San Juan Unified Superintendent Glynn Thompson will be placed on administrative leave while an investigation goes forward about whether he created a hostile work environment for some female administrators, trustees announced Tuesday night.
The action came in a closed board session and less than a week after a board decision to investigate nine complaints filed with the Fair Employment and Housing Commission by former and current district employees.
Thompson was not at the meeting, and district spokesman Trent Allen said he had worked at home in recent days. The paid leave takes effect today.
Trustee Pam Costa said the board took the action in a 4-0 vote "to protect the district, the superintendent, the complainants and the process."
Board President Larry Masuoka recused himself from the vote on the advice of board counsel because he is named in a separate complaint.
The separate complaint by the San Juan Administrators Association was filed with the district May 2.
It cited both Masuoka and Costa for failing to call for a formal investigation on the allegations of gender-based discrimination, harassment and retaliation by Thompson.
Shortly after the board decision, the district released a statement saying the action "is in no way an indication of wrongdoing" and appealed to teachers, staff and administrators to "maintain their focus on serving our students and families while we work to resolve this issue as quickly as possible."
Thompson did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the action.
Within minutes of the announcement, a number of speakers shared their frustrations with the superintendent.
Speaker Lynn Pistochini read a statement from former Principal Christine Ohlinger.
Ohlinger wrote that she was unable to attend the meeting but that she was "one of principals who felt my only option was to take early retirement due to the hostile working conditions perpetrated by Superintendent Thompson."
She said she experienced a dramatic change from one of district support to one of micro-management and increasing hostility from Thompson, who previously served as the district's chief academic officer.
He became interim superintendent of the 47,116-student district in May 2011 and superintendent in April 2012. His salary when hired was $225,000.
At the start of the 2012-13 school year, Ohlinger wrote, "I was told by district personnel that I would have a 'very difficult year' and that I needed to submit my retirement papers in order to stay at my school site."
Ohlinger retired as principal of Twin Lakes Elementary in January of this year.
Barbara Githens, a teacher at the Edison Language Institute, said she spent 15 years as a principal for the district and was demoted to a teaching position after what she described as "impeccable evaluations."
She spoke publicly to the board and, afterward, said in an interview that she felt intimidated and fearful as a result of her contacts with Thompson.
She lauded the board for putting Thompson on administrative leave and said investigators need to "really go deeply" into the allegations.
On Monday, another principal offered a different view. Edwin Manson, at Dyer-Kelly Elementary in Sacramento, said in an interview he believes complaints about Thompson are part of an orchestrated effort to undermine the superintendent's reform efforts.
Manson, a longtime associate of Thompson, called the complaints "a very calculated effort" by a "small, well-orchestrated group" whose members don't like a reorganization that eliminated a layer of management. He said detractors also include principals who didn't want the added accountability that came with more autonomy.