Walnut Valley Unified Superintendent Dean Conklin plans to retire from the district in June.
Conklin, 57, sent a notice to the Board of Trustees Monday about his intentions and spoke to the board more about it at a special meeting Wednesday night. He met with district staff today and sent out a letter as well, he said.
The 33-year educator took the helm of Walnut Valley Unified in January 2011. He returned to Walnut after five years as superintendent of Duarte Unified School District. His base salary is $215,000, which does not include a stipend, car allowance, and other benefits.
Before moving to Duarte, Conklin spent 12 years in Walnut, where he served as an assistant superintendent.
“When I came to Walnut Valley as a superintendent, I committed that I would stay here until my retirement from public service,” he said. “I am proud of what I accomplished in my career, especially my 15 years in Walnut Valley.”
Board Member Cindy Ruiz said she doesn't want to see Conklin go.
"I am sad that Dr Conklin is retiring," she said by email. "He has accomplished much in his short time with us."
The other board members could not be reached for comment.
The district is facing financial struggles, recently submitting a negative certification for its first interim budget report to the Los Angeles County Office of Education, a first for Walnut Valley Unified officials said.
Tensions between the district and the Walnut Valley Educators' Association also have been high of late, with the union recently filing a grievance related to the handling of an increase in kindergarten class size the leadership says violates the teachers’ contract.
At the Dec. 5 school board meeting, the presidents of the Walnut Valley Educators' Association and the Walnut Chapter of the California School Employees Association, among others, criticized the district’s deficit spending and accused the administration of not working collaboratively enough with the teachers and school staff.
Larry Taylor, WVEA president, said at that meeting that the superintendent’s call for six furlough days this school year and nine more in the next two years was the first he had heard of a plan to cut costs.
“We have not said we are not going to take any furlough days,” he said. “We said ‘let’s sit down and see a plan.’ You have to involve the stakeholders in the plan. We are all here to make this district fiscally responsible, to make sure that the check doesn’t bounce.”
Conklin and the board also had previously come under fire for the superintendent’s amount of vacation days.
Despite the recent budget struggles and tough negotiations with the unions, those factors did not prompt his decision to retire, Conklin said. Dealing with a variety of challenges is what superintendents do and the district’s challenges right now revolve around finances, he said.
A recent review of finances “indicates that decisions must be made to bring the budget back into balance,” Conklin said. “I will be focused on that over the next six months, to ensure the continued success of our district by advocating for programs that define us.”
Maintaining key programs such as International Baccalaureate, dual immersion, and the arts, will be a priority, he added.
He said he is finding it tougher to muster the energy to hold on to the love of the job, a sign that it is time to leave. Conklin said he has some options but is going to take his remaining months to think about what to do next.
“I am in a unique position that at a relatively young age, I can retire,” he said. “The decision is all about quality of life. My quality of life is good.”