At least three dozen residents showed up at a special Sanger Unified school board meeting Friday night to express concern about Superintendent Matt Navo’s plan to leave the district.
At a regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, Navo asked to be let out of his contract early. That came after a heated discussion with the Sanger Unified Teachers Association over contract negotiations.
It remains unknown what role, if any, the dispute played in his decision. His contract is scheduled to end June 30, 2020, but a tentative deal was struck to have him remain only through June 30, 2018.
That was the word from board president Marcy Masumoto, announced after trustees spent more than two hours in closed session.
But because such changes must be approved with advance notice in an open session, the board will return to the issue at a regular meeting Nov. 14.
Navo’s choice, Masumoto said, is based on what he feels is best for him and his family.
“He’s been an outstanding superintendent, we have full support and trust in him,” she said. “He’s given his all and he feels this is the time he needs to divert his attention to better support his family.”
Talks with the teachers union are a separate issue, she said, declining further comment.
Praise for Navo was echoed by many of those in attendance. Several voiced their concern over his possible early departure during a public comment before the board went into the closed session.
A mother of a student said she did not want to see Navo leave.
Navo, who quickly left after the meeting without comment, sat back with tears in his eyes but a smile on his face.
The parent added that despite disagreements with the teachers association, he has the respect of students, teachers, families and other community members.
Four people wore #StandWithNavo T-shirts.
Two female students, one a Quail Lake Environmental Charter Associated Student Body president, took the podium to offer: “We love you Mr. Navo, and we appreciate you very much.”
One student continued, “We want to thank you for all that you do, from showing up to all of our school’s events, to working hard to improve our schools.”
She ended her speech, her voice trembling, with “We don’t know what we’d do without you.”
As the closed session dragged on, community members talked about what Navo’s departure could mean.
“It’s unspeakable right now,” said Julie Mendoza, mother of a Sanger Unified graduate and CEO of Help Our People Emmanuel, a nonprofit she says Navo has volunteered at many times.
She said the district would be at a complete loss.
“He is a family man and puts children first,” Mendoza said. “It’s unknown” where the district will be without Navo, she added.
Albert Mendoza, unrelated to Julie, said Navo was the principal for six years at Jefferson Elementary in Sanger, where Albert Mendoza continues to work as a custodian.
He held out hope that Navo would change his mind.
The loss will be felt beyond the campus, Mendoza said, because Navo goes out of his way to be at all community events.
“Any type of crisis, he’s there,” he said.
An hour into the closed session, roughly 15 people gathered outside and formed a prayer circle. A woman offered, “No matter the outcome, your (God’s) plan will succeed.”
By the time the board invited the public back into the chambers, it was about 8:40 p.m. and some 10 community members remained to hear the news.
”I think Mr. Navo has been very appreciated and very well respected in our community,” Masumoto said. “It did not surprise me there was support for him.”
Navo shook hands with some in the crowd. A few brought him in for a hug before he left soon after the meeting ended.