The Buellton Union School Distinct is seeking a part-time interim superintendent following the resignation of Tom Cooper.
Board of Trustees President Joyce Azevedo confirmed the departure in a statement Friday, a week after Cooper turned in his resignation from the top position in the two-campus district..
She said the district had been unable to comment due to a seven-day revocation clause in the “settlement agreement” between the board and Cooper
“Mr. Cooper's reasons for submitting his resignation are his own and were discussed by the board in closed session. Due to closed session confidentiality, I cannot provide the reasons for his decision. If he wants to comment on them, that is his prerogative,” Azevedo said.
Cooper could not be reached for comment Friday.
The resignation comes a month after allegations that Cooper sexually harassed a pregnant teacher were made public. The accuser, Oak Valley School first-grade teacher Lisa Restivo, discussed the allegations during the June 27 school board meeting.
A week earlier, the board had unanimously agreed to discipline Cooper regarding the alleged harassment, but the details of the consequences were not be disclosed because it is a confidential personnel matter.
The steps taken against Cooper are not the basis of Cooper’s stepping down, Azevedo said in Friday’s statement.
“I will and have stated that his resignation is not due to any disciplinary action taken by the board,” she said.
The Buellton Education Association, the teachers’ union, filed a uniform complaint of harassment against Cooper on behalf of its members April 11. There were 27 witnesses, according to the BEA.
BEA President Brian Wallace could not be reached for comment Friday.
A district-hired, independent investigator looked into the allegations and the report was taken into consideration at a June 21 special board meeting.
The June 27 meeting was held 22 days after voters went to the polls to decide on a $3.2 million bond measure for school improvements. Measure V, which needed 55 percent approval, narrowly passed with 56.03 percent of the vote.
A teacher in the district for almost 20 years, Restivo told board members she kept quiet about the matter for nearly three months to avoid negatively impacting the bond proposal or interfering with the investigation of Cooper.
She accused Cooper of talk about “putting birth control in the staff lounge and water, negative reactions towards pregnant employees, sexism towards women, and inappropriate relationships.”
In a July 13 statement, Cooper said he may have shown insensitivity to “a few pregnant teachers.”
“Because of my sensitivity to the students that I serve I may have made, what some people perceive as, insensitive remarks to a few pregnant teachers who announced that they would be missing a large amount of the school year,” he said. “This was several years back and brought forward now by a teacher that I reprimanded and a union that I criticized. That being said, I now realize that my remarks may have offended a couple of teachers and for that I am truly sorry.”
Cooper served as superintendent of the two-campus district, kindergarten to fifth-grade Oak Valley School and the sixth- to eighth-grade Jonata Middle School, since January 2003.
He retired in June and had been working in a part-time capacity with the expectation that schedule would continue into the 2012-13 school year.
With the help of the Santa Barbara County Education Office, the board is in the process of finding a part-time interim superintendent.
“District business is continuing and we look forward to welcoming students and staff back to school in August,” Azevedo said.
The next regular board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 8 in the Oak Valley School Library, 595 Second St.