SAN GABRIEL — The superintendent of the San Gabriel School District has announced his resignation, partly because of criticism last year from the teachers union over lack of communications.
Thomas Sullivan, who has headed the district for 10 years, said he was "bothered" by the criticism, but will leave the district June 30 with a sense of accomplishment. He noted that school test scores have risen, "we have a very solid staff of teachers," and he has personally hired 40% of the 160 teachers who are now working in the district.
Sharron Rains, president of the San Gabriel Teachers Assn. and a teacher hired before Sullivan joined the district, said she was not surprised by Sullivan's decision, given the ill feeling that developed last year. "I think there's been so much said and done that you can't do a lot of fence-mending," she said.
The teachers group declared last June that it had "no confidence" in the superintendent, citing poor communication between teachers and district administrators. Rains said that relations between teachers and the administration have since improved, but "you can't negate what happened."
Rains, a first-grade teacher at McKinley School who became president of the teachers association shortly before the group issued its criticism of Sullivan, said she has been meeting monthly with him this school year. The situation today, she said, is "not all rosy" but better than a year ago.
School Board President Dominic Shambra said there was no pressure on Sullivan to resign. "It was very amicable," he said, noting that Sullivan will remain in charge of the district through June 30 while the school board searches for a new superintendent.
Sullivan said he hopes to find a position as superintendent of a larger district, and if that doesn't materialize, he might become an educational consultant.
"I've got 10 to 12 years before I retire," he said.
In last fall's school board election, the teachers union and the Teamsters, which represents custodians and other non-teaching employees, campaigned for school board candidates who promised to improve communication between employees and the school board and administration. The union-backed candidates won.
Sullivan said the superintendent's job in San Gabriel, a district with 350 employees and a $9-million annual budget, involves so much attention to detail that he cannot be "out doing a lot of public relations." As a result, he said, critics have complained about poor communication.
After the union criticism surfaced, Sullivan charged that it was aimed at bolstering the teachers' position in contract negotiations. Similar complaints about Sullivan and the district administration were made by a group of parents who were upset over the proposed transfer of a popular teacher.
Sullivan said that the specific allegations against him were either baseless or involved petty matters.
Sullivan, 53, has been superintendent for 10 years, overseeing a district with 3,100 students from kindergarten through the eighth grade. The area's high school program is administered separately by the Alhambra School District.
He will leave his $59,000-a-year post with a year remaining on his contract and will receive about $47,000 in severance pay.
Sullivan, who was assistant superintendent at the San Carlos School District in San Mateo County before coming to San Gabriel, said he would like to work in a district with a larger staff. In San Gabriel, he said, his job has included interviewing and hiring teachers, work that would be done by a personnel director in a larger district.
He said he plans to recommend that the school board establish a personnel office to ease the burden on his replacement.