Dozens of Central Unified students, parents and employees showed their support for renewing Superintendent Mark Sutton’s contract during a Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night.
Sutton’s three-year contract ends June 30, and the board has not taken action to renew it, mystifying some supporters of Sutton. They say he has been exemplary since he was hired in 2015.
Over the weekend, supporters took to Twitter, asking for allies to wear black at the meeting and “Pack the PAC” to advocate for Sutton’s contract extension.
Despite raucous applause and praise in the auditorium in Sutton’s support Tuesday, the board remained quiet on the subject, limiting speakers to a maximum of two minutes each.
Cesar Granda, Central Unified’s board president, said he couldn’t discuss board negotiations that take place behind closed doors, but said trustees take public comment into consideration when making decisions. “The last couple meetings we’ve had public comment, and that’s what it’s for,” he said.
Raquel Camacho, who has two sons attending Central Unified schools, was one of the speakers supporting Sutton. She said she doesn’t understand why the board would want him gone. At this point, the board has not publicly voiced an opinion on Suttton’s contract, although Camacho said she feels there’s more to the story. “As board members, they are not supposed to have personal feelings involved in any of those situations, and I feel that right now, that’s what a lot of this is,” she said.
Camacho said Sutton knows her two boys by name and has helped her when she’s had problems with a principal. “It’s those little things, seeing him at all the events, and seeing the things he does for the community. Why would we want to get rid of him?”
Student Ethan Baird, 17, also spoke at the meeting. Baird said he can still recall meeting the new superintendent his first day of freshman year, and how Sutton remembered his name a week later. “I felt like we were already friends after a week. I truly appreciate that,” he said.
This is not the first time Sutton’s contract has drawn attention. Before being hired at Central Unified, Sutton was the superintendent for eight years at Selma Unified School District. Despite community support there, Selma Unified board members decided to buy out the rest of Sutton’s contract in February 2015 for $250,000.
Selma board members did not discuss why Sutton was axed at the time, though many suspected longtime tensions with the board president were the reason.
At Tuesday’s meeting, speakers only had praise for Sutton, who listened and periodically smiled and nodded. “To think that we’re actually thinking of getting rid of him scares me because I want someone like that (here),” Baird said. “With us having one of a kind, I think we need to keep him.”