California State Senate Advances Bill to Bring More Transparency to School Boards
Sacramento, Calif. - Legislation authored by State Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), which would require school boards to provide more than 24 hours of notice if they intend to dismiss a California public school district leader, was approved today by the California State Senate.
Senate Bill 494 would modify California’s Education Code, which the actions of school boards, in the case of the termination of a superintendent or assistant superintendent without cause. Under the provisions of the bill, a minimum of 72-hour notice would be required before a public meeting at which a district superintendent and/or assistant superintendent could be terminated without cause. SB 494 would also create a “cooling off” period immediately following a school board election during which a governing board may not terminate the district superintendent or assistant superintendent without cause.
“SB 494 will ensure greater transparency and accountability in school district governing board proceedings and ensure stability and transparency in school district governance,” said Newman. “Meetings of a school board where the termination of school district leadership may be considered should occur only with sufficient public notice, thereby providing an appropriate opportunity for public engagement, which is so critical as it relates to major decisions which may have far-reaching effects.”
The implications of the current regulation’s lack of required advance notice came into focus earlier this year, when the newly installed governing board of the Orange Unified School District called a special meeting, with only 24 hours of notice, over the winter holiday break and while the incumbent superintendent was actually out of the country. At that meeting, the governing board proceeded to terminate the school district superintendent and assistant superintendent, explicitly without cause, appointing her interim replacement at the same meeting. That interim superintendent then resigned a mere five weeks later, leaving the school district without a leader.
Similar scenarios are being reported throughout the state, with many instances of sudden district leadership changes appearing politically motivated, resulting in avoidable levels of contention, distrust, and disruption in affected school communities. SB 494 will improve transparency and community awareness when changes in non-elected school leadership are under consideration. It will also ensure that school board members gain a more complete understanding of their district prior to voting on leadership changes, thereby better equipping the governing body to responsibly deliberate and act upon the significant personnel decisions over which they exercise direct authority.
To schedule an interview with Senator Newman, contact Brendan Hughes at 916.651.4029.
State Senator Josh Newman represents the 29th Senate District, which is comprised of portions of Los Angeles County, Orange County and San Bernardino County. The 29th District includes all or parts of the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Chino Hills, City of Industry, Cypress, Diamond Bar, Fullerton, La Habra, La Palma, Placentia, Rowland Heights, Stanton, Walnut, West Covina and Yorba Linda. Senator Newman is a former United States Army officer, businessperson, and veterans’ advocate, and lives in Fullerton with his wife and daughter.