UPDATE: This story, originally published online on July 2, was updated July 11.
The Dublin Unified School District (DUSD) this week in closed session offered Daniel Moirao the role of acting superintendent, replacing Dave Marken, who announced his resignation at the June 23 board meeting. The resignation was paired with a 60-day notice, marking his last day as superintendent Aug. 22.
On Tuesday, July 7, the board is expected to ratify the choice of Moirao, a former Dublin Unified School District administrator, subject also to his own acceptance of the agreement.
During the June 30 meeting, board members voted 3-2 to formally accept Marken’s resignation. Board President Dan Cherrier and Trustees Catherine Kuo and Gabi Blackman voted “yes.” Current Board Vice President Megan Rouse and Trustee Amy Miller voted “no.”
The split votes were indicative of a board divided. And with the recent resignation of its superintendent and concerns of teacher opposition, many claimed the issues stemmed from this very problem.
While Marken’s recent resignation letter published last week left much open to interpretation, Cherrier noted that he believed Marken left the district under the impression that the board majority didn’t want him to do his job as he saw fit. Cherrier further emphasized it was his own hunch, and not information that Marken shared with him.
Marken did not return a reporter’s calls several days before press deadline.
Going back a few months to March 31, the division was evident in the 3-2 vote, declining Marken’s request for the board to grant him emergency powers during the COVID-19 crisis. Cherrier, Kuo and Blackman opposed the approval; Rouse and Miller supported it. The emergency powers would have allowed Marken to execute same-day approval to spend money on anti-COVID-19 measures, such as buying masks and equipment, cleaning solvents and machines to make sure places were ready for the opening, if students were back in classes in the fall. Marken indicated at the time that he would present all spending in a special board meeting within 24 hours.
About half of the districts in the state, including Sunol Glen, San Ramon Valley, Piedmont, and Oakland have given that power to their superintendents, said Joe Serrero, assistant superintendent of business services. Harold Friedman, the board’s attorney, indicated that such power would tie together board policies already on the books; staff would not have to search for them.
Cherrier said the board should have a look first at expenditures, as part of the board’s fiscal responsibilities in supervising the budget, especially in this difficult revenue period. Kuo admitted that she could vote for two of the four points in the authorizing resolution, but had qualms about some things in the other two.
“I feel (Marken) already has the authority,” said Kuo. “Further, with virtual meetings, it’s easier and quicker to assemble a meeting these days and directly take care of an issue.”
Miller pointed out that the board would not be giving up its authority, but what Marken wanted would “make life just a little bit easier for staff working around the clock.”
“I see my role as trustee as removing barriers, and this fits right into it,” Rouse said, adding that the move would be removing a barrier.
The board split was reminiscent of the board’s reorganization meeting on Dec. 17, 2019. That had a 3-2 split, too, and seemed to affect future functioning of the board. Cherrier nominated Blackman for vice president; Blackman voted for herself. Both were perceived as major backers of building a high school on the city’s east side. Cherrier focused on past bond issues, which he felt were not getting enough done for the district.
Miller and Rouse took an overall view of the district, focusing more on relationships among teachers and in the classroom, instead of money. They voted “no” on Cherrier’s motion to install Blackman as vice president.
With the board tied at 2-2, the entire board meeting room in those pre-quarantine days waited to see what Kuo, the newest trustee, would do after voting “no” on granting Marken’s request. She then voted for Rouse as vice president on the next motion, as did Rouse and Miller. The vote then was seen as an attempt to give both factions a more harmonious relationship.
At the June 23 meeting, when Marken announced his resignation, Kuo stated, “All four of my fellow board members are hard-working. I really appreciate my fellow board members, as well as our staff.”
Miller said she did not share those feelings about the rest of the board. To her, Marken’s service at the district helm was paramount, and she saw that night’s 3-2 vote along with the vote to not give Marken emergency power over COVID-19 decisions as driving Marken out of the district.
“I’m embarrassed to be a part of this board,” Miller said. “I’m going to try to keep doing what’s right by our students and our staff, but I’m just really sad tonight, and concerned about what the future of DUSD looks like.”
Teachers Blame Majority for Voting Against Raises
The same 3-2 board split lineup declined teacher raises for the 2020/21 fiscal year. The board had a deal going with the Dublin Teachers Association (DTA) on May 11, then rescinded it. After Marken resigned, many DTA members included his resignation in their criticism of the board majority through letters they sent to the majority and copied to news media.
DTA President Robbie Kreitz told the board that the union members were so fired up about losing Marken that if she took a strike authorization now, some 95% of the membership would sign. Failure to keep up with increasing wages in nearby districts would make it harder to retain good teachers, said Kreitz.
But from Cherrier’s point of view, the reason that the board majority voted against going through with the raise was because the state budget changed drastically between Gov. Gavin Newsom’s initial state budget in January, and his depressed economy May revise after COVID-19 invaded California.
However, things got better again last week, said Cherrier. Newsom and the Legislature agreed on a bill that will restore billions of dollars to the budget from rainy day fund reserves. So now DUSD will look at granting raises to DTA.
There would be a 3.125% ongoing increase, effective July 1, 2020. Staff recommended that the board approve it.
However, there is a slight catch. The DUSD budget will receive more money if the federal CARES Act dollars come through on Oct. 15, as promised, said Cherrier. A trustee could decide not to approve a teacher raise if the trustee wanted to wait and see what happens Oct. 15.
Nevertheless, the budget hike was on the board’s virtual special meeting agenda for June 30, starting at 6:30 p.m., after The Independent’s deadline.
Marken, a past district administrator in Dublin, who professed a genuine love for being at DUSD, took over after Leslie Boozer was employed in the job for two years. She left after a closed session and jointly issued a statement with the board. No reason was given for her departure.