Prior to an annual closed-door performance evaluation with the Laguna Beach school board, the district’s top administrator said during a public session Monday, June 30, that she is not seeking a renewal of her contract.
Superintendent Sherine Smith, whose $234,000 a year contract expires in 2016, was unavailable for comment, said her executive assistant, Victoria Webber, who said her boss was taking a vacation this week.
Under the terms of Smith’s contract, she can seek a one-year contract extension after a performance evaluation is completed in June. If she fails to formally seek the extension, renewal is not automatic, the contract says.
While the intent of Smith’s comment remains unclear, it set off speculation about Smith’s exit by some parents, three of whom attended the public portion of the special meeting to voice their criticism of her tenure. If Smith leaves her post in 2016, November’s balloting “will be a critical election,” pointed out Tammy Keces, one of the parents present who expressed dissatisfaction with Smith’s leadership, citing as an example the proposed hiring of another director-level administrator.
Winners of the election will hold the responsibility of hiring a successor to Smith, speculated Keces, who unsuccessfully ran for school board in 2012 but does not plan a second candidacy.
Incumbents Betsy Jenkins, Theresa O’Hare and Ketta Brown each face re-election in November after having served two four-year terms.
Smith was hired to oversee Laguna’s four public schools in 2010 from a neighboring district. In 2014, Laguna’s elementary schools were named California distinguished schools and its high school earned a ranking of 81st in the state from U.S. News and World Reports. But some of Smith’s decisions rankled parents, including a plan to start school prior to Labor Day as well as her advocacy for a citywide social host ordinance.
The intent of Smith’s comment was not probed during the closed session, board President Jan Vickers said in a later interview. The five-member board focused on evaluating Smith’s performance at executing five district goals: student achievement, school culture, equipping the learning environment, staffing and fiscal responsibility.
The board took no action at the conclusion of the meeting. Because of a conflicting appointment by one board member, the board did not have enough time to fully complete the evaluation and will continue it at another session and likely ask her for a fuller explanation then, Vickers said.
By law, elected school boards must annually review the only school district employee that they hire directly. Laguna’s school board strives for quarterly evaluations, which allow for small corrections in direction as needed, Vickers said.