Paso Robles superintendent gets $113,000 in severance pay despite shortfalls

December 21, 2018

Chris Williams

The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District board voted unanimously Thursday to award $113,409 in severance pay, plus six months of health benefits, to outgoing Superintendent Chris Williams, even though he is leaving the district with depleted reserves and a budget shortfall of nearly $3 million. [Cal Coast Times]

Less than four months after receiving a new contract with a base salary of about $215,000, Williams announced he would resign as superintendent without publicly disclosing his reason for leaving.

Williams’ contract allowed him to receive a maximum severance payment of one year’s salary. On Thursday, the Paso Robles school board convened for a special meeting, during which speakers said during public comment that Williams was not deserving of severance pay.

Nonetheless, the school board decided unanimously in a closed session hearing to give Williams the equivalent of six months pay in the form of a $113,409 lump sum payment and a half year’s worth of health benefits. Williams will formally resign on Friday, according to the settlement agreement.

Earlier this month, school officials revealed the district is faced with a $2.1 million shortfall for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. An additional $800,000 in cuts are needed for the 2020-2021 budget, according to an interim financial report for the current school year.

The cuts could result in teacher layoffs, though district officials say they are trying to avoid that.

In addition to departing with a budget shortfall, Williams’ tenure as superintendent, which began in 2014, is drawing to a close with the school district’s reserve for economic downturns almost completely depleted. Since 2015, the reserve fund had decreased from 10 percent of the size of the general fund to 1.73 percent, according to the interim financial report. State rules require districts of Paso Robles’ size to maintain a 3 percent reserve.

The district has hired former Paso Robles superintendent and former county superintendent of schools, Julian Crocker, to serve as interim superintendent following Williams’ departure.

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He was worth every penny. Which high school in the county has a million dollar artificial turf field and a million dollar Italian stainless steel pool? PASO ROBLES!

Totally agree with “rukidding’ and ‘ratherbefishing’ – this payoff to Williams was not, is not, and never will be the right thing. ‘Desdecardo’ should look up the meaning of voluntarily resigning vs.

be fired or terminated. Williams resigned on his own free will, that is if you believe what has been

reported. If true, then there is no way that he should be paid anything. The school board members that voted for the payoff should be ashamed of themselves for the lesson this teaches any student – no wonder our society is in the place it is when a person can be paid thousands of dollars a year, runs an organization into almost bankruptcy, then voluntarily quits. and gets a big

bonus payment. Where did responsibility and accountability go?

There have been a number of articles written about the budget shortfall, making a point about going from 10% in reserves down to 1.7%,

The articles lay the blame for this on the Superintendent. The reporter should realize that while the district had a 10% surplus they were not allowed to keep it. Recent legislation changed the amount districts are able to keep in reserve.

The state only allows districts to maintain 3% in reserves, so 7% of the decrease of their reserves was mandated. With only 3% being allowed in reserves means unexpected expenditures will likely result in increased deficit spending by MOST districts, not just Paso Robles. This was purposeful by the state. Dig a little and you’ll see an increase in deficit spending statewide by districts.

The Superintendent may have made poor decisions along the way, but by law he was forbidden from maintaining 10% in reserves. You’re banging on the gentlemen for following the law. The draw down was mandated.

Saving for rainy days by a district is not allowed any longer.

The resigned superintendent is only part of a much greater systemic problem. PRJUSD has too many upper management positions who make 6 figures. Cut, let’s say 10 admin, voila, 1 million dollars covered in the deficit. Is PRJUSD going to do this? No way, admin will save their own skin. Students and teachers come last. Pity PRJUSD won’t take SLCUSD’s lead.

I think the school Board needs to be transparent regarding this and explain why and what justified this payoff. Nowhere should a voluntary resignation be able to get this. So, what is the real story behind the payoff and what are they trying to hide or protect?

You do realize that most high position contracts have severance clauses right? Sort of silly to assume they have to explain anything. They have to pay him. Otherwise the district would be out $10,000,000 and legal fees versus $130,000.

Have people never heard of contracts before? Or know what a severance is?

There is no reason to even question this. Yeah it stinks. That’s how contract positions go. There is ALWAYS a severance. It saves both sides much more constly legal battles.

I’m fully aware of contracts like this. You used the word severance and they said resignation. Big difference. Within these contracts there is a clause of severance with cause or without clause. This is where the questions needs to answered why the clause was utilized if the person resigned. If he was ” severed” then he was fired. It appears that the Board didn’t want to openly disclose their incompetence with what happened to the Districts’s reserve so they just paid the guy off to keep him quiet and then move on just feeding us turnips more “feed..” I think he was fired and they are paying him off to be silent. Al lI’ll say is I’ve been there and have seen it happens. Why were the other 2 that resigned not paid off?

Maybe the contract should require positive performance results to get any severance pay or just penalize the board that approved the hiring, like take away their medical perks?

Then it wouldn’t be a severance package and no one would want to take the position. You also can’t legally withhold medical perks. That’s just silly talk.

No wonder he’s smiling.

Now if government employees wanted to strike demanding an end to this type of theft of taxpayer’s money and an end to ridiculous administration salaries I’d support that but to strike just to demand more money, not a chance.

I need a job that I can either quit or be terminated and subsequently, get a big payoff. Oh snap! I’m self employed, I give a large percentage of my earnings to the government so that they can provide these jobs to those who have no other skills besides being a bureaucrat.

That’s not a big payoff at all. Don’t know what you are assuming here. Most contract positions have to have a severance to get anyone to take the position. And this is pittance. What? 8 months pay? It’s nothing.

If they didn’t have the severance agreement then it probably would of cost the school district 8 figures in a lawsuit buy out and legal fees.

Seems you would prefer the school district being even more hobbled?

Your position makes sense if he wasn’t fired for cause. I’ve never heard of a contract with severance if the employee quits; only when the employee has been let go. Dunno if the laws have changed but in my day one could not collect unemployment ins if one quit the job.