Leslie Boozer's tenure as Dublin Unified School District superintendent ended abruptly with little explanation Tuesday, with school board members announcing at their evening meeting that they and Boozer "mutually agreed to a separation."
No reason has been cited publicly for the termination of Boozer's contract roughly three months before the school year ends, but the move comes amid tense negotiations with the teachers union and marks the latest example of sudden leadership turnover for DUSD.
"I'm grateful to Dr. Boozer for her time with our district and we wish her all the best in her new endeavors," Board of Trustees President Amy Miller told community members in a prepared statement on Tuesday evening. "We are confident the district's immensely talented leadership team will pull together to guide our organization during this time of transition."
Boozer, who holds a doctorate in education and had served as DUSD superintendent for just under three years, could not be reached for comment as of Wednesday morning.
Matt Campbell, assistant superintendent of educational services for DUSD and a former Pleasanton City Council member, will serve as acting superintendent for at least this week until the trustees hire an interim superintendent before selecting a permanent new leader in the coming months. The board hopes to have the interim in place by next week, according to Miller.
Going forward, the board plans to select a search firm next month to lead the recruitment process to identify candidates for the permanent superintendent position.
"On behalf of the entire board, I want to stress that we will create an inclusive process to ensure that all voices -- employees, parents, community members and our students -- are able to share their thoughts on characteristics that they feel are essential to lead our school district," Miller said.
The surprise separation with Boozer comes as the latest leadership blow for DUSD, which is down to only three active school board members after two midterm resignations -- one of which prompted a petition calling for a special election to override an interim appointment.
District administration is also in the midst of tense negotiations with the Dublin Teachers Association. Earlier this month, union members voted 98% in favor of authorizing a strike if a contract agreement isn't reached soon.
More than 550 teachers, students, parents and community members gathered with makeshift signs, t-shirts and organized chants during a pro-teachers rally at Dublin High School late Tuesday afternoon -- just hours before Boozer's departure came to light.
From the high school, the group marched to the district office to protest DUSD's latest counter-offer, which came last week after DTA's second mediation session with the district.
The district offered an ongoing salary increase of 4%, a one-time bonus of 1%, and a 0.5% raise for the longest-serving teachers. But that offer still fell short of the 4.5% raise and 3.5% one-time bonus that the union demands, along with class-size caps, classroom safety measures, medical benefits and better teaching materials.
Some rally-goers, who made their way to the board meeting Tuesday evening and have been critical of DUSD leadership, cheered and applauded when Boozer's departure was announced.
DUSD had been marked by leadership stability when Boozer was hired ahead of the 2016-17 school year. She was only the fifth superintendent since Dublin school districts unified in 1988, and just the third superintendent in the last 20 years.
Before joining DUSD, Boozer was school superintendent in Fontana (San Bernardino County), the 12th largest public school district in California. She is an experienced public educator with advanced degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and time as a teacher or administrator in Los Angeles, Chicago and Rochester (N.Y.).
Now with Boozer's departure, DUSD has three vacancies at the top of its leadership structure.
The school board's Trustee Area 4 seat remains unfilled, with a special election set for June 4 between declared candidates Nini Natarajan and Gabrielle Blackman.
That ballot will decide who completes the term through November 2020 left vacant when elected trustee Joe Giannini resigned in October, citing the time commitment and fractious Dublin politics creating a hostile service environment.
The board attempted to fill Giannini's seat by appointment, rather than a special election, by selecting Natarajan over Blackman in a two-applicant race in December.
Natarajan sat on the board for just over a month but was removed from the position by Alameda County Superintendent of Schools L. Karen Monroe after a small group of Area 4 residents petitioned Monroe to nullify the appointment in favor of a special election -- under a provision of state law allowing a petition with 1.5% of voters to undo the appointment for a vacated seat.
The backers of the petition have not revealed themselves publicly. After an open call for candidates, Natarajan and Blackman were the only people to file for the race.
Then, amid the Area 4 vacancy, third-term trustee Dan Cunningham abruptly resigned his seat effective March 1.
The board held a public meeting March 12 to weigh options for filling Cunningham's seat, but couldn't come to unanimous agreement -- now required with only three trustees on the dais -- about whether to call a special election or attempt a provisional appointment.
The board has until the end of April to try making a final decision, otherwise a special election will automatically be called for Nov. 5.
If that happens however, since Cunningham was elected at-large in 2016 before DUSD transitioned to district-based elections, the decision will likely fall to the Alameda County Office of Education about whether to assign the November election for Cunningham's seat to Area 3 (which has no designated representative), Area 1 (where Cunningham lived, but so too does Miller) or at-large.
All the while, DUSD has another vital ballot issue going to voters this spring.
The school board scheduled a mail-only special election for May 7 for all DUSD residents to decide whether to renew the existing $96 parcel tax that is set to expire at the end of June. The ballot measure needs approval from two-thirds of voters to pass.
The tax renewal was approved for the ballot in January, before Natarajan was ousted, Cunningham was still on the board and at the recommendation of Boozer.
Campbell, the acting superintendent for now, also joined DUSD during Natarajan's brief tenure on the board.
An Amador Valley High alumnus and former Pleasanton school teacher and administrator, Campbell was hired Jan. 22 as assistant superintendent in Dublin in a promotion over his director-level position at Fremont Unified School District. Campbell also served one term on the Pleasanton City Council earlier in his life, from 2000-04 -- the youngest person to ever elected to the position.