WHITTIER — The superintendent of the Los Nietos School District, portrayed by some board members and district employees as a strong-willed administrator who balked at taking direction from the board, reluctantly submitted his resignation last week in exchange for a $91,000 settlement.
Terry T. Giboney will resign effective June 30, one year before his contract was to expire. Giboney went on administrative leave last Thursday, and acting Deputy Supt. Charles Menzies was named interim superintendent.
Giboney had several problems with the board over a series of personnel disputes, Menzies said. Because personnel disputes are private matters, Menzies declined to elaborate, saying only that many of the problems concerned staff members whom Giboney wanted to fire and the board wanted to retain.
The latest battle between Giboney and the board centered on the possible demotion of Nelson School Principal Pete Nichols, Aeolian School Principal Mercedes Parks and Bill Brown, the director of instructional services. All three were notified by the board in March that they might be demoted as a result of an investigation by the Civil Rights Office of the U.S. Department of Education into charges that the district failed to provide adequate bilingual education at its schools in Whittier, Santa Fe Springs and Los Nietos. Board President Adeline Rocha and members Angelica Johnson and Pete Delgado voted to notify the three of a possible demotion. Members Sylvia Orona and Gloria Duran voted against. Giboney sided with the minority, publicly criticizing the three board members on their vote.
The announcement that Giboney was resigning was no surprise to most district employees. Rumors that the board wanted to buy out Giboney's contract had been floating around the tiny district of four schools for the last month. Giboney himself had remarked that he believed he was going to be ousted.
In an interview Monday, Giboney said he would rather have kept his job. The board made several offers before he took the $91,000 settlement, he said. Giboney's annual salary was $71,562.
"My first choice was to stay on as superintendent," he said. "But the majority I once had (on the board) turned to the minority. It was really the beginning of the end for me. Considering the board's desire to replace me with a superintendent of their own choosing, the settlement seemed to be in the best interest of everyone."
Giboney was hired by a unanimous vote in 1986 and for the most part enjoyed the favor of three of the five board members during his tenure. In November, however, two new board members were elected, the majority shifted and Giboney was left facing a hostile majority.
A series of fights behind closed doors over personnel matters had escalated until there was visible antagonism among board members. Two recent meetings degenerated into shouting matches as parents allied themselves with Giboney or the voting bloc of Rocha, Johnson and Delgado.
The friction eventually triggered a recall effort against the three members by parents who disagreed with the board's decision to notify the three administrators that they faced a possible demotion. The parent group, however, failed to meet last Thursday's deadline to file against Johnson and Delgado, and by Tuesday had notified the county only of its intent to recall Rocha.
Martha Bautista, a member of the recall group, said Giboney told the group that he was going to accept a settlement.
"It's too bad the board is wasting our money on something like this when Giboney could have fulfilled his contract and done a good job," she said.
According to the agreement, Giboney will be paid a lump sum of $72,786 before July 13. He will also be paid for a leave of absence until May 15, and 32 days of vacation. Giboney cannot become involved in the recall effort, and the agreement forbids Giboney and the board members from making negative statements about one another.
Rocha, Johnson and Delgado sought the agreement, according to parents, teachers and some district employees. Board members Orona and Duran refused to sign the settlement, which Duran criticized as a misuse of district funds that will seriously strain the district's already overtaxed budget.
Rocha, Johnson and Delgado could not be reached for comment.
"I think the feeling of the board was that Giboney would do things he wanted to do in spite of their concerns," Menzies said.
Ironically, Menzies himself was the focus of one of the stronger disputes. As the former principal of Los Nietos Middle School, he received reprimands and two negative evaluations from Giboney. But Menzies had staff support. Rather than face demotion, he chose to resign, and worked for about a year in the classroom.
In January, he was appointed, by a 3-2 vote, as acting deputy superintendent in charge of personnel. The appointment was widely acknowledged as an attempt by Rocha, Johnson and Delgado to dilute Giboney's power. Orona and Duran voted against the appointment.
Although Giboney acknowledged that there were many disagreements between him and the board, he said he believed he had done an effective job. He hopes to be hired as a superintendent in another district.
Menzies said another superintendent should be hired in the Los Nietos School District by September.
"The board needs to actively seek someone they can all agree on," he said.