Schools chief to leave Wed­nes­day

Af­ter 10 months of tus­sling with his school board, top of­fi­cial is step­ping down

The Mercury News Weekend - - LOCAL NEWS - By SharonNoguchi snoguchi@ba­yare­anews­ SANTA CLARA COUNTY

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.


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