Education

Schools administrator awaits district review

Modesto City Schools Board listened to Deborah Bailey during public comments. Afterward the board went into closed session. June 1, 2009 (BART AH YOU/bahyou@modbee.com)
Modesto City Schools Board listened to Deborah Bailey during public comments. Afterward the board went into closed session. June 1, 2009 (BART AH YOU/bahyou@modbee.com)

A few details are clearer about what's happening with Modesto City Schools' chief business official five weeks after she was placed on paid administrative leave.

At Monday night's board meeting, trustees laid out a plan in which Deputy Superintendent of Business Debbe Bailey will meet with the district's attorney to review her annual performance evaluation prepared by Superintendent Arturo Flores. Bailey can respond to the evaluation at that time, then it will be made public, trustees said, though they gave no timeline for the release.

But after Bailey was admitted to a Modesto hospital early Tuesday for cardiac tests, any meeting between her and the district's attorney has been delayed indefinitely, Bailey said via e-mail Tuesday.

After weeks of citing confidentiality rules in refusing to discuss Bailey's case, trustees reversed course Monday and agreed to release Bailey's evaluation because the topic has become "a public issue," board President Steve Grenbeaux said Tuesday.

Second-in-command at the district, Bailey was suspended April 27 for unspecified reasons. Flores and trustees have refused to comment on details, citing state laws that require confidentiality on personnel matters.

Bailey has worked at the district for 23 years, nine of them as the chief business official. Her contract expires in June 2010. With an annual salary of about $165,000, the district is paying Bailey about $14,000 a month to stay home.

Trustees say they want to move as swiftly as possible to find a resolution.

"It's frustrating how slowly the wheels of justice grind," Trustee Steve Collins said Tuesday. When asked why it took more than a month for Bailey to get a meeting with the district's attorney, Collins said they were waiting for Bailey and her attorney to submit a settlement proposal. Trustees then rejected that plan; details of the proposal were not released by either side.

"There are certain ways to do everything," Trustee Nancy Cline said Tuesday.

In two statements to trustees during public comment at board meetings, Bailey indicated that her suspension is the result of disagreements with some of Flores' decisions, calling them "ill-advised or downright dangerous for the district fiscally." Neither side will give details on the difference of opinion.

Bailey's four-year contract provides for termination of her employment without notice or severance if she's found to be in "material breach" of the contract. If a settlement is struck, she's eligible for a check for the remainder of her contract, about $180,000.

Some trustees still were referring questions about Bailey to Grenbeaux, who acts as the board's spokesman on personnel matters.

"We're trying to do this in a professional manner" by deferring comment to Grenbeaux, Trustee Kim Spina said Tuesday.

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at mhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339.

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