DENAIR — Deputy Superintendent Judy Sylvester, head of Denair Unified's business office, is taking over day-to-day administration of the school district following Thursday night's abrupt dismissal of Superintendent Ed Parraz, district office personnel said Friday.
Parraz, 59, was placed on paid leave during a closed-door meeting of the Denair board Thursday night. Trustees are mum on the personnel matter aside from a brief statement that the vote was unanimous and made with "deep regret." The financial terms of Parraz's departure have yet to be negotiated, board President John Plett said. Parraz's contract runs through June 30, 2014. The superintendent made $120,000 plus a $4,200 car allowance per year, but volunteered for a 10 percent percent salary reduction in December.
Denair Unified serves 30 percent fewer children in its regular schools than it did five years ago, losing some to Turlock public high schools and others to its own charter schools. Yet under Parraz's leadership, the district has avoided layoffs and has far more teachers, administrators and support staff per student than most other districts. Its high school, with 340 students, has an average class size of 16, compared with an average of 39 to 40 in Modesto's seven public high schools. Parraz protected jobs by shrinking staff only through attrition.
The board on Thursday acknowledged that Denair remains one of seven districts in California expected to run out of money before the school year's end. Two others on the list already are under state control, a grim prospect the district could face without further cuts.
But negotiations have stalled with its teachers union, and a tentative contract with its support staff was not approved by the Stanislaus County Office of Education, which is monitoring its progress. Assistant Stanislaus Superintendent Don Gatti said the district had not clearly documented what the contract provisions could cost.
Also Thursday, the district approved seeking nearly $700,000 in loans from the county office to make payroll through year's end. "They have no cash," Gatti said. "We do not foresee a month when they have a positive cash flow."
While late state payments cause cash flow problems for many districts, Denair is spending beyond its means, dipping into its reserves by a projected $300,000 this year.
Parraz came to the district in July 2000 as an interim superintendent and got the full title later that year.