Brown out

CUSD superintendent says exit decision is his alone

BROWN TOWN Scott Brown has agreed to stay on as superintendent until the CUSD finds a replacement. “Because I intend to live here, I want to run through the tape at the end,” he said.

BROWN TOWN Scott Brown has agreed to stay on as superintendent until the CUSD finds a replacement. “Because I intend to live here, I want to run through the tape at the end,” he said.

Photo By Tom Angel

Search for tomorrow: Superintendents are in short supply nationwide. The CUSD could choose, as it did in the last superintendent search, to hire the California School Boards Association to seek a replacement. Scott Brown, who started in July 1999 at $115,000 a year plus a $6,000-a-year car allowance, now makes $131,187.

He’s out of there.

Superintendent Scott Brown, a man whom people seem to either love or loathe, announced April 27 that, after mulling the decision for half a year, he will be leaving the Chico Unified School District.

Six years is a long time for a superintendent to last, and CUSD Board of Trustees President Rick Anderson said the district was fortunate to have had Brown for as long as it did.

“He’s ready for a new chapter in his life,” Anderson said. “The decision is 100-percent his.”

Brown said he knows some will cheer his departure—particularly community members who called for his ouster via billboards, bumper stickers and raucous board meetings as trustees removed popular Jeff Sloan from his post as principal of Marsh Junior High School. (Sloan, who was transferred to the Center for Alternative Learning, will not be offered an administrative slot next year.)

“I can see how that could be an easy conclusion for people to reach, but nothing could be further from the truth,” Brown said. Even so, he acknowledged the community could benefit from a fresh start with a new superintendent. “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for a board that has only one member who was part of the board that hired me to take a look at the direction of the district,” he said, and redefine what it’s looking for in a superintendent.

He’s also not leaving right away. In an agreement tentatively brokered with trustees at a closed-session meeting last week, Brown has agreed to stay on as a “per-diem” contractor. “I will work until they find a replacement,” he said, a process that could take six months or more. The issue will be on the board’s May 4 agenda.

Brown has no new job lined up, although he will likely look for consulting work after some time goes by. “My first need is some time to myself,” said Brown, 57, who has been in school administration since 1976. “I’m just feeling like I need a break from this.”

He also plans to maintain his home in Chico, even as his wife continues to work in the Bay Area as a middle-school principal and live on the couple’s boat moored in South San Francisco. “I am excited about the idea of living in Chico as a private citizen,” added Brown, who is also looking forward to boating, traveling and spending time with his two young godchildren.

Trustee Jann Reed, the newest board member, said she expected Brown would leave when his contract was scheduled to end in July 2007, and it took her by surprise that he’s going sooner.

“I feel that it’s a good decision for him. He’s accomplished a lot of the things that he set out to do here in Chico. He’s ready for new challenges,” she said. “Dr. Brown made this decision on his own terms at a time that was right for him.”

While many credit Brown with making smart hiring decisions at the district office level, opinion is split on how much he’s done to help, or hurt, relations between employee groups and district administration.

When Brown arrived in 1999, teachers were threatening to strike, and Anderson credits him with smoothing things over.

Brown is himself proud that during his tenure the district was able to survive declining enrollment and $9 million in cuts while leaving most of the educational program intact.

As for regrets, he said, “The disappointment I have is that I didn’t manage to elevate my interest in middle schools to a higher level.”

Brown, who had weathered controversies in his previous districts, also acknowledged that when he first came to town he did not relish working with news reporters, but with pressure from the media and the Board of Trustees, “I’ve gotten more comfortable.”

“The board made it an issue for me,” he said. “It’s not insincere.”