The future of Selma Unified Superintendent Mark Sutton, who has led the district south of Fresno since 2007, may be part of discussions at a special board meeting Tuesday night, past board and community members said Monday.
A special meeting called on Friday has one agenda item listed: discuss the discipline, dismissal or release of a school employee. The board is expected to discuss the topic in closed session, since state law protects employee privacy when a personnel issue is at stake.
Neither current school board members nor staff at the district of more than 6,000 students would confirm the person under discussion is Sutton, but supporters speculate the board may be angling to buy him out of his four-year contract, which ends in 2018. A Facebook page called “Save Mark Sutton” had nearly 300 likes by Monday afternoon and several comments of support from parents and teachers calling on community members to attend Tuesday’s meeting.
Trustee Jennifer Winter, who has served on the board for four years, said she received notice about the special meeting but didn’t have any additional information.
“All I will say is I’ve always supported Mark Sutton and I will continue to support Mark Sutton,” she said.
Trustee Paul Green didn’t confirm details, but said he’s disappointed the public wasn’t given more notice or information about the special meeting. Green said he sent a request to board President John Lorona asking that the meeting be moved from the regular board chambers to a larger venue, but hasn’t heard back yet.
“I don’t believe it’s going to happen. I don’t think he wants to see 200 to 300 people in disagreement with him,” Green said.
The board’s three other members did not return phone or email messages left by The Bee on Monday.
But past board members, including Johnny Smith, whose re-election campaign was defeated in 2014, and John Hoyt, who left the board four years ago, said the intention of the meeting is well known among many Selma residents. Sutton, who took a vacation day on Monday, declined to comment.
What’s less clear is why the board would make the move to remove Sutton, who worked his way up the ranks in Selma, including working as an assistant superintendent for personnel and instruction.
“In my opinion, it’s conflict in personalities, not because of the job he’s doing,” said Smith, a retired fire captain, who noted there’s been recent tension between Sutton and some school board members. “It’s a dumb reason.”
Smith served on the board for 16 years before his recent defeat, enough time to witness Sutton receive a positive performance review each year since he was hired in 2007, he said.
“The district is very financially stable, labor is good, we’ve had good relationships with all bargaining units,” he said.
Hoyt said “it’s going to cause unwarranted turmoil,” in the district if the board votes the way he expects.
“(Sutton) has developed into a good superintendent for the district and places the students and health of the district as his number one priority,” he said.
Larry Teixeira, the district’s superintendent for business, could not discuss the purpose of the agenda item.
But he said Sutton is in the first year of a four year contract and would be eligible for $250,000 — or 18 months pay — and health benefits if his contract ends early.
The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.