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Sunnyside superintendent considers early retirement



Superintendent Raúl Bejarano indicated he may retire earlier than planned following Tuesday night’s vote of “no confidence” from the Sunnyside Unified School District board.

“If the board has no confidence in me, I need to retire at (the) earliest possible date,” he said Wednesday.

An unexpected move by the Sunnyside board not to renew a contract for Bejarano – a contract it already had approved by a 4-0 vote in June – will be revisited.

Asked to comment on the reversal, Bejarano said he had no comment, adding, “I want to leave the Sunnyside School District with my head held high.”

“The manner it (the vote and discussion on the contract) was handled was a rude shock to me,” he said.

Bejarano, 60, has been the district’s superintendent since 2000 and announced earlier this year that he would retire in June.

The board, after an executive session Oct. 10, first voted 3-2 to approve a $102,000 contract, then almost immediately reconsidered and voted 3-2 not to renew it.

“I wouldn’t attribute anything to the vote (not to approve Bejarano’s contract) except there was not three votes to approve the particular wording of the particular form that was before the governing board,” said the board’s legal counsel, John Richardson.

Richardson was with the board in executive session, but not there when they voted, he said.

“The fact that they did not approve the contract last night doesn’t mean they won’t approve it in the future,” Richardson said.

Bejarano took a vacation day Wednesday.

There was an attempt to call a special executive session for today, but a quorum could not be reached, said district spokeswoman Monique Soria.

According to minutes of the June 20 meeting, the board – minus member Linda Lopez, a state representative who had been participating in the meeting via telephone but had to leave to be on the floor of the legislature – voted 4-0 to approve the contract of Bejarano.

But Lopez said “it was unclear what action actually had been taken on his contract and what was specifically in it, so that was why it was on the consent agenda” at the Oct. 10 meeting.

Lopez, who has been vocal about her dissatisfaction with Bejarano’s performance, said she doesn’t think the superintendent communicates well with the board and doesn’t treat board members equitably. She also said she feels like the district is “stagnant” under Bejarano’s leadership.

Responding to her comments, Bejarano said Sunnyside has grown to such a size that it is very hard to “keep individuals appraised and informed of every detail.”

“There are so many things that happen in a district (of) our size. Boards would likely want to know the most important items,” he said.

Lopez said she had no idea why board members Tony Silvain and Luis Araiza would vote against Bejarano’s contract.

Meanwhile, the Sunnyside Administrators Association held an emergency meeting Wednesday and voted unanimously to write a letter of support and a statement of confidence in Bejarano, to be submitted to the governing board and the local newspapers, Soria said.

Speaking of his future plans, Bejarano said “I anticipate my retirement. I want to stay in the community. The people of Sunnyside have been wonderful to me.”

In an earlier interview with the Citizen, Bejarano announced his intention to become a full-time grandfather and carpenter.

“We have an old home that belonged to my grandparents, built in 1890,” he had said, “so all I want to do is rebuild it.”

A search for a replacement for Bejarano already is in the beginning stages. But it is based on his retiring at the end of the school year.

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