Clovis News

Clovis Unified superintendent's abrupt exit baffling

A day after a surprise retirement announcement by Clovis Unified Superintendent David Cash, community members were trying to piece together why he was leaving.

Cash wasn't elaborating. Some people close to him said he was not taking their phone calls Saturday.

Also Saturday, the school board president disclosed that Cash did not show up for the board meeting Friday, which had been scheduled at 3:30 p.m. for a continuation of his annual performance review.

Instead, Ginny Hovsepian said, Cash informed the board of his decision to retire. She did not say how the notice was given.

At 6 p.m., the board left the meeting and announced his retirement after signing a document releasing him from his contract. Cash's annual salary was $232,000.

"The board was looking forward to hearing from Dave Cash at Friday's meeting," Hovsepian said. "There were questions, and we were wanting information from Dave."

Hovsepian and other school officials have declined to discuss those questions or the nature of the evaluation, citing state personnel laws.

Dismissal, suspension and discipline were among options listed on the agenda for Friday's meeting.

The closed-door meeting was a continuation of a review that began with a meeting Wednesday.

By all appearances, however, Cash had no major problems with the district, according to those familiar with his work.

"Everybody that I talked to was surprised," said Jose Flores, mayor of Clovis and a Clovis Unified parent.

He said people were calling him Friday night to learn whether he knew details about Cash's departure. The school district had put the word out Friday evening with automated messages to district employees informing them that Cash had retired.

Flores said he last saw Cash on Tuesday, when Clovis City Council members held a quarterly meeting with a subcommittee of Clovis schools trustees.

"Everything seemed fine," the mayor said.

Hovsepian said budget issues were not the problem.

In the coming year's budget, teachers will take a 2% pay cut, and about 25% of the district's vice principals and counselors are reassigned as teachers.

"When it comes to budgets, we all go through tough times, and we come out on the other side," she said. "Clovis has a history of working through tough times together."

Academic performance also is not an issue. Scores released Thursday were once again strong for Clovis Unified.

In an email message Friday night, Cash said the major reason he retired from the 38,000-student district was that three close friends have died in the past eight months, and he wants to spend time with his family.

Fellow superintendents view Cash as a statewide leader.

"It's a loss for Clovis Unified and a loss for Valley kids," said Michael Hanson, Fresno Unified superintendent.

Hovsepian has called a special board meeting for Tuesday to discuss appointing an interim superintendent.

Cash will help during the transition and consult with the district as needed, officials said.

"Dave gave us a renewed sense, as a district, of the appreciation for our unique culture," Hovsepian said, without elaborating.

Tim Leary, president of Foundation West, the fundraising arm for Clovis West High School, said the suddenness of Cash's departure "caught me off guard."

But Leary expects Clovis Unified will continue to move forward.

"The reality is it's a big school district made up of a lot of good people, not just one person," he said. "I think the district is going to be fine, the school board will be fine, and they are going to find the right person."