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By Tim Hunt

Time to move on

Uploaded: Jun 2, 2015

Call it the five-year itch or maybe seeing the writing on the wall, but it should have been little surprise that Pleasanton schools' chief, Parvin Ahmadi, is moving on.
She announced last week that the Castro Valley school board had hired her to replace Jim Negri, who is retiring at the end of June.
Her tenure of five years is pretty much average for superintendents across the state. There are not many who serve 13 years as former Pleasanton superintendent Dr. Bill James did during the 1980s and 1990s.
He was succeeded by Mary Frances Callan who led the district for three and one-half years before leaving for Palo Alto. She retired from that district after five years—looking back at news clips, her time at both districts was described as tumultuous or controversial.
John Casey took the helm for eight years before he retired and the school board selected Ahmadi in 2010.
Her leadership has been rightly challenged by the total mess the district made of the situation with former Walnut Grove Principal Jon Vranesh. His employment status with the district is still fuzzy and subject to legal and administrative challenges 17 months after a split vote of the school board removed him from that position.
The district's insurance carrier has already paid almost $500,000 to two teachers who filed claims about their treatment by Vranesh. By the time it is all said and done—with Vranesh's legal claim still pending -- as well as potential actions by two employees supportive of Vranesh plus the running likely six- or seven-figure tab for the lawyers, the district is going to be out millions of dollars.
I do not have direct knowledge or any inside information, but simply observing the process from the outside makes me question leadership. If the district had the goods, Vranesh should be gone. If they did not, then he's going to be pretty well financially set once his claim against the district is resolved.
Add in a school board election that saw newcomer Mike Miller topple incumbent Jeff Bowser and the challenges of trying to do the right thing with a new school calendar plus the NAACP showing up at school board meetings to threaten the Pleasanton Weekly reporter, and it was time for Ahmadi to find new professional opportunities.
Incidentally, Pleasanton education leaders have a history in the Castro Valley district, which is about 5,000 students smaller than Pleasanton and has one large high school.
Retiring Superintendent Jim Negri worked in Pleasanton for a number of years before leaving as deputy superintendent for the top job in Mountain View. He then moved to Acalanes for five years before spending the final six years of his career in Castro Valley.
Despite the smaller district with a revenue limit per student about $500 below Pleasanton's, Negri pulled in $317,000 in total compensation last year according to the Bay Area News Group's public employee salary data base. Ahmadi received total compensation of $264,000 in Pleasanton in 2014.
The other Castro Valley connection dates back to my high school days at Amador and early newspaper career. Bob Hagler, the Amador basketball coach when I started high school, finished his career as superintendent in Castro Valley. An aside, the legendary Skip Mohatt succeeded Bob as basketball coach at Amador.