Saturday, January 19, 2008

Garcia wants out of contract

Board will vote today on his severance request By JAIME SARRIO • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • January 19, 2008 Metro Schools Director Pedro Garcia on Friday made his first official move to be released from his contract, just one day before the board was set to begin his annual evaluation process. The embattled school director is under contract until 2010 but submitted a written request for the board to consider giving him a severance package. If the board votes to grant his request today at a 4:30 p.m. special meeting, the director's service in Nashville could be finished at 6½ years. Friday, board members attended a closed-session meeting with Metro lawyers to discuss Garcia's request. Board Chairwoman Marsha Warden wouldn't comment on whether Garcia's resignation offer was timed to avoid a potentially critical evaluation. "I want to honor the work that's been done in this district," she said, and commenting on his offer "would be presumptive." Garcia has been under fire since he backed away from a rezoning plan that would have affected racial balance at several schools. Also, many board members are unhappy about the district's failure to meet benchmarks of the federal No Child Left Behind law for four years in a row. 120 days' notice required Garcia was a finalist to become the next superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, where he began his teaching career. The California district will announce its new chief at 3 p.m. today. It isn't known if Garcia remains a candidate for the San Diego job. Rumors about his fate began circulating Friday morning after he sent a letter to principals highlighting the district's progress and quoting several famous authors and self-help gurus. "I serve at the pleasure of the board," he wrote. "When the board decides they want a new director, all they have to do is take a vote and make that happen." Garcia's contract states that he must give 120 days' notice unless the board agrees to a shorter period of time. The board also has the power to fire him for a number of reasons, in which case he gets no compensation and has to forfeit all his sick leave. If Garcia is fired with no official cause, the board must give Garcia 120 days' notice and agree to pay him 12 months' salary, according to his contract. Erick Huth, president of the Metro Nashville Education Association, said he was in Garcia's office Friday morning when he heard about the potential departure. Huth suspected something was going on because the director was on the phone and kept bringing people in and out of the room. Relations between Garcia and the teachers union have been tense during the past six years, and Huth hopes the board will consider that when selecting a new director. "I think this is a good opportunity for the board to attract a new director who cares about the morale of teachers and who responds to the discipline problems they face," he said. David Lundy, 15, a Hume-Fogg High School student, said Garcia will be remembered most for passing the district's "standard school attire" policy. "I haven't kept up with Garcia's work," he said. "But since he's came in, we've gotten SSA, and most students won't say whether that's a good or a bad thing."

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