By Mary O’KEEFE
The Glendale Unified School board of education is still responding to the 3-to-2 decision made last week to release Superintendent Dr. Winfred Roberson Jr. from his contract. Parents and community members have been sharing their concerns and opinions on social media, with phone calls and through emails to the school board members. A few of the comments have become a personal attack on some of the board members, especially those who voted to release Roberson.
CVW sat down with board president Greg Krikorian to discuss this decision and where the district goes from here.
“I have always looked from the standpoint of what is best for our district,” Krikorian said. “This was not an easy decision.”
Krikorian said he and the board discussed their concerns, both for continuing the former superintendent’s contract and for releasing him from it. In the end, three members – Krikorian, Shant Sahakian and Dr. Armina Gharpetian – voted to end the contract while Vice President Jennifer Freemon and Nayiri Nahabedian voted against his release.
Krikorian said there have been rumors of why Roberson was released including the Sagebrush territory transfer, the fight at Hoover High School and the failed proposed property swap with Carmel Partners. None of those issues, he said, was why they voted to release. Leadership and budget concerns were what he continued to point out as the reasons.
The district has some financial issues; a letter was sent to GUSD from the Los Angeles County Office of Education stating concerns, and requirements, for the district’s budget, which according to projections will run at a deficit from 2018-21. The LACOE cites issues, including declining enrollment and increases in CalSTRS and CalPERS employer contributions, as some of the reasons for its concern.
Krikorian said Roberson did a good job of updating the board on these issues and communicated well with the parents and students. It was his magnanimous personality that a group of mothers and community members said they will miss.
Some met recently with Sahakian and Krikorian to voice concerns.
“It was more of the consequences of [the superintendent’s dismissal] and moving forward and how to ensure our program gets supported,” said Elizabeth Vitanza, one of the parents who met with the two board members. She and the other mothers were concerned about the Dual Language Immersion Program at Franklin Elementary. Roberson, Vitanza said, had been very supportive of the program.
“He had a positive feel about him,” she added.
She and the others felt the district board did not communicate with the parents before dismissing the superintendent. They were also concerned about the contractual payout the superintendent was to be paid – his annual base salary of $255,000 until he finds another position or 12 months, whichever comes first. Since the Immersion Program needs more funding, according to Vitanza, seeing this payout was disturbing.
Krikorian said the board considered all of the scenarios, including the payout requirement, before voting and still felt the best thing for the district was to vote to release.
There remains a level of frustration with the lack of information on specifics of the decision; however, the vote was done in closed session, which has its own restrictions. Like in every business, decisions are usually made for a variety of reasons, not just one, and Krikorian said it was an accumulation of concerns that played into the decision of his vote.
As the district prepares to move forward in its search for a new superintendent, Vitanza wants the board members to include the qualities she found positive in Roberson.
“He was progressive and understood the challenges of being a student,” she said.
Krikorian and Freemon, who voted against the dismissal, are working together in the search for a new superintendent. The board has begun looking for an “outside search professional” to help with finding candidates. Krikorian said they will be looking for the best person and will be hosting community meetings to get input on the qualities the public wants in their next superintendent.