Schools chief to leave Wednesday
After 10 months of tussling with his school board, top official is stepping down
SAN JOSE » Santa Clara County schools chief Jon Gundry will leave office Wednesday, under a negotiated settlement with the school board that’s been battling with him for 10 months over communications, budgets and employee complaints.
Gundry, 62, becomes the fourth consecutive superintendent to leave office in conflict with the county board of education.
Under an agreement announced Wednesday by board President Michael Chang, the Santa Clara County Board of Education will pay Gundry $150,893 in severance, about half a year’s salary. More than 2½ years remain in his contract, which the board had enthusiastically renewed in 2016.
“We didn’t ask himto leave,” Chang said. The agreement, he said, is “good for the superintendent and it’s good for the county board. Each needs to move on, and unfortunately this is the time.”
Gundry could not be reached for comment. Earlier, he said he was proud of his work at the county office of education. “I know I’m not perfect but I think I’ve done a good job.”
In an emailed statement put out by the office of education, Gundry said, “I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the board, my staff and the community for their support of the County’s programs and services during my tenure. I am confident that the county office will continue to set a high standard for educational leadership in the Bay Area.”
For three years, Gundry has led Santa Clara County’s most far-reaching preK-12 educational institution. With a $305 million annual budget, the agency serves 31 school districts and 273,000 public- school students.
It runs special- education classes, Head Start and state- funded preschool, and schools for students who are incarcerated, on probation or expelled from their home schools.
Gundry is credited with bringing stability to the office of education, in the wake of the chaotic administration of his predecessor, Xavier De La Torre.
Gundry restored the office’s business department, which for various school districts provides accounting, payroll, technology and training, and oversees their budgets plans.
He also launched an investigation into the finances of the troubled Alum Rock Union School District, and has advocated for reforms to guard against fraud and misspending.
Trustee Joseph Di Salvo said that “Jon has done an excellent job navigating the conflict-laden and treacherous waters of our county office.”
But Gundry also was accused of harassment by his employees, including one complaint earlier this year investigated by the board, and criticized for turmoil in the special-education department.
Although the county school board on Wednesday unanimously approved the agreement, the seven trustees representing various areas of the county differed in evaluating Gundry but eventually agreed to negotiate his exit.
Trustee Claudia Rossi, who has publicly criticized Gundry over special education, said his exit “has come after a very long process of deliberation… It was a very thoughtful process.”
Trustee Grace Mah, who has backed Gundry and has seen three other county superintendents ushered to the door, said, “It’s always sad for me when superintendents leave. I always try to work things outwith employees.”
The board is expected to name an interim superintendent and begin its search for a permanent replacement at a meeting next Wednesday.