In what may have appeared to be a secret, closed-door session Monday night, the Lodi Unified School District board eliminated the district's associate superintendent position and reassigned Odie Douglas to another not-yet-known administrative position.
A separate resolution does not re-employ Bill Atterberry as assistant superintendent of secondary education, also reassigning him to another administrative position within the district. Until last fall, he was the principal at Lodi High School.
Board president Richard Jones said trustees are looking at possibly eliminating Atterberry's current position, as well.
There is a chance Douglas could be moved into the assistant superintendent of secondary education role and take on both those duties, as well as those of his current office, according to Jones.
It is not yet clear whether there will be a cost savings to the district. Last school year, Douglas earned $164,275, while Atterberry was appointed in September to his new position and annual salary set at $135,421.
The decisions are apparently the start of a restructuring process at least two trustees promised Monday was on its way. But there are some questions about why the personnel actions were not reported publicly.
In an e-mail sent to teachers Tuesday afternoon, teachers' union president Sue Kenmotsu told members that she now recognizes the actions as the beginning of the restructuring mentioned by trustee Bonnie Cassel at the beginning of the meeting.
"We wonder why these decisions, taken in closed session (Monday) night, were not described to the public at the time of the report," she wrote.
But Jones said he did not want attention drawn to the employees, since both were at the meeting.
On Tuesday, Douglas said he was made aware of the possible reassignment Friday afternoon. "I understand that, because of the budget crisis," he said.
"We'll move forward. Whatever the outcome may be, I will continue providing support services to the students of Lodi in whatever capacity I am employed," he added.
Douglas is currently the second-highest ranking district employee. Atterberry, who currently oversees secondary education, could not be reached for comment.
The decision regarding Douglas was approved unanimously, while trustee Ken Davis voted against the Atterberry resolution.
Later in the meeting, Cassel was the lone dissenter in a vote that laid off 246 teachers. But prior to the discussion, both she and trustee Calvin Young more than once mentioned restructuring the district office, something constituents publicly called for at a series of town hall meetings held last month.
"We are going to restructure this district, and scrutinize every dollar because we must," Cassel said to a round of applause from the audience.
After more than two dozen teachers, parents and students spoke out against the cuts, Young, too, mentioned restructuring and even referring to the act in the past tense.
Jones said Tuesday that the board is headed toward further restructuring and will hear a report from Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer next month regarding her recommendations. She was out of the office Tuesday.
"We recognize that these actions are the beginning of the restructuring, but it doesn't address the cell phones or other things. We're talking a $30 million deficit," Kenmotsu said before adding, "Teacher-wise, eliminating Odie Douglas' position would bring back two teachers at the going rate."
The legality of Monday's board action has been questioned.
Open meeting laws dictate how items on closed-session agendas must be described, and Monday's may have been insufficient.
If there is a planned discussion regarding public employee appointment, employment or evaluation, the specific position title must be listed. Only if a public employee is being disciplined, dismissed or released can the title be omitted.
Monday's action was listed as: "Public Employee Appointment / Employment / Discipline / Dismissal / Release / Reassignment / Non-reelection: Management / Certificated / Classified; Public Employee Resignation: Management / Certificated; Public Employee Performance Evaluation."
At the beginning of the open session, when Jones reported what happened during the closed portion, all he said was that action was taken regarding two administrative positions. Typically, he names the affected position and often the person who currently holds it.
"If it's a bad call, then I take that fault," Jones said Tuesday afternoon.
With both Atterbery and Douglas present, he did not want to "call them out" by reporting by job title the board action taken. "With all due respect, we have these two employees sitting in the front row. I was not going to do what I have done in the past," Jones said.
Kenmotsu also questioned why the board did not report in open session the action taken in closed session. She said there was nothing to indicate what trustees did behind closed doors.
"We were there. We were all there," she said.
Jones said there was no intention of hiding the information. "I knew the media was going to call, and it was going to get out," he said.
There is a chance Douglas could leave the district since, he said, the next stage in his career is becoming a superintedent. "I am aware of the Stockton position and am definitely giving that much consideration," he said, adding that he is exploring all options. "If something comes along that I might be interested in, I will definitely consider it."
Douglas' position and the duties of his office have been questioned publicly before. According to the district website, the associate superintendent's office provides leadership to pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and the adult schools through assessment, research and evaluation; curriculum and instruction; and technology services.
Atterberry currently provides support to the district's high school principals and their staffs.