Superintendent, Settlement Top SMUSD Leaders’ Concerns

Although the San Marino Unified School District Board of Education did not reach a decision last week on its next step regarding the soon-to-be-open superintendent job, it was poised to take another closed-session crack at it during a meeting this week.
In another matter taking place behind closed doors, district officials also continue to hammer out a settlement agreement in a lawsuit they are facing.
The board was scheduled to meet in closed session starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5, after The Outlook’s press deadline. It previously met in closed session after its regular meeting Aug. 28, although no decisions were made.
Topics at each meeting concerned life after Super-intendent Alex Cherniss leaves his job following his acceptance last month of the position of superintendent for the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District. Cherniss formally turned in his notice of resignation on Aug. 30, after PVPUSD’s school board certified his hiring.
“I will continue to serve in my current role in San Marino for the next several weeks during this transition,” Cherniss said in a statement sent through SMUSD’s newsletter. “I leave this district knowing that our students are in the great hands of outstanding administrators and dedicated teachers and staff. I will cherish the relationships that I have made with so many incredible people in this community and I am so proud of our many accomplishments. It has truly been an incredible honor and privilege to serve as the superintendent of the San Marino Unified School District.”
Presumably, the board will appoint an interim superintendent to take the helm while a search is conducted for Cherniss’ replacement, although no names have been publicly floated. When requested, no other information was provided regarding this week’s meeting.
Picking a replacement is further complicated by the fact that the city is gearing up for a school board election in November. Three of the board’s five seats are up for a vote, and there are seven candidates for them, including two incumbents. There will be at least one new face, and as many as three, on the board next year, leading some to suggest waiting until the new board is sworn in before advertising the job.
In other news, lawyers for board member Chris Norgaard continue to work with those representing the rest of the school board, Cherniss and Assistant Superintendent Linda de la Torre regarding agreed-upon settlement terms.
Norgaard sued those defendants over an investigation regarding him that was based on allegations of improper behavior toward district employees. The investigation’s existence was made known to media in January. Norgaard, who has denied the allegations, took issue with its disclosure and also what he felt was defamation and a violation of speech, association and due process rights.
The two parties reached a tentative settlement agreement at a judge-ordered settlement conference in August, but have not publicly disclosed further details.

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