Morongo Unified Puts Superintendent On Paid Administrative Leave

(June 24)  TWENTYNINE PALMS — The Morongo Unified School District Board of Trustees abruptly placed superintendent Cecelia English on paid administrative leave on June 21.
That move came almost a month after the board balked at giving English a 5.77 percent raise over her $175,000 annual salary, while conferring the same 5.77 percent raise on the district’s three assistant superintendents, Doug Weller, Tom Baumgarten and David Price.
English’s one-year tenure with Morongo Unified was rocky from the outset. The director of academics at the Newark School District in Northern California, English was hired on a 3-2 vote of the board of trustees in June 2013, with trustees Karalee Hargrove and Ronald Palmer in opposition.
English possesses a doctorate in education and seemed intent upon leading the district forward in the aftermath of Jim Majchrzak’s departure as superintendent.  Majchrzak remained with the district for the last six months of 201 as a special assignment administrator applying for grants.
Elements of the community, including Hargrove, Palmer and some members of the Morongo Teachers Association, were critical of the salary provided to English, which was $25,000 more than Majchrzak received and a substantial raise over what English was making in the Newark School District.
English did not hit it off with Morongo Teachers Association President Terri Weitz and her relations with the Morongo Teachers Association never warmed.
With the dawning of 2014, things grew decidedly worse. At a board meeting in March, with emotions running high over teacher compensation, approaching 200 members of the Morongo Teachers Association turned their backs on her as a show of contempt and protest while she was speaking.
In the face of concerted and vigorous opposition by members of the public and a group of teachers, the school board appeared intimidated out of providing to English the same raise as was given to Weller, Baumgarten and Price.
In a special closed session held on Saturday, English was suspended. No reason for the board’s action was given.

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