Paso Robles school su­per­in­ten­dent, two ad­min­is­tra­tors turn in their res­ig­na­tions

The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY KAYTLYN LES­LIE AND LIND­SEY HOLDEN

Paso Robles Joint Uni­fied School Dis­trict Su­per­in­ten­dent Chris Wil­liams an­nounced his sud­den res­ig­na­tion Thurs­day, along with two other top ad­min­is­tra­tors.

The school board held an emer­gency meet­ing Thurs­day morn­ing in which they ac­cepted Wil­liams’ res­ig­na­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the posted agenda for the meet­ing, the board was set to dis­cuss Wil­liams’ midyear eval­u­a­tion dur­ing closed ses­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to a dis­trict news re­lease, Wil­liams sub­mit­ted his res­ig­na­tion af­ter “his ninth con­sec­u­tive pos­i­tive eval­u­a­tion that met and ex­ceeded stan­dards.”

“It is with the deep­est grat­i­tude that we thank Chris Wil­liams for the pas­sion, pur­pose, con­vic­tion, and lead­er­ship he has pro­vided in the trans­for­ma­tion of our dis­trict into one of ex­cel­lence,” the re­lease said. “This tran­si­tion will take place over the next 60 days.”

Wil­liams’ res­ig­na­tion is ef­fec­tive Feb. 6.

The board also ac­cepted the res­ig­na­tions of di­rec­tor of stu­dent Ser­vices Kristin Shouse and the di­rec­tor of ath­let­ics Rich Clay­ton.

WIL­LIAMS SPEAKS OUT

In a let­ter to staff on Thurs­day that was at times both thank­ful and com­bat­ive, Wil­liams called on the dis­trict “to be un­selfish, be self­less,” ex­tolling it to cham­pion “peo­ple who share a higher pur­pose, are not afraid to think dif­fer­ently while chal­leng­ing the norms, can lead with deep con­vic­tion, are truth tell­ers and do not hide, yet have the will­ing­ness to work with, work through, and work above the need­less noise cre­ated by doubters and those who don’t be­lieve, those who are not will­ing to put the pur­pose and be­lief above them­selves.”

He added, “You see, for me this is not a job, it is not a pro­fes­sion, it is a call­ing. My pas­sion and pur­pose have al­ways driven me. What an amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity I have had to cul- ti­vate the seed of great­ness in every child and per­son. It is who I am and what I will al­ways do.”

Wil­liams also in­cluded some pointed mes­sages to par­tic­u­lar au­di­ences.

He urged the board to trust its staff and be wary of “peo­ple who con­tinue to tear down what has been ac­com­plished, in­clud­ing per­sonal at­tacks, lies, and in­flam­ma­tory com­ments.”

And he chal­lenged the me­dia to “raise your game and make a dif­fer­ence.”

“Our com­mu­nity and stu­dents de­serve more than medi­ocre, un­founded, un­proven myths that con­tinue to be lowlevel, ir­re­spon­si­ble re­port­ing,” Wil­liams said.

‘A VERY SAD DAY’

Board mem­ber Joel Peter­son de­scribed Thurs­day as “a very sad day for Paso Robles, def­i­nitely.”

“There were cer­tain of us who thought it might be com­ing, but it cer­tainly took us by sur­prise,” he said in a phone in­ter­view with The Tri­bune. “As you know there was a re­cent elec­tion in Paso Robles and a fair num­ber of in­cum­bents were voted out. There’s a por­tion of this com­mu­nity that would like to see a new di­rec-

tion and some change. And I think Chris didn’t see some align­ment and agree­ment in this new board.”

He added that though un­sure about the rea­sons be­hind Shouse’s res­ig­na­tion, he could “say with pretty good clar­ity that Rich Clay­ton fully sup­ports Chris in ev­ery­thing he does.”

“Rich, of course, did some great things in Paso Robles,” he said. “I don’t think he wanted to be here without Chris.”

The Paso Robles school dis­trict serves about 6,900 stu­dents in 11 school sites across the North County.

TU­MUL­TUOUS TEN­URE

Wil­liams came to the dis­trict in 2014, af­ter serv­ing as as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent of hu­man re­sources at Cen­tral Uni­fied School Dis­trict in Fresno County.

Wil­liams has re­cently been un­der fire as the dis­trict strug­gled with an on­go­ing bud­get cri­sis that left the dis­trict’s re­serves at less than 1 per­cent last year.

As a “ges­ture that would set an ex­am­ple mov­ing for­ward,” Wil­liams an­nounced in Oc­to­ber that he would donate his sched­uled 1.5 per­cent raise to the Paso Robles 4A Foun­da­tion, which raises money to sup­port the school dis­trict.

In­com­ing board mem­ber Christo­pher Arend — who was the top voteget­ter in one of Paso Robles’ two Novem­ber school board elec­tions — be­lieves many in­cum­bents weren’t re-elected due to the dis­trict’s bud­get is­sues.

“The spend­ing had got­ten out of hand in the dis­trict,” Arend said. “They’d lost track of it.”

He said new and in­cum­bent board mem­bers re­cently at­tended the an­nual Cal­i­for­nia School Boards As­so­ci­a­tion Con­fer­ence in San Fran­cisco, where they so­cial­ized with Wil­liams.

“We were ex­pect­ing that we would be work­ing with Chris Wil­liams to pull the cart back out of the ditch again,” Arend said.

The new board mem­bers were pre­pared to co­op­er­ate with the su­per­in­ten­dent on the bud­get, but Wil­liams is still to blame for the dis­trict’s fi­nan­cial prob­lems, Arend said.

“I think prob­a­bly Chris Wil­liams de­cided he should take re­spon­si­bil­ity for his mis­take,” he said.

Peter­son said Wil­liams would be missed at the dis­trict by many mem­bers of “his hard­work­ing staff.”

“He has brought so much lead­er­ship to this dis­trict,” he said. “Not to say there haven’t been is­sues — there cer­tainly have been, with the bud­get of course. But Chris has been a cham­pion for this dis­trict.”

Go­ing for­ward, Peter­son said the in­com­ing board — which is ex­pected to be sworn in next week at the dis­trict’s reg­u­larly sched­uled meet­ing — will have to con­sider its next steps and be­gin the search for Wil­liams’ re­place­ment.

“Without Chris, we will search far and wide to find a new su­per­in­ten­dent to re­ally fill Chris’ place,” he said. “He’s set us up great.”

TRAVIS GIB­SON tgib­[email protected]­bune­news.com

Paso Robles Joint Uni­fied School Dis­trict Su­per­in­ten­dent Chris Wil­liams re­signed Thurs­day. Wil­liams has served the dis­trict since 2014.

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