Updated: Wilson resigns after one year at CUSD helm — see contract

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

Claremont Unified School District Superintendent Jeff Wilson has resigned effective July 1, stepping down after just one year on the job.

Wilson announced his resignation in an April 1 letter to the community, citing “unforeseen circumstances,” which “arose to adjust my navigational beacons here at the end of my career in public education,” as the reason for his abrupt departure.

Last May, CUSD’s Board of Education voted 4-1, with Steven Llanusa dissenting, to approve a four-year contract to hire Wilson. His first day on the job was July 1, 2021. Wilson took over for interim Superintendent Julie Olesniewicz, who had stewarded the district after the December 2020 departure of Jim Elsasser after eight years with CUSD.

Wilson’s salary was $273,646 per year, plus benefits.

It’s still unclear what the immediate financial implications of Wilson’s sudden resignation will be for CUSD. There is no mention of a severance package in the four-year employment contract Wilson signed with CUSD in May 2020, but he would have presumably received or been offered one.

The monetary details of severance agreements for government employees such as superintendents are public information, and are not protected as confidential under state employment law or California Education Code.

California’s Assembly Bill No. 215, adopted into law in 2015, states “the maximum cash settlement [for superintendents] shall be an amount equal to the monthly salary of the employee multiplied by 12.” This would presumably cap Wilson’s severance pay at $273,646.

The CUSD Board of Education hires and fires superintendents. Asked for the financial specifics of Wilson’s severance package, board president Llanusa said the public will have to wait until the minutes of the board’s previous meeting — the one in which it presumably let Wilson go during closed session, as the public minutes have no mention of it — are approved by the board at its Thursday, April 21 meeting, because details remain to be decided.

“There are many moving parts in the current situation,” Llanusa said. “Once all motions have been finalized, I’ll be more than happy to communicate the details. Unfortunately with only one board meeting in late April due to spring break, some things are happening more slowly than any of us would prefer.”

Reached earlier in the week, Llanusa said “We are giving Jeff agency in when to release the public information. It may be part of minutes that have yet to be approved. Once those minutes are approved, and the information from that meeting’s minutes has been vetted, that information will be made available for public consumption.”

The COURIER reached Wilson multiple times over the past week via email and text, but he steadfastly refused to comment on the specifics of his severance package, or even to acknowledge that he had received or been offered one.

Wilson’s contract states his employment may be terminated by mutual consent between him and CUSD’s board; by the board not electing to renew his contract; by the board for cause; or without cause.

Llanusa said Wilson’s departure was a “mutual decision,” but declined to state for the record which of the four reasons Wilson was leaving.

Wilson also declined the COURIER’s request for a departure interview, offering instead an email that began with, “I want to thank the Claremont community for their kindness and support during a very difficult school year filled with pandemic health issues and political polarization, learning loss recovery, a natural disaster, instructional pivots, and significant personnel shortages, just to name a few of the issues.” It then listed his accomplishments and closed with thanks and praise for CUSD, much like his April 1 letter to the community.

Asked how he felt personally about Wilson’s exit, Llanusa had this to say:

“My individual feelings are irrelevant in light of the mutual decision made by all parties. The statement Dr. Wilson released explained everyone’s position well. I am glad that Dr. Wilson has decided to stay with us until the end of the year. His commitment to students and families is evident because he is willing to continue implementing plans and curricula until July 1.”

In his resignation letter, Wilson wrote “I will provide any assistance the Board desires as they recruit the next Superintendent of the Claremont Unified School District.

“As I approach this new chapter in my life, I am excited about the possibilities ahead as I continue to focus my energies on creating and sustaining student-centered learning environments, empowering innovative and empathetic educators, and encouraging risk-taking focused on engaging every learner,” Wilson wrote in his April 1 letter to the community. “I have greatly enjoyed my time here in Claremont — having the opportunity to work with such a seasoned and professional team of teachers, leaders, and support staff made my brief tenure a true blessing.  There are many wonderful movements, initiatives, and priorities moving forward in CUSD.  From an emphasis on mental health to a focus on an equitable and inclusive teaching and learning program, CUSD will continue to grow and thrive under new leadership.  I also want to thank the Claremont parents and community for being so gracious and supportive of my leadership.”

Wilson previously served as superintendent of San Marino Unified School District.




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