Superintendent under investigation for inappropriate relationship with student
December 13, 2009
By KAREN VELIE
San Miguel Joint Union School District board officials have hired an investigator to look into allegations that 55-year-old Supt. Dean Smith had an inappropriate relationship with a former student.
“The school board is concerned and they are investigating, but we are not permitted to discuss the issue at this time,” a board member said.
Smith, a former Baptist minister, recently left his wife of more than 30 years for “Anne” (not her real name), a young woman he began “mentoring” while she was in the sixth grade. Supporters of Smith claim the relationship did not become intimate until after she turned 18.
Earlier this year, board members took their concerns to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department. The investigation, which included interviews with Smith, “Anne” and her mother, concluded that nothing illegal occurred.
“We found no evidence of criminal activity,” said Rob Bryn, sheriff’s public information officer.
CalCoastNews tried to contact “Anne” for comment, but she could not be located.
Smith, who has been the head of the San Miguel School Joint Unified School District for four years, did not respond to requests for comment from CalCoastNews.
Despite the fact that the sheriff’s probe found no illegal activity, some board members and law enforcement officials nevertheless question the thoroughness of the sheriff’s investigation. Just hours after the first report had been made to law enforcement, someone allegedly warned Smith about the impending investigation.
Sheriff Deputy Clinton Cole, the officer assigned to the San Miguel Joint Unified School District beat, is a friend of Smith’s, and at one time lived on Smith’s property.
CalCoastNews interviewed more than a dozen teachers, school officials and law enforcement officials while gathering information for this article. Many have asked to remain unnamed because district officials have asked them not to discuss the issue.
Smith, then principal of Templeton Middle School, first met and began spending time with “Anne” when she was in sixth grade in about 2003. One teacher describes how Smith would ask her to treat the girl differently than the other students.
“He was very protective of her,” the unnamed teacher said, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing her job. “He said she came from a troubled home.”
Smith continued his relationship with the girl after he left Templeton Middle School for his current superintendent position in San Miguel. According to co-workers, Smith would explain that he spent time “mentoring” the girl because she was facing serious health problems and had a problematic home life that included an uncle who had been imprisoned for allegedly molesting her.
“Anne” graduated from Templeton High School in June, shortly after she turned 18. In July, Smith took her to a San Luis Obispo County Office of Education board meeting in which school officials discussed inter-district transfer agreements. When some of his fellow area superintendents realized the teenager accompanying Smith was not his niece, they began questioning what Smith was doing there with the teenager.
“He groomed this young lady for this,” a local school superintendent said.
Last month, Smith and “Anne” arrived hand in hand to the yearly Elegant Evening in Paso Robles, where some onlookers questioned the San Miguel superintendent’s behavior as “inappropriate” for a ranking school official.
“He was grabbing her. . . ,” a school official said. “I find this scandalous.”
Meanwhile, some concerned parents have pulled their children from the district as investigators continue to look into when the relationship became intimate.
“Anne’s” MySpace comments report that she is in a relationship, though she does not mention who her boyfriend is or when the relationship began.
She does, however, provide an “About Me” profile that describes her feelings about school.
“I can’t stand school,” she says. “I’m just trying to get by. I’m ready to move on with life. I hate hearing the alarm in the morning just to know that the only thing my day holds is school filled with nonsense and ridiculousness. I reach for the day when I get to say goodbye Templeton High, it has been nice knowing you….”