Education

San Juan trustee Larry Masuoka won’t seek re-election

Larry Masuoka, the San Juan Unified School District trustee censured for mishandling complaints about bullying by the previous superintendent, has chosen not to run for a third term in November.

The school board’s censure by a 3-1 vote in January was tied to a 2013 investigation confirming about a third of the 45 complaints against then-Superintendent Glynn Thompson. That inquiry determined Thompson created a culture of fear and disrespect that led to mistrust and dysfunction.

In the same report, investigators from Van Dermyden Maddux Law Corp. in Sacramento said Masuoka learned from four women about Thompson’s alleged behavior as early as November 2012 but “failed to initiate a prompt, impartial and thorough investigation when he knew or should have known that ... the district had an obligation to respond.”

Masuoka, 62, was first elected to the board in 2006 and won re-election in 2010. He said Wednesday that the events of the last year had little to do with his decision.

“It wasn’t governing the interest,” he said. “It was a terrible experience. But I don’t think it would encourage me to run or not run.”

Still, Sydney Walker, a parent in the district who worked for San Juan as a consultant until about three years ago, said former and current district employees who complained about Thompson were planning to campaign against Masuoka.

“There was a group of us who probably would have made it very difficult for him to run had he decided to file,” Walker said.

Masuoka said that when he ran for office eight years ago, he campaigned as a parent of four children in the district. At the time, he said, he had two children in elementary school, one in middle school and one in high school. He said three of his children have since graduated, while his youngest daughter is a senior in high school.

Masuoka said he still has a full-time dental practice and “eight years is a long time with that level of work.”

Trustees accepted Thompson’s resignation last December after the investigation was complete. By then, at least 10 women – some of them top administrators – filed $17 million in tort claims against the district and Masuoka. The district has since tapped longtime San Juan educator Kent Kern as superintendent.

Two seats are on the ballot in the Nov. 4 at-large San Juan Unified election. Two-term incumbent Greg Paulo, one of three trustees who voted to censure Masuoka, has filed along with four other candidates, according to Sacramento County election records. Challengers include legislative aide Paula Marie Villescaz; Michael Alcalay, who owns a public relations firm; Michael McKibbin, a retired educator who fell short in a 2012 bid for trustee; and real estate agent Michael Miller.

Vera Vaccaro, who worked 37 years for the district and spent the last five years as principal at Del Campo High School, said Masuoka is “doing the right thing” by not running.

“I think the focus needs to not be on him or other board members,” Vaccaro said. “It needs to be on supporting the current superintendent and moving the district forward. And with Larry, I think he has become too much of a distraction.”

Vaccaro, who retired three years ago, had been president of the San Juan Professional Educators Coalition and, as such, worked with “most of the ladies involved with the suit.”

“I thought he was going to run again,” she said. “I was surprised that he is not. I gained a little bit of respect for him by (his) not running. The district needs some new people who will have the focus on what’s best for kids and the district – instead of old baggage.”

Board President Lucinda Luttgen, who also voted to censure Masuoka, said Tuesday that she was surprised that he had chosen not to run for re-election.

“He has been very concerned about the education of each and every child,” Luttgen said. “His overall service to the district has been exemplary.”

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