Jon Gundry, the embattled Superintendent of Schools for the Santa Clara County Office of Education, relinquished his post after agreeing last week to a six-figure settlement despite two years remaining on his contract.
A Nov. 9 statement from the county crafted Gundry’s exit as a mutual parting of ways “that allows the superintendent to pursue other professional interests, and permits the Board to begin the search for a new superintendent.”
Board President Michael Chang said the move was made “in their respective best interests as well as in the best interests of the County Office of Education.”
The county board was expected to plot out its next course of action for finding a new superintendent at the Nov. 15 meeting, which was also the final day of employment for Gundry.
At least one county school board trustee thinks the next leader of the County Office is already on the existing executive staff.
“I believe that the skill sets and strengths that I have seen in leadership currently in place leads me to strongly advocate to identify one of those leaders to take the helm of our organization,” said Claudia Rossi, formerly a member of the Morgan Hill Unified School District Board of Trustees before being elected to the county’s governing body three years ago.
Rossi also stressed her belief that an immediate and permanent replacement was a much better route to go than appointing an interim superintendent while conducting a nationwide search.
In his negotiated settlement, Gundry took $150,893 in severance, which equates to a half year’s salary. He had more than two years remaining on his contract that had been renewed in 2016, after originally coming aboard in July 2014. Gundry previously served as the Superintendent of the Pasadena Unified School District.
“The evaluation process that culminated with Mr. Gundry’s departure was very lengthy and we had many, many meetings as a board to evaluate his performance on areas of focus that we used to evaluate his leadership of our organization,” Rossi said.
Gundry’s three-year tenure was rocky at times. He was accused of trying to conceal consulting contracts, according to a June 2016 report by San Jose Inside. Then, Gundry was accused of racism, harassment and paranoia in a retaliation lawsuit filed against him by a former county staff member earlier this year, according to a different report by San Jose Inside.
Rossi believes the best way to move forward is by promoting a current member of the county office’s leadership staff into the top position. The Morgan Hill resident said appointing an interim superintendent would create “a prolonged period of uncertainty for staff” and “not fully empower that person who will be forced to make some tough decisions to reach a balanced budget in June.”
“If we didn’t have the talent in place within our organization, I would be strongly advocating for a search,” said Rossi, whose seat expires in November 2018.
Rossi, a staunch advocate for special education and at-risk student services, added: “In the coming months under new leadership, I will look to address areas that I have been very concerned about.”