School board hires new supe, Ackerman drops suit 

After a six-month-long search, the San Francisco school board has hired a new superintendent for an annual $255,000 — a salary and benefits package that is less than what former embattled Superintendent Arlene Ackerman received before she left the district last June.

Tuesday night, the school board voted 6-1 to approve a one-page employment agreement with Carlos Garcia, the former superintendent of the Clark County School District in Las Vegas from 2000 to 2005. The new schools chief was raised in Los Angeles and was a principal of San Francisco’s Horace Mann Middle School from 1988 to 1991.

Board member Kim-Shree Maufas cast the sole "no" vote, saying the board did not have enough time to make a proper choice.

Garcia, 55, will permanently take over for interim Superintendent Gwen Chan, who led the district for the last year, on July 16. Although Chan announced plans to retire on July 1, the district will keep her on through August for $27,900 to help transition Garcia into his new role as chief of a system with 56,000 students at more than 100 campuses.

Mayor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday said Garcia, who started his career in education as a teacher, has a "tremendous amount of commitment and enthusiasm and resolve and energy."

Most board members made reference Tuesday night that Garcia was not 100 percent "perfect" for the job, but expressed excitement for the education veteran to join the district.

"He brings strong urban progressive leadership," school board member Eric Mar said.

Under the three-year contract, Garcia will receive a one-time $30,000 relocation and signing bonus, an annual $8,000 vehicle allowance and a monthly $2,500 housing stipend. As an incentive, Garcia will be eligible for an annuity and payouts of any unused vacation time after two years. Both Garcia and his wife will also be eligible for lifetime health benefits after five years.

Garcia’s contract with the district is comparable to the pay of other superintendents in similar-size systems across the country. The Boston School District, for example, serves 57,000 students and compensates its superintendent about $284,000 in salary and benefits, according to a memo from district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.

A survey of 60 districts, including those in Oakland, Los Angeles, New York and Baltimore, showed superintendent salaries in 2003 ranging between $120,000 to $325,000, with the average at $197,000, according to the Council of Great City Schools.

Garcia’s deal with San Francisco Unified, however, is less than what Ackerman received when she resigned a year ago after it was determined she and board members could not work compatibly. Although Ackerman resigned at an annual salary of $250,000, Blythe said she was also paid $140,000 in annual benefits, including medical, dental and contributions to her retirement account.

"It’s not the base salary, but other benefits in the package" that make up that difference, Blythe said.

San Francisco schools’ new head Carlos Garcia starts July 16

Contract: July 16 to June 30, 2010

Annual salary: $255,000

Vehicle allowance: $8,000/year

Relocation and signing bonus: $30,000

Housing stipend: $2,500/month

Health benefits: For life after five years

- Source: SFUSD

Ex-schools chief drops lawsuit

Former San Francisco schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman dropped her lawsuit against the school district Monday, saying in a letter to the Board of Education that she has "no desire to see any more of the children’s money squandered" on legal and political entanglements.

Ackerman sued the San Francisco Unified School District in May, claiming it had failed to pay her nearly $170,000 in benefits that she was owed under a severance agreement.

The superintendent left the district a year ago, shortly after the board increased her annual salary to $250,000, agreed to pay her $375,000 if she left early and included an "incompatibility" clause in her contract. Under the clause, either the board or superintendent could cite irreconcilable differences and terminate the contract.

While Ackerman collected the $375,000 after resigning, she later sued the district for about $170,000 in vacation days and sick leave, which the lawsuit said she was owed under her contract.

On Monday, Ackerman sent a letter to the board, saying she had advised her attorney to drop the lawsuit against the district. She has found "greater satisfaction," she wrote, knowing her controversial severance package, challenged in a separate lawsuit that was dismissed, was valid.

"I am content with knowing that I left the school district a better place for children than I found it," she wrote, concluding the letter by wishing the board and the new district superintendent, Carlos Garcia, success.

arocha@examiner.com

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