Within just one month, Superintendent Vincent Matthews went from awaiting retirement after a chaotic year to agreeing to remain — under certain conditions.
Those conditions are laid out in his updated contract, which the San Francisco Unified School District board will vote to approve on Tuesday. They include a requirement that the board follow its own rules and stay laser-focused on returning students to the physical classroom, with no increased salary or benefits, as Mission Local first reported Friday.
Matthews announced his retirement in March, but agreed to delay the end of his tenure to 2022 at the request of board members concerned about maintaining stability. In the coming months the district board has the task of bringing all students back to class by fall barring worsening coronavirus conditions, passing a balanced budget with a structural deficit, and addressing learning loss among other issues — all while conducting what is likely to be a tough, competitive search for a new leader.
Matthews has five specific terms that appear to highlight some grievances, one of which is a “strict adherence” to board rules, including around setting the agenda. Board members are also not to introduce new resolutions unrelated to returning to in-person learning, safety, and the budget until students are back in class for a full, five-day-week schedule.
Members must also work to hash out questions and concerns of agenda items with district staff in advance of meetings so that they may “proceed in an orderly fashion.” Meetings, which typically begin at 3 p.m., are currently known to go past midnight.
In his terms, Matthews pointed to a board rule around introducing a proposal or resolution. New proposals have occurred at a fast pace in some instances, like the decision to end merit-based admissions at Lowell High School.
The policy cited requires board members to request an issue be placed on the agenda in writing to the superintendent with supporting documentation at least seven days before the meeting date. If submitted less than seven days prior, the item may be postponed to allow time for consideration and research.
The board policy also states the superintendent will decide whether the request is within the jurisdiction of the board. The board president, vice president and superintendent have final say over whether the items on the agenda are in accordance with board policy.
Lastly, Matthews asserts his authority to hire and fire staff and renew and issue contracts to be ratified by the board on the consent agenda. Contracts for deputy superintendents and general counsel would be up for a roll call vote.
“I strive to maintain the humility and wisdom to change direction with new information and have agreed to remain with SFUSD for another year,” Matthews said earlier this month. “I am dedicated to supporting all of our SFUSD staff as we navigate the many challenges and opportunities that lay ahead in the coming year. I have the highest regard for the team assembled at SFUSD and am honored to continue to work together.”
When Matthews announced his retirement, he noted that he wanted the many new board members to “have the opportunity to select a new superintendent who is aligned with their approach.” Matthews was appointed in 2017.
Tensions around board policy were on display when the board voted 5-2 to strip Alison Collins of her vice-presidential title in late March for controversial 2016 tweets about Asian Americans surfaced by political opponents. The vote came one day after the item was placed on the agenda without initial approval from Board President Gabriela Lopez.
Collins decried the process before the vote and it became part of her $87 million suit filed against the district and five board members alleging a violation of constitutional rights.
The school board will also vote on a new vice president on Tuesday.