Laguna Beach Unified School District Superintendent Sherine Smith will retire in 2016, she said during a special board meeting Wednesday to evaluate her performance.
Smith informed board members of her pending retirement in April and asked them to keep the information confidential, board president Ketta Brown said Thursday, June 25.
Smith’s early notice of her departure gives the district more time to start a search for a replacement, Brown said. In July 2014, following a similar closed-door performance evaluation, Smith said she would not seek a renewal of her contract.
Smith was hired on July 1, 2010, and her annual contract for $258,000 with benefits expires in 2016. Smith estimated her annual pension payout at $144,000, based on her age, years of service and sick-leave credits. Her tenure has been marked by national recognition for the district, and has endured considerable criticism by school district watchdogs.
“I am proud of the progress we have made in LBUSD over the past five years,” Smith said in an emailed statement Thursday. She noted record enrollment in the district’s music program, new courses to align with state-mandated curriculum, allowing students to use their own computers for school, installing wireless at all schools. “…most importantly, working with our teachers, staff, principals, and board to create a world-class learning experience for our students,” she said.
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 earned the ire of parents, including a plan to start school prior to Labor Day, hiring of former colleagues and her advocacy for a citywide social host ordinance.
Smith has matured under the circumstances, Brown said. Instead of making top-down decisions and acting independently, Smith has adopted a more collaborative decision-making process, Brown said. “When opportunities or even difficulties presented themselves, she would look and see and assess and move forward in a way that worked best for all parties involved. It’s not ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ She doesn’t impose her will,” Brown said.
Brown said Smith might actually retire. “I think really what she wants to do is travel but her husband is still working,” said Brown. “She’s got plenty of opportunities.”
Smith earned her Ph.D. while working at LBUSD. “That was always a goal of hers, too,” said Br
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