Marken takes reins as interim superintendent for Dublin Unified

Public records request reveals details of separation agreement with prior leader

Interim Superintendent Dave Marken has stepped in to provide leadership stability during a critical moment in Dublin Unified School District history -- and he knows it.

A retired Newark schools superintendent and former administrator in Dublin, Marken just started his second week as the short-term leader to guide the DUSD through the end of the school year while the Board of Trustees works to select the next permanent superintendent in the wake of the abrupt mutual separation with Leslie Boozer last month.

"While the Dublin Unified School District faces clear challenges today, it was never any one person's fault that we got here. This city and district have recently experienced a unique set of circumstances that would have been difficult for anyone to navigate successfully. We are where we are today, and it is now everyone's responsibility to bring us through this difficult time," Marken told the Weekly.

“I am not an outsider coming in as a temporary solution until a permanent superintendent is found,” he said. “I have deep roots in this town and district, having served well over a decade at Dublin High School and in the district offices. This district is part of me.”

“My goal, for as long as I am here, is to restore the district, and its community, to one of confidence, trust, and collaboration for one purpose, and that is to serve the students of Dublin California,” Marken added.

Two weeks after Boozer’s departure, the school board asked Marken out of his retirement as a public school administrator to return as interim superintendent to the district where he spent 13 years during his career.

Marken’s first day was April 15, and he will only be working on Mondays through Thursdays each week because of regulations restricting how many hours retired employees can work before compromising their pensions. Assistant superintendent Matt Campbell will be in charge on Fridays.

“Dr. Marken has deep roots in Dublin and his connection to our school community will help us begin the process of rebuilding while continuing the commitment to provide our students with an exceptional educational experience,” Board President Amy Miller said at the time of Marken’s hiring.

“His work ethic, experience, energy, compassion, and integrity will guide us through this difficult time and set the stage for our future superintendent to take the reins,” she added. “The board is excited to welcome him back and confident that we are in great hands.”

Marken had climbed the administrator ranks in DUSD, from principal at Dublin High School to senior director of secondary education and student services to assistant superintendent of educational services and human resources. He then left DUSD for a promotion as superintendent at the Newark Unified School District, a position he held for five years until retiring in 2016.

Now, he’s back at DUSD for a short-term assignment during an important stage that will have long-term implications on the district and Dublin community at large.

The board is scheduled to formally confirm Marken's interim superintendent contract during its regular meeting on Tuesday night.

The contract with Marken would pay him a flat daily rate of $1,300 for each day he works. He would not receive health benefits, sick leave or vacation time, but he would be offered reimbursement for job-related expenses and hotel costs for each night he needs temporary housing for his DUSD working days.

The interim assignment is due to expire on June 20, or on the first day of the new superintendent's tenure, whichever comes first -- signaling that the school board hopes to have a permanent leader in place for the start of the 2019-20 school year.

The board’s vote on Marken’s contract Tuesday night will have to be unanimous because DUSD is down to only three trustees for the five-member board after two midterm resignations since October.

The board is also set to approve an amended contract with Campbell, offering him an extra $2,500 in monthly salary for each month performing acting superintendent duties on top of his assistant superintendent assignment. The agreement would guarantee Campbell could retain his job as assistant superintendent of educational services once a permanent superintendent is hired.

Campbell, who just started in DUSD on Jan. 22 and previously served one term on the Pleasanton City Council from 2000-04, filled in as acting superintendent in the initial days after Boozer’s departure. He’ll continue those duties as needed on Marken’s off-days.

Few details have emerged about Boozer's unexpected exit in the middle of her third year as superintendent on March 26, but the move came amid tense negotiations with the teachers union that settled days after her departure.

Both sides -- Boozer and the school board -- viewed it as a mutual decision that terminating her contract early "was in the best interest of the parties," according to the voluntary separation agreement signed by Boozer and Miller on March 26.

The Weekly received a copy of the separation agreement as part of the district's response to a California Public Records Act request last week.

Under the terms, the board agreed for DUSD to pay Boozer a lump sum of $225,000, along with any accrued and unused vacation leave, (subject to applicable withholdings), as part of terminating her existing employment contract.

Boozer was being paid an annual salary of $293,607 under her employment contract, which was due to expire on June 30, 2021.

No reason has been cited publicly for Boozer’s contract termination and the separation agreement likewise featured no specifics. The deal did include provisions for non-disparagement and no admission of fault for both parties.

DUSD had been marked by leadership stability when Boozer, who holds a doctorate in education, was hired in Dublin from Fontana in San Bernardino County 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.

With an eye on finding Boozer’s permanent successor, the board on Tuesday will also consider selecting a search firm to lead the recruitment process.

In other recent hiring moves, the board on April 9 appointed Lorianne Ventura as full-time principal of Cottonwood Creek K-8 School. Ventura had served concurrently as interim principal at Cottonwood Creek and John Green Elementary. The hiring process for Green’s next principal is ongoing.

DUSD trustees also hired Risha Krishna as the new principal of Fallon Middle School, succeeding Sherri Sweeney who was promoted to director of secondary education for DUSD. Krishna had been vice principal of Joe Michell K-8 School in Livermore.

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