Published April 6, 2023
BY EMMA BROWN
After the closed session portion of a special board of education meeting March 31, during which board members voted to appoint Carmel Valley local Jason Remynse, the board announced that CUSD Superintendent Ted Knight would be placed on administrative leave pending the conclusion of an external investigation into the administrator’s recent handling of personnel matters.
Hinds voted in as president; Remynse appointed fifth board member
Following the resignation of former board of education president Tess Arthur on Feb. 16, board members voted 3-1 to elect Sara Hinds to a second term as president, with Anne Marie Rosen dissenting during a March 16 board meeting. Hinds then made a motion to appoint Karl Pallastrini as the board clerk, a position that he served in during Hinds’ previous term as president. The board approved the motion in a 3-1 vote, with Rosen opposing.
“I know that we have some really troubling times coming up and a lot of really difficult decisions to be made,” noted Seaberry Nachbar at the March 16 meeting. “I have absolute confidence that Sara can lead us through that.”
Because a seat on the board of education was vacant, board members decided to appoint a fifth member during a special meeting at the Sunset Center on March 31, rather than holding a special election, citing financial concerns as the motivation for their choice. In preparation for the meeting, Rosen and Nachbar joined a sub-committee to review applications.
“The special election process is a lot longer, and it’s more drawn out, and it actually could potentially cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Hinds says. “The appointment process might be a little bit more labor intensive in terms of district staff putting together the process and procedures and the communications, but at the end of the day, the appointment process doesn’t cost nearly as much as the special election.”
Although the board will move to a trustee-area election in 2024, the residence of the appointed board member was not considered in the board’s deliberation of the candidates.
Fourteen candidates ultimately applied for the position, with Remynse selected out of a final group of three applicants during a special board meeting March 31. The newest board member is an electrical contractor who has children at the high school, middle school and Tularcitos Elementary School.
In his application to the board, Remynse focused his remarks on the importance of unity during a time of turnover within the district, in addition to his belief.
“Our biggest issue is bringing back the mindset that we are all a team,” wrote Remynse in his application. “Everyone from the superintendent, school board, teachers and parents should realize we are all teammates, tasked to educate young minds and prepare them for the world they will enter into in a few short years.”
Over the past four months, Knight has been the subject of controversy within the district, with many parents and community members expressing their frustration about his handling of the dismissal of former CHS principal Jon. Lyons.
In recent years, CUSD has been no stranger to public dissent, yet following Lyons’ dismissal, much of the community has divided into two groups: those who support and those who oppose Superintendent Ted Knight.
At the March 16 board meeting, some parents noted concerns about Knight’s conduct during Lyons’ leave of absence, expressing frustration in particular over emails sent to the community and comments made to local news outlets.
“The written and verbal statements by the superintendent are nothing short of a career and character assassination of Jon Lyons,” noted CHS parent Rod Mathews.
Others encouraged the community to be patient during a time of turmoil and show support for district leadership.
“The loudest people who are advocating for Dr. Knight’s removal over the Lyons’ case are doing so because he upholds the federal rights of all students,” said River Elementary School parent Christina Bell.
At recent board meetings, some CHS teachers have also spoken against Knight and the district office, discussing their frustration with the superintendent’s handling of Lyons’ leave of absence, among other concerns.
“We really need to take a closer look at our current district leadership,” said CHS English teacher Carli Barnett. “Do they truly reflect our beliefs and our visions? Are they supporting us, or are they destroying us?”
There are also students who express frustration about a lack of transparency from the school district, particularly concerning a lack of information about circumstances surrounding Lyons’ leave.
“Some students feel that the school district is deliberately not informing them of certain pieces of information,” CHS junior Marcus Michie told The Sandpiper. “The CUSD leadership should be transparent with students by telling them why the district often does not and sometimes cannot elaborate upon personnel matters.”
Plans to investigate Knight were first announced at the Feb. 15 board of education meeting.
Conflicting narratives surrounding Lyons’ absence
After the board voted Feb. 7 to dismiss Lyons from the principal position, Knight indicated in an email to the CUSD community that the initial findings of the district’s outside investigator Barbra Vrankovich’s report were “so concerning that [the district was] turning over [their] reports to the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department, the Monterey County District Attorney, and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.”
“When that press release was issued, I called Barbara and said, ‘These comments by the superintendent had nothing to do with what we discussed at the interview,” says Lyons’ lawyer, Barry Bennett of the law offices of Bennett & Sharpe. “Knight talked about a persistent pattern of conduct, but at the interview, they were talking about one incident.”
Bennett later made a public records request to the three organizations named in Knight’s email to see if CUSD had sent them any information about Lyons.
“So far, I’ve heard from the D.A.’s office and the Sheriff’s Department that they didn’t get any documents,” Bennett says.
CHS principal yet to be hired
Currently, CHS is without a principal, with interim principal Joe Rudnicki having left the temporary position due to limitations on time retirees can work.
Though a search to fill an administrative position would typically begin in February, the board of education approved the request to post the principal position so that the application process could begin as of the March 31 board meeting.
Chief human resources officer Craig Chavez indicated to The Sandpiper that the district will be working with a search firm, and the steps in the hiring process will be communicated to the community once the search begins.
While Knight previously indicated that prior to the commencement of a search for a new principal, community members would be consulted about what attributes they hope to see in the next administrator, the district has yet to begin such discussions.
On campus, many CHS students express a desire for next year’s principal to engage with student ideas and concerns.
“I want a principal that will listen to what the students propose,” sophomore Emma Shin says, “and genuinely want to help them with any issues they may bring up.”
Others hope that the district will prioritize a dedication to academics.
“A principal needs to be hardworking and committed to their students,” sophomore Julia Jackson says.
The next CHS principal is likely to be identified by the beginning of July at the latest.