The Public Eye: Twin Rivers approves more than $277,000 for departing administrator

The Public Eye
The Public Eye

Barely a year into his new contract, Joseph Williams has resigned as Twin Rivers Unified associate superintendent with a severance package worth more than $277,000.

The school board voted 7-0 Tuesday to approve Williams’ resignation agreement.

In exchange for monthly checks of $15,391.41 over 18 months and vacation and sick leave payouts, Williams agreed to drop a workers’ compensation claim and not sue the district under age discrimination and disability laws.

Williams, 53, has worked for the Twin Rivers district since July 2011, first as principal of Foothill High School until being tapped as interim superintendent in September 2012. His superintendent contract required the 31,000-student district to make him an associate superintendent if it chose to pass him over for the permanent superintendent job.

After the board hired Steven Martinez as its top leader last year, the district gave Williams a three-year contract starting July 1, 2013, to serve as associate superintendent of education support services. That job came with a salary of $186,546, benefits and a car allowance of $500 a month. The contract also authorized 18 months of severance pay.

Before arriving at Foothill High School in 2011, Williams was interim dean of students at American Canyon High School in Napa. He previously was an assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction with the Campbell Union High School District in San Jose and director of secondary education with San Rafael City Schools.

When the school board chose Williams as interim superintendent after interviewing eight candidates in 2012, one trustee referred to him as “the ace in our backyard” and another called him “the right person to lead us this year.”

District officials declined Thursday to explain the circumstances leading up to Williams’ departure, instead offering a prepared statement based largely on wording required by the separation agreement:

“Mr. Williams worked with the District from July 2011 until his voluntary resignation to pursue other endeavors. During his tenure, Mr. Williams held various positions including principal and interim superintendent. In his final position as Associate Superintendent of Educational Support Services, Mr. Williams successfully oversaw the District’s compliance program and supported several key directors.

“The Board would like to thank Mr. Williams for his years of service and wish him great success.”

The board offered a similar severance deal to Associate Superintendent Rob Ball in August of last year. Ball, who was interim superintendent before Williams, resigned in August and was given $174,570 in severance – the amount he would have been paid through the fiscal year ending June 30.

An 18-month severance package, including health benefits, is typically included in Twin Rivers administrator contracts. Top leaders at Elk Grove Unified and San Juan Unified, the region’s two largest school districts, have severance provisions that pay out over a similar period of time.

Twin Rivers Unified Superintendent Martinez, Deputy Superintendent William McGuire and recently hired Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Jacqueline Perez have contracts that include an 18-month severance package under the heading “Termination without cause.”

But those contracts say payments, which include health benefits, end when the departing employee finds another job. Williams will receive his full severance package even if he is hired elsewhere.

In Natomas Unified, the amount of severance varies. Three top administrators have been promised severance packages that would pay them for the remainder of their contract, up to 12 months. One administrator would be paid up to nine months, another up to six months and another up to three months. All include health benefits.

In Sacramento City Unified, only Superintendent José L. Banda has a severance clause. He would receive the balance of his contract, up to 12 months, along with health benefits.