Pleasanton school board fires Superintendent Rick Rubino

Decision comes less than three weeks after administrator was placed on leave

Less than three weeks after being placed on paid administrative leave and barely six months into his tenure, Rick Rubino has been removed from the position of Pleasanton school district superintendent, effective immediately.

The school board voted unanimously to fire Rubino without cause in a two-hour closed session meeting Friday night.

“Both the board of education and Mr. Rubino believe it is in the organization’s best interest to move forward with the process of securing new leadership,” school board president Joan Laursen said in a statement after the special meeting.

The board’s decision to fire Rubino followed its initial move Dec. 19 to place him on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into an unspecified personnel matter.

Laursen said in an email Sunday night that an investigation was launched by an independent investigator, but not completed.

“The board’s decision was based on our strong belief that this was not a good fit for our organization,” Laursen said.

She continued, “It is the board’s responsibility to foster a positive culture and to promote strong, collegial leadership. We felt that change was necessary and we wanted to move on this as quickly and responsibly as possible. This community has every right to be disappointed, most certainly, the board is disappointed. We believe that facing this disappointment, boldly taking the action that is in the best interest of all involved, and informing our community in a timely and forthright manner is the best first step toward rebuilding that trust.”

Laursen added that Rubino was fired “without cause, but not without concern.” In accordance with the terms in his three-year contract, approved by the board in May, Rubino will be paid a year’s salary -- $256,000 -- plus health benefits for a year, or until he secures new employment.

The health benefits will come at a maximum cost of $8,400, Laursen said, adding Rubino will also receive pay for four vacation days along with reimbursement for mileage and a life insurance balance of $803.

Rubino’s firing comes after three closed-session school board meetings, the first of which was held at 8 a.m. on Dec. 19, a few days before schools and the district office closed for winter break.

Trustees voted to place Rubino on leave pending the outcome of an investigation during that special meeting, with the board saying afterward that its decision “demonstrates that we place the highest priority on creating and maintaining a professional working environment for all employees.”

At its initial closed session meeting and the two that followed -- on Friday and Dec. 27 -- the board met with an agenda stating it would hold discussions on “public employee discipline/dismissal/release” and two potential court cases.

The board took no action at the Dec. 27 meeting.

Laursen confirmed after Friday’s meeting that PUSD deputy superintendent of business services Micaela Ochoa, who has been serving as the district’s leader since Rubino was placed on leave, will continue in that role for an unknown period. She is the district’s fourth leader since spring 2015.

Asked when the search for a permanent superintendent would begin, Laursen said the board plans to discuss their options “at the earliest opportunity during an upcoming board meeting.”

“We want to assure our community that this has our full and focused attention,” she said. “The board is fully committed to identify and secure leadership who will continue the excellent work underway in our schools.”

Rubino was hired after a five-month search. He replaced former Amador Valley High School principal Jim Hansen, who came out of retirement to fill the superintendent seat for the 2015-16 school year while the district searched for a permanent successor to Parvin Ahmadi.

He started on July 1 following four years as the superintendent of Gridley Unified School District in Butte County. Rubino also worked as an administrator for school districts in Fremont, San Leandro, Concord and Martinez during his career.

Rubino’s departure is the latest in a period marked by leadership turnover in PUSD. Since the start of last school year alone, there have been new principals at eight of the district’s 15 schools, including three at Harvest Park Middle School.

The board will convene for its first regular meeting in 2017 next Tuesday.


49 people like this
Posted by Hopeless
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2017 at 8:47 am

No one will be able to be recruited to the PUSD with all of its inexperienced and underqualified principals and union-backed teachers that don't get fired when they wander around town leaving campus and don't teach. Much of the inability to hire talented individuals was brought on by the scorched earth tactics Parvin Ahmadi used to humiliate and destroy the previous principal at Walnut Grove.

In addition, no decent Superintendent will ever want to come to Pleasanton given that Odie Douglas has a newly signed contract extension addendum approved by the Board and signed 2 days before Rubino started guaranteeing Odie Douglas will remain in his position until June 30, 2019. Yes, that's right folks - - - 2019. The addendum can be found here Web Link

Obviously, the Board with its unchecked oversight of Ahmadi, failed at its job. And they are the ones that approved Douglas's contract until 2019. It would be best for PUSD to merge with the Livermore Valley district and have the Livermore Valley management take over. Or have the State take over the PUSD.

14 people like this
Posted by ????
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2017 at 9:23 am

If in fact the superintendent was let go without cause as Kathleen as stated, that just cost the district $256,000 as his contract states he's entitled to a year of compensation. Was this done as agreement he wouldn't pursue legal action against the district?

37 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jan 9, 2017 at 11:26 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Anticipated litigation was listed, but I think for two cases. If this was a grievance of some kind, the other person and the superintendent could have filed separate suits. Whatever was going on, a superintendent would not negotiate to leave if they were not culpable. There is little likelihood he bounces back from this dismissal. All my opinion.

This will cost more than salary, there are all the benefits and overhead costs as well.

I think the board members, except Steve Maher, should apologize to the community, tell us how we will pay this expense (will we have to borrow from another fund . . . again), and explain what they will do next. And as I said before, we need to support the expense of finding a different firm for this search. Also my opinion.

33 people like this
Posted by Kate
a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Jan 9, 2017 at 11:58 am

Kate is a registered user.

I agree with Kathleen that the Board that approved Rubinos contract should be completely transparent with costs. As taxpayers, are we entitled to demand this?

7 people like this
Posted by Maritess Simmons
a resident of Pheasant Ridge
on Jan 10, 2017 at 9:20 am

Maritess Simmons is a registered user.

"Whatever was going on, a superintendent would not negotiate to leave if they were not culpable." Kathleen, do you know this as fact or is this your opinion? It's also possible that the board and/or Rick Rubino decided to, as was stated publicly, avoid the DISTRACTION of an investigation. The investigation was launched but not complete.

23 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Resident
a resident of Valley View Elementary School
on Jan 10, 2017 at 11:04 am

Pleasanton Resident is a registered user.

And we wonder why our schools supposedly always need more money and more bond measures are passed when one person makes $256,000 plus an expensive benefit package.

How much is a Superintendent really worth and why are we paying this kind of severance package?

15 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jan 10, 2017 at 11:04 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

My post says it's my opinion. You don't leave just because you've been accused. If you know you are innocent, you wait for the investigation to Clear your name. His ability to land another job with this vague cloud over his head are limited at best. "Distraction" is just an agreed harmonious term to try and save face for both sides. We just bought him into retirement. Still my opinion.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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