents say, Smith called the woman a “PYT,” meaning “pretty young thing,” on her Facebook page.

The relationship

Smith’s son, Andy Smith, 26, said he doesn’t believe Smith was intimate with the woman before her 18th birthday because his father knew it would be illegal.

Andy Smith said the student visited Smith’s house to watch movies and would ride on his father’s motorcycle and go with him on picnics. He also said people saw them holding hands.

According to her Facebook page, the woman graduated from Templeton High School in 2009.

They are now dating, Andy Smith said.

Dean Smith was served with a petition for legal separation from his wife last week, citing irreconcilable differences. They were married 33 years, according to the court filings.

The investigation does not say at what point Smith and the teen’s relationship turned romantic, but that the communications took place before she turned 18.

“Smith continued to interact … with his former student although she was a minor, despite the fact that he was playing a ‘paternal’ role in her life, and without regard to his role as superintendent of the district,” the documents continue.

In the documents, Smith said the charges only represent “interpretations and innuendos that do not take into account the context of certain communications or actions.”

He goes on to say that the district’s “personal disapproval of my associations with another adult, whom I happened to meet while she was minor, goes beyond legitimate district concerns about employee performance.”