The Palo Alto school district Monday made publicly available the seven-page application form and two-page resume submitted by prospective new school superintendent Don Austin. The district said this minimal information was the only material on Austin "in its possession."
All other documents submitted by Austin as part of his job application are in "control and possession" of the executive search firm and not subject to release under the California Public Records Act due to the terms of the district contract with the firm, the district stated in response to the Weekly's inquiry.
The Weekly's request was made on May 7, the day it was announced he was the school board's pick for the position. The board is scheduled to approve a three-year contract with Austin at its meeting Tuesday night, May 22.
The material released, which is mostly a fill-in application form, sheds little new light on Austin's background or his leadership style. Responses to the only two open-ended questions were redacted by the district, based on their being exempt under court rulings that allow an agency to protect the confidentiality of its deliberative process, although nothing requires the district to withhold such information.
Austin's application states he received his bachelor's degree from Baker University in "Physical Ed./English" but the accompanying resume states only physical education. When asked to explain the discrepancy, he said he received a California teaching credential in English after moving back to California. His resume states he has credentials in administrative service, physical education and introductory English that expire next August.
Austin also holds a doctorate in education and master of arts from Azusa Pacific University.
Austin's salary history shows he took a pay cut when he moved from being the principal of 2,800-student Laguna Beach High School to assistant superintendent of the 16,000-student Huntington Beach Unified High School District in 2011. His final salary at Laguna Beach was $183,000 in 2011; it was $175,000 five years later when he left Huntington Beach to become superintendent in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District. He is currently paid $308,752 and will be paid $300,000 plus subsidized housing valued at $25,000 if his appointment is approved by the Palo Alto school board Tuesday night.
Austin's reputation in Palos Verdes appears to be mixed, with members of his cabinet speaking highly of his reputation as a visible leader and mentor but others, including sitting board members, refusing to speak on the record until after his contract is approved in Palo Alto.
In a email sent to the Palo Alto school board on Tuesday, the Palos Verdes board president, Anthony Collatos, said that their decision not to comment until after Tuesday's vote shouldn't be interpreted as anything "other than being respectful of your process."
"Our board has been supportive of Dr. Austin through this process and tried to be extremely respectful of your timeline and space," Collatos wrote.
He reiterated his support for Austin, previously expressed in a recommendation letter.
"I think Dr. Austin will bring strong leadership to your District and will continue to focus on leadership development, improving mental health and awareness, and sustaining academic excellence," Callatos wrote.
A former Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity, however, said that members of the school community are reluctant to criticize Austin publicly. The employee described a culture of "intimidation" in the district.
"I feel very bad for your city that you are getting him, but I don't want the board members in Palo Alto to change their mind because I don't want anyone in the PVSD suffering anymore with him at the helm," the employee said.
Several anonymous posters on Town Square, Palo Alto Online's comment forum, claim to be Palos Verdes parents or district employees and have described allegations of mistreatment by Austin.
"We want Don Austin out of PV and his days are numbered regardless. But in good conscience we cannot say nothing and allow him to hurt more children and schools in Palo Alto," one poster wrote, alleging that top administrators and counselors resigned in part due to Austin.