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Pleasanton school board fires 1st-year Superintendent Rick Rubino

Decision comes less than three weeks after administrator was placed on leave

Less than three weeks after being placed on paid administrative leave and barely six months into his tenure, Rick Rubino has been removed from the position of Pleasanton school district superintendent, effective immediately.

The school board voted unanimously to fire Rubino without cause in a two-hour closed session meeting Friday night.

“Both the board of education and Mr. Rubino believe it is in the organization’s best interest to move forward with the process of securing new leadership,” school board president Joan Laursen said in a statement after the special meeting.

The board’s decision to fire Rubino followed its initial move Dec. 19 to place him on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into an unspecified personnel matter.

Laursen said in an email Sunday night that an investigation was launched by an independent investigator, but not completed.

“The board’s decision was based on our strong belief that this was not a good fit for our organization,” Laursen said.

She continued, “It is the board’s responsibility to foster a positive culture and to promote strong, collegial leadership. We felt that change was necessary and we wanted to move on this as quickly and responsibly as possible."

This community has every right to be disappointed, most certainly, the board is disappointed," Laursen said. "We believe that facing this disappointment, boldly taking the action that is in the best interest of all involved, and informing our community in a timely and forthright manner is the best first step toward rebuilding that trust.”

Laursen added that Rubino was fired “without cause, but not without concern.” In accordance with the terms in his three-year contract, approved by the board in May, Rubino will be paid a year’s salary -- $256,000 -- plus health benefits for a year, or until he secures new employment.

The health benefits will come at a maximum cost of $8,400, Laursen said, adding Rubino will also receive pay for four vacation days along with reimbursement for mileage and a life insurance balance of $803.

Rubino’s firing comes after three closed-session school board meetings, the first of which was held at 8 a.m. on Dec. 19, a few days before schools and the district office closed for winter break.

Board members voted to place Rubino on leave pending the outcome of an investigation during that special meeting, with the board saying afterward that its decision “demonstrates that we place the highest priority on creating and maintaining a professional working environment for all employees.”

At its initial closed session meeting and the two that followed -- on Friday and Dec. 27 -- the board met with an agenda stating it would hold discussions on “public employee discipline/dismissal/release” and two potential court cases.

The board took no action at the Dec. 27 meeting.

Laursen confirmed after Friday’s meeting that PUSD deputy superintendent of business services Micaela Ochoa, who has been serving as the district’s leader since Rubino was placed on leave, will continue in that role for an unknown period. She is the district’s fourth leader since spring 2015.

Asked when the search for a permanent superintendent would begin, Laursen said the board plans to discuss their options “at the earliest opportunity during an upcoming board meeting.”

“We want to assure our community that this has our full and focused attention,” she said. “The board is fully committed to identify and secure leadership who will continue the excellent work underway in our schools.”

Rubino was hired last spring after a five-month search. He replaced former Amador Valley High School principal Jim Hansen, who came out of retirement to fill the superintendent seat for the 2015-16 school year while the district searched for a permanent successor to Parvin Ahmadi.

He started on July 1 following four years as the superintendent of Gridley Unified School District in Butte County. Rubino also worked as an administrator for school districts in Fremont, San Leandro, Concord and Martinez during his career.

Rubino’s departure is the latest in a period marked by leadership turnover in PUSD. Since the start of last school year alone, there have been new principals at eight of the district’s 15 schools, including three at Harvest Park Middle School.

The board will convene for its first regular meeting in 2017 next Tuesday.

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