PALMDALE – In a special meeting Friday morning, the Palmdale School District Board of Trustees accepted the resignation of Superintendent Roger Gallizzi and agreed to pay Gallizzi a lump sum equivalent to 18 months of his regular compensation and stipends totaling $332,765.
The Board voted 4-1 to approve Gallizzi’s Resignation and Mutual Release Agreement, with Trustee Maria Molina casting the sole dissenting vote.
The resignation agreement also holds Gallizzi harmless “from any and all claims and liabilities, arising on or before the Resignation Date, from or otherwise related to employment activities…” [Read the entire agreement here.]
Prior to the vote, a handful of speakers at the sparsely attended meeting voiced opposition to the resignation agreement.
“We have over $330,000 being sucked out of the classrooms… I don’t think this is right,” said Don Wilson, who ran unsuccessfully for Palmdale School Board in the past election.
Maria Velasquez asked the Board to postpone the matter to allow stakeholders a chance to give input.
“Put it at a time where your parents can come in, and it [does] not look like something was rammed through,” Velasquez said. “This is something that truly none of you should be doing right now, and you should give the opportunity to parents and the community and the stakeholders to give their input.”
Palmdale School Board Trustee-elect Nancy Smith took issue with a section of the Agreement [9. Nondisparagement] that prohibits the District from criticizing or disparaging Gallizzi orally or in writing.
“If the new administration coming in finds things that should be brought to public light, they should be free to talk about them and not worry about the District being sued…” Smith said, adding that the clause gags the new school board from criticizing Gallizzi. “He has been free to criticize anyone and everyone that he wanted to and now you’re putting a gag on the future Board, and I think that’s totally wrong,” Smith said.
Smith, Juan Carrillo and Joyce Ricks won seats on the Palmdale School District Board Of Trustees in the November 5 election, ousting incumbents Sandy Corrales, Jeff Ferrin and Carol Stanford. The new school board will be sworn in on December 10.
In a strongly worded letter to the PSD Board of Trustees, Assemblymember Steve Fox urged the current Board to “do the right thing and let this matter be handled by the new school board.”
“By all appearances this appears to be a sweetheart deal by a lame duck school board to help out an employee,” Fox wrote. [Read Fox’s entire letter here.]
Speaking at the special meeting Friday morning, Fox said he believed the resignation agreement was a misuse of public funds. He said he believed Gallizzi’s employment contract expired Dec. 31, 2014, therefore Gallizzi was only entitled to 13 months’ severance pay under California law.
“[That’s] my clear interpretation, there appears to be others. I would suggest and urge the Board to err on the side of caution and allow the next Board to consider making [the decision,]” Fox said.
Citing an evergreen clause and addendum to Gallizzi’s employment contract, the District’s attorney, Framroze Virjee, said the superintendent was actually in the first year of a three-year contract, which expires December 2015. [Read Gallizzi’s employment contract and all addendums here.]
Virjee made it clear that he was representing the District’s interests only, and said the District was following the law by allowing Gallizzi 18 months’ severance pay in the resignation agreement. Gallizzi has been on an indefinite medical leave of absence since October.
Virjee said the Board also had the option of doing nothing and continuing to pay Gallizzi during his sick leave while waiting to see if Gallizzi was able to return. But the Board would also be paying for an interim superintendent during that time as well, Virjee said.
Paying two salaries while facing uncertainty about Gallizzi’s return was unfair to the taxpayers, said PSD Board President Sandy Corrales.
“This general release agreement is not ideal. It’s probably not what the Board wants, it’s probably not what Mr. Gallizzi wants, it’s probably not what our employees or anybody wants,” Corrales said. “But it’s an agreement, it’s a settlement, it’s a compromise…”
“Moving forward with this agreement will allow the newly-elected Board to start with a clean slate, to chart their own course and not have to worry or deliberate on the issues of the past,” Corrales continued.