Superintendent to retire, but investigation continues
A besieged Callan calls retirement 'planned,' but is leaving during tumultuous time for school district
Although the embattled superintendent of Palo Alto's public schools suddenly announced her retirement last week, it is likely the investigation into district leadership troubles -- in which she is at the center -- will continue as planned.
The district committee charged with hiring an outside consultant, who will look into accusations that Superintendent Mary Frances Callan and her three-member senior cabinet treat employees unfairly, is meeting today to discuss how to proceed.
The investigation "is about improving the quality of leadership at all levels and that doesn't start and stop with the superintendent," said school board member Dana Tom, who is co-chairing the Organizational Development Committee with board member Gail Price. "The kind of discussion and recommendations we can gather from that process is going to be valid regardless of who the superintendent is."
Callan, 62, announced her Aug. 30, 2007 retirement in a two-and-one-half page letter to the Board of Education, which was hand delivered to board President Mandy Lowell Friday.
In the letter, Callan said she has "mixed emotions" regarding her retirement, but that it's in line with her five-year plan for serving the district. Callan started working for the district in 2002.
"I am excited to move on to the next stage of my life after 41 years of service in education, 13 of them in California, and to pursue other interests," Callan wrote in the letter. "I am also so proud to have been a part of our district's remarkable successes over my tenure. However, I appreciate the opportunity I had to lead the district team in calm times and stormy ones as all of us strived for what was best for our students."
The school board signed Callan into another four-year contract this summer with an annual $255,000 salary, health and life insurance, more than four weeks vacation per year and a $750 monthly vehicle allowance.
Under the California State Teachers' Retirement System, Callan will receive full health, dental and vision benefits because she is retiring after February 2007, the month she will be with the district for five years.
For most of her retirement letter, Callan cites the various accomplishments she felt the district has had in recent years, including the district's relationships with its employees' unions, which are "the best they have been in years due to increased trust through open communication."
Callan wrote that she looks forward to completing the school year, as well as the attendance-boundaries review and Mandarin Immersion-program study.
She is, however, leaving the district during a tumultuous time.
In September, the district's management team -- consisting of about 50 principals, assistant principals, district office coordinators and school psychologists -- raised the concerns that sparked the search for an outside investigator. The team cited issues of trust, preferential treatment and compensation and benefits and said it would look into organizing with a formal association or union if working conditions do not improve.
The district is also being sued for allegedly not properly investigating a tip in the early 1990s that a Jordan Middle School student was being molested by a teacher. The teacher, Bill Giordano, was recently sentenced to four years in prison.
Callan does not mention either of those issues in her letter of resignation.
"While issues come and go and evolve into new concerns, I do believe that my efforts have strengthened the district's capacity to respond when topics are raised," she wrote.
Lowell said the district is fortunate to have so much time to do a national search for a new leader.
"We will find an outstanding superintendent and if that person can afford the housing prices in Palo Alto, we will continue to have outstanding leadership in the district," Lowell said.
Staff Writer Alexandria Rocha can be e-mailed at email@example.com.