MONROVIA — The school board has accepted the resignation of Monrovia Unified School District Supt. Gwendolyn Collier, whose seven-year tenure has been marked by teacher unrest and complaints about student test scores.
The school board unanimously accepted Collier's resignation after a three-hour closed session that ended at 1:30 a.m. Thursday. Neither Collier nor board members would comment on what was discussed.
The meeting was the first regularly scheduled session for the board since Collier announced on Dec. 4 that she will resign effective June 30 when her three-year contract expires. Her annual salary is $61,000.
"I am resigning because seven years as superintendent is a long time," Collier said in an interview. "I haven't decided my future, but I want something that doesn't require as many hours. This is a difficult job."
Collier, 49, was named superintendent in 1978 after the district had gone through three superintendents in three years. She has spent all but the first year of her career in Monrovia, beginning as a teacher in Santa Fe Elementary School in 1958 and advancing through the ranks, becoming a principal and then assistant superintendent for two years.
Casey Johnson, president of the Monrovia Teachers Assn., said relations between teachers and Collier had been strained for a number of years.
"I am only sorry that the difficult relationship between the teachers and the superintendent wasn't resolved in a positive manner before she resigned," he said. "She was not able to be successful in upgrading the district. Now the district can move toward excellence in education through new leadership."
But one former school board member who asked not to be identified defended Collier, saying that the tenure of Monrovia superintendents has been short and to have served the district for seven years without controversy would have been "amazing."
She said that although the school board seeks advice from the superintendent, the board has always made its own decisions and must take responsibility for actions it has taken or delegated to the superintendent.
"Gwen was very professional no matter what was going on, and sometimes this was a hindrance," she said. "For example, she would not discuss teacher negotiations in public because the board asked her not to, but then she has taken the brunt (of teacher hostility)."
In the past five years, teachers have walked off the job twice over protracted contract negotiations and have complained over the years of low salaries and poor working conditions.
According to Johnson, teacher morale has long been a problem in the district, which has an annual budget of $14 million and serves 9,000 elementary, middle and high school students.
Low on Pay Scale
Johnson said 43 of the district's 292 teachers left this year, most of them because they got better-paying jobs elsewhere.
Statistics from the county Office of Education show that teacher salaries in Monrovia rank near the bottom of the 43 school districts in Los Angeles County. Monrovia ranks 40th in pay ($16,946) for beginning teachers with bachelor of arts degrees and no experience and 40th in pay for teachers with five years' experience ($20,951). Claremont, which ranks No. 1 in pay for beginning teachers ($20,491), and Beverly Hills, rated No. 1 in salaries for more experienced teachers, pays those with five years' experience $27,438.
Monrovia is rated last in fringe benefits, with a package valued at $1,850 per teacher, compared to top-rated Paramount, whose fringe benefit package costs $5,425.
In addition to pay, teachers have lodged protests over long hours and class size. Johnson said that 25 fourth- and fifth-grade teachers filed grievances against the district this fall because time set aside for class preparation, negotiated under last year's contract, was eliminated when the contract expired Aug. 31. Teachers have since been working without a contract, with the next negotiating session set for Monday.
Walkouts in '80 and '83
Similar situations resulted in a one-day walkout in 1980 and a three-day strike in 1983 when teachers balked over lengthy negotiations.
Teachers have also complained of overcrowded classes and a lack of teaching supplies. But low salaries and working without contracts have been the most serious factors in hostility between teachers and administration, Johnson said.
Teacher salaries and the lack of communication between teachers and administrators were major issues in the November school board election in which the two incumbents up for election decided not to run. One new board member, Fred Purdy, said during the campaign that administration-teacher relationships should be reviewed. He and other candidates also said they were concerned about test scores.
The other new member, Christine Goudy, said after the election that her first concern was reaching accord on the teacher contract, adding that she thought teacher salaries were too low.
Little Change Reported