Personnel movements dominated Tuesday night's school board meeting, with a new superintendent announced, two new principals appointed and some classified staff layoffs announced.
Rick Rubino was named as Pleasanton's new superintendent after a five-month search that looked at administrators from across the U.S. However, the board hasn't yet approved his contract, which is the last logistical and legal hurdle before he can begin work.
Rubino, superintendent at Gridley Unified in Butte County for the past four years, is expected to start as the new superintendent July 1, but he's no stranger to the East Bay.
Rubino, 63, previously worked as an assistant superintendent of personnel services at Martinez Unified and director of certificated personnel at Mt. Diablo Unified in Contra Costa County. He moved to the Bay Area in the 1980s and has lived in Walnut Creek with his family since 2002.
He said he was drawn to the Pleasanton Unified School District due to its stellar reputation, involved community and the district's desire to integrate more technology into the learning process.
"This is the most exciting time in public education in 100 years," Rubino said in an interview after his appointment.
The move is contingent on the board approving Rubino's contract, which includes his salary. The vote on that contract was moved to the board's May meeting because the contract needs to be included in the board packet for public examination before approval, and it wasn't ready in time for Tuesday's meeting.
The district was searching for a new superintendent after former superintendent Parvin Ahmadi resigned in June to become Castro Valley's superintendent. Interim superintendent Jim Hansen will continue to lead the district until July while Rubino wraps up the school year in Gridley.
"It's tough shoes to fill, but he's surrounded by an incredible team," board member Chris Grant said of Rubino.
The board also named Amador Valley vice principal Michael Williams as interim principal, effective immediately while current principal Tom Drescher takes a leave of absence until his resignation becomes effective June 30. Williams will become the permanent principal as of July 1.
Drescher had announced his resignation in January, and he has been on leave on and off since Spring Break. District spokesman Patrick Gannon said he couldn't comment on the nature of Drescher's absence, and Drescher did not respond to multiple phone, email and in-person requests to clarify the duration and reasons behind his absence.
Retired Pleasanton Middle principal John Whitney joined the Amador Valley staff in March as an interim vice principal "to provide additional support to the current administration team" until June 30, Gannon said.
Walnut Grove interim principal Chris Connor was named the school's permanent principal. Connor has been interim principal since January after former principal Jan Steed was promoted to a district-level position, later resigning from that job.
The Pleasanton Unified board also announced Beth Cutter as the district's new assistant director of adult education, Steed's prior position. Cutter was most recently a vice principal at Walnut Grove, was a vice principal in Livermore Valley Joint Unified for two years and was previously a science teacher at Amador Valley, according to the district.
The board also voted to eliminate 19.5 full-time equivalent classified positions due to a gap in one-time funding that was fueling those positions, but district staff said they'll have a clearer picture of which jobs they'll be able to keep after the state budget is revised in May. If fundraisers or state funding come through, some pink slips could be rescinded.
"We're going to do everything we can to bring the positions back," board member Valerie Arkin said. "We don't take any of this lightly."
The decision will either lead to reduced hours or layoffs for some library assistants, custodians, technology specialists, a lead support specialist, an office assistant and a coordinator of maintenance services.
The district's elementary string and band program was also reduced due to this funding gap, and some of those teachers have already received pink slips, said Dianne Howell, assistant superintendent of human resources.
"Music is one of those rare things that transcends language, economics, backgrounds or race," said parent liaison Susana Lopez-Krulevitch. "Please save the fifth-grade band and strings program."
Board members said they decided to approve layoff notices Tuesday night because these particular jobs require a 60-day layoff notice, and having an end date after the start of the district's financial year on July 1 could set an untenable legislative precedent, board members said.
During public comment, several attendees noted Vintage Hills physical education teacher Terri Drain was named the district's 2016 Teacher of the Year and praised her hard work.
A teacher at Vintage Hills for 17 years, she has also taught at Alisal and Fairlands elementary and was the physical education department head at a Vancouver school before moving to the Bay Area.