A year* after the school board voted a 3.5% raise for Superintendent Robert Haley and extended his contract to June 2023, the same body announced he was leaving the San Dieguito Union High School District.
“His last day as superintendent is April 30, 2021,” the board said in a press release after a closed session Tuesday night. “The board wishes Dr. Haley well.” (The last day of school this term is June 11.)
At meeting’s end, board President Maureen “Mo” Muir said the board voted unanimously to approve a “voluntary resignation agreement and mutual release of all claims of Dr. Robert Haley.”
She said the agreement provides that Haley resign and that he pay 12 months of his salary while the district maintains his health and welfare benefits until April 30, 2022, or until he obtains benefits coverage elsewhere — “whichever occurs first.”
Muir announced a meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday, but didn’t specify its agenda. But Trustee Michael Allman posted on the private SDUHSD Parents For Reopening Facebook Group that the board would consider interim superintendent candidates.
“The Board of Trustees met today, and in closed session unanimously accepted the resignation of Dr. Robert Haley as superintendent, effective April 30, 2021,” Allman wrote.
Last Thursday, also in closed session, the board gave Haley a performance evaluation. Its results weren’t immediately made public.
Haley’s original contract with San Dieguito, signed in October 2018, gave him a salary of $259,000, not including benefits, Marsha Sutton wrote in an opinion piece last year.*
“In June 2019 it was increased to $261,590. With the March 19 decision, it’s now at $270,746,” she wrote in Times of San Diego.
Haley and members of the school board didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Robyne Ruterbusch of Encinitas, a parent with two children in district schools who had been critical of reopening plans, said: “Can the SDUHSD Board of Trustees please be honest about what this is? The board is terminating Superintendent Robert Haley’s contract and buying him out at a cost to taxpayers of $270K plus benefits until March 2022.”
She said this was how Haley left his last school district—”with a buyout to get rid of him.”
“I would like the record to tell the truth so that other unsuspecting school districts are not duped in the future,” Ruterbusch said via email. “Rob Haley appears to be making a career out of getting six-figure payments for failed leadership and being asked to leave before his contract is up. I say ‘good riddance’ as an SDUHSD parent and hope that other school districts will learn from our mistakes.”
Allison Stratton, co-founder of the North County regional Parent Association — which advocated for quicker school reopenings — told Times of San Diego that with the appointment of the “superbly qualified Ty Humes [to the school board] and the resignation of Dr. Haley, SDUHSD has the opportunity to start fresh. I look forward to a new era of leadership and trust for the betterment of the students and staff.”
Duncan Brown, president of the 620-member teachers union, said Haley’s departure didn’t come as a complete surprise.
“While teachers have had concerns with his leadership, the timing of his departure is concerning,” he said. “For an interim replacement, we would expect the school board to gather a list of potential candidates with years of experience in public education before making any decision on the leadership of this exceptional district.”
But he worried that the the opposite is happening.
“This school board, along with recently appointed Area 5 board member Ty Humes, opted to post the superintendent position earlier [Wednesday] morning and alarmingly will close the window for potential outstanding candidates less than 48 hours later.”
The San Dieguito Faculty Association believes SDUHSD is one of California’s “Light House” districts, Brown said.
“Through the work of exceptional teachers and administrators, we have long been the district to emulate,” he said. “Students from our schools achieve at the highest level and are accepted to the most prestigious universities in the United States. This departure from proper governance and procedure on a decision so important to learning community is deeply concerning.”
In a brief news release emailed about 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, district spokesman Miquel Jacobs said the school board planned to immediately begin a search for a new superintendent.
Meanwhile, applicants were being sought to serve as interim superintendent. Interested candidates were asked to email a cover letter and resume to board president Muir.
Added information on the search process was promised at a future board meeting.
“The board looks forward to finding the next superintendent to lead the district,” Jacobs said of the district with four high schools, five middle schools and a continuation high school serving Encinitas, Solana Beach, Del Mar, Cardiff, Rancho Santa Fe and surrounding areas.
Haley navigated contentious factions of parents advocating and resisting a swift reopening of schools, and dealt with a lawsuit threat by the California Teachers Association.
Haley was the district’s fourth superintendent in the past 10 years, noted a Del Mar Times report.
“He brought over 25 years of experience in education, serving as a teacher, principal and district level administrator in six school districts. Prior to coming to San Dieguito, he was the superintendent of the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District in Sonoma County for seven years.”
San Diego Faculty Association President Duncan Brown has said 98% of his union membership voted no confidence in his leadership.
Updated at 8:11 p.m. April 28, 2021
Correction: An earlier version of this report said Haley’s 3.5% raise came a month earlier. It actually was in March 2020. The Marsha Sutton essay also was last year.