Eastern Sierra Unified School District Superintendent Don Clark remains a focus of sharp public criticism for his district’s
severe financial problems, lay-offs of teachers, and closure of schools. In the face of all this trouble, news leaked out that Clark was fired from his last job as superintendent in the Cordova, Alaska School District. Clark says he was not fired. He said termination proceedings did begin but were never concluded. Clark says he resigned from the Alaska school district and was put on administrative leave.
We did learn from Cordova, Alaska news reporters that Clark had problems with some school board members in Alaska and that allegations were made that he handled some financial issues poorly. Clark says that he had been paid for summer school management without approval by the school board, according to tradition. He said a new school board president made an issue out of that and wanted Clark to pay back his salary. Clark called it a personality conflict.
A news reporter in Cordova, Alaska, Joy Landaluce, told us that the Cordova School Board had issued a press release to say that Clark was fired. She said they gave no reason for the firing. Ms. Landaluce said she has been contacted by several entities from the Eastern Sierra on Clark’s background.
Current officials at the Cordova, Alaska school district declined to comment and referred us to their attorney. School officials here say they did not know about this part of Clark’s background when he was hired.
Vice President of the Eastern Sierra Unified School Board, Doug Northington, said that the Mono County Office of Education did the background checks on superintendent candidates. He said they did not discover Clark’s problems with his last school district until about a month ago when an anonymous letter referred to Cordova, Alaska news reports. If the board had known more about Clarks background, Northington said he doesnt know if they wouldve hired him.
Mono County Office of Education Superintendent Catherine Hiatt said she and her office handled the interview process and contacted the Cordova, Alaska School District to check Clarks background. Hiatt said no one there revealed anything about Clarks troubles and in fact gave him glowing reports. Hiatt said that she has now learned that Clark was apparently on administrative leave when he was interviewed for the job in Mono County. He disclosed nothing, said Hiatt, who also said that on his application Clark checked No to the question have you been dismissed or asked to leave a school district.
Clark maintained, I was never terminated. My credentials are intact. There was never a criminal investigation. He claims there is no substance to what happened in Alaska. He called it an attempt to smear my character and misrepresent me. Clark admitted that the current financial issues in ESUSD caused the focus on his past. Some people would like to see me given a black eye or worse, said Clark.
The superintendent said he left the Cordova School District in good financial shape and he defended his current districts finances as being part of a state and national pattern. Clark did admit that there were some decisions we couldve made to minimize what were experiencing. We were conservative, he said, but not enough. We learned our lesson.