WSCUHSD board cuts ties with superintendent

By Zoë Strickland, Managing Editor, SoCoNews, January 20, 2022

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The West Sonoma County Union High School District (WSCUHSD) voted in closed session Wednesday night to remove district Superintendent Toni Beal from her position, effective immediately. Donald Evans, a former superintendent for Berkeley Unified School District, will serve as the district’s short-term superintendent.

The board voted unanimously 4-0-1, with Trustee Angie Lewis absent and out of the country, to buy Beal out of her contract and place her on administrative leave.

“We did not make this decision lightly and we believe that this leadership change will help us create the climate necessary to end disruptive and divisive activities that are inhibiting our school community from coming together and moving forward with a shared commitment and focus to serve students,” said Board President Patrick Nagle.

Nagle said that the district is taking a two-step approach to address the transition of leadership, with Evans coming on to help maintain district operations while the board looks for a long-term interim superintendent to help the district finish out the school year and prepare for the 2022-23 year.

“This will allow us to concentrate on dealing with the controversies that are challenging the district and essentially to right the ship while the board initiates a search process that will help us identify the next superintendent for our district,” Nagle said.

In a letter sent from the district signed by the four voting trustees, the board said that they believe the change in leadership will “help us move forward toward a shared purpose of service to students and staff.”

“We realize that transitions and change are not always easy, but there are times when you must lean into and end an issue in order to bring about resolution,” the statement from the board reads. “We believe there are better days ahead for our schools and school community, and we must find the leader who will help chart the course to make this vision of community, shared goals and purpose and a commitment to put students first a reality.”

During public comment, two speakers disagreed with the notion that a leadership change will help create a different climate within the district, instead suggesting that the onus is on board members.

“(Beal) is not the one who was causing the divisiveness in this community — that lands squarely on the shoulders of the four board members here tonight. She may not have been perfect, but she had the best interest of the students at heart and just because you all are caving to the pressures placed on you by a very vocal, very rich community … is not a reason for you to blame her for this divisiveness,” said Robin Leone.

Beal began her post at the district in the summer of 2018 after being selected by the board to replace former superintendent Steven Kellner. Prior to her time with WSCUHSD, she spent three years as the superintendent of Two Rock School District, an elementary district west of Petaluma.

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