Less than six months into his tenure, Pleasanton school district Superintendent Rick Rubino has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into an unspecified personnel matter.
The school board, in a statement released Tuesday, said its decision a day earlier to place Rubino on leave "demonstrates that we place the highest priority on creating and maintaining a professional working environment for all employees."
The statement also indicated that deputy superintendent of business services Micaela Ochoa has agreed to serve as the district's leader during this time. She becomes the district's fourth leader since spring 2015.
"We are confident her familiarity with the district, our programs, people, and parent and community partners will help to ensure stability and a continued focus on student achievement," the board said in its statement, emailed by district spokesman Patrick Gannon to PUSD employees, families and the public on Tuesday.
Board president Joan Laursen declined to comment further on the matter. Rubino had not returned calls for comment as of Wednesday afternoon.
Gannon said he could not elaborate further since it is a personnel matter, adding that it's not known at this time how long the investigation will take.
"The board's intent is it will be as expeditious as possible," Gannon said. He added that the district is in the process of hiring an independent investigator to handle the investigation. That investigator will report to the school board.
Rubino was officially placed on leave Monday after a special school board meeting at 8 a.m. that day in which the board was scheduled to take action on disciplining an unnamed employee in closed session. The meeting was noticed on the district's website on Friday evening.
The board "reached consensus" on the decision during its closed session meeting, Gannon said.
Rubino started as Pleasanton superintendent on July 1 following four years as the superintendent of Gridley Unified School District in Butte County. A Walnut Creek resident, Rubino also worked as an administrator for school districts in Fremont, San Leandro, Concord and Martinez during his career.
The school board approved a three-year contract for Rubino in May with an initial annual base salary of $256,000.
Rubino was hired after a five-month search. He replaced former Amador Valley High School principal Jim Hansen, who stepped out of retirement to fill the superintendent seat for the 2015-16 school year while the district searched for a permanent successor to Parvin Ahmadi.
Now taking the reins in the short-term, Ochoa had worked as deputy superintendent of business services since she was promoted last December. She previously worked as the chief business officer for the Santa Clara County Office of Education.
Gannon said Ochoa will still be fulfilling her deputy superintendent duties as the district's interim leader.
"We're really grateful Micaela Ochoa agreed to serve as leader during this time," he said. "We're going to continue to focus on doing what's best for students."
Ochoa stepping in as interim leader serves as the latest change during a time of significant transition for the district and amid a period marked by leadership turnover.
Last month, Pleasanton residents resoundingly passed the $270 million school facilities bond Measure I1 and voted retired Hart Middle School principal Steve Maher onto the school board.
During his campaign, Maher emphasized that he wanted to join the school board to help "stop the revolving door of principals, staff and district office personnel." Since the start of last school year alone, there have been new principals at eight of the district's 15 schools, including three at Harvest Park Middle School.
The board had been slated to begin reviewing the district's hiring practices in January.