Fresno Unified board ousts superintendent Michael Hanson

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Hanson said that he would step down at the end of the school year after leading the district for nearly 13 years, but the board ended his tenure Monday night. (KFSN)

The Fresno Unified School District Board voted to terminate long-time superintendent Michael Hanson Monday night.

The board voted to end the superintendent's contract without cause, but trustees say it all stems from a confusing letter Hanson sent to the board at the beginning of this year.

The drama started back in December when Hanson publicly announced his departure. At first, trustees had amicable things to say, but closed door meetings quickly followed.

"The board has made a decision to buy out the superintendent's contract," district board president Brooke Ashjian said.

In a four to two vote with trustee Cal Johnson absent, board members fired superintendent Hanson ahead of his scheduled plan to leave in August.

Ashjian said the problem stems from a message Hanson sent stating that he never resigned from his position and that his job status hasn't changed.

"In light of this development, the board attempted to reach a mutually acceptable resignation date but that did not prove possible," he said.

The Fresno Unified School District issued a statement reading in part, "Superintendent announced he would honor the terms of his contract through August 2017, he informed the Board on January 2, 2017 that 'In fact, I have not resigned my position of Superintendent and in reality, nothing has changed in my job status at all.' Therefore, the Board is not in a position to simply accept the Superintendent's resignation."

Hanson says he was not involved in the board negotiations and that the trustees didn't communicate with him.

"It has been an honor to serve the community, the district, the students - all 74,000 of them," Hanson said. "I believe my contributions stand for themselves."

The buyout will cost the district up to $328,000. The cost includes Hanson's salary and health benefits. Trustee Christopher De La Cerda doesn't believe the termination is in the best interest of students.

"I didn't disagree with the night's decision that was made," he said. "My concern is with the instability this has created in our district."

The board voted to make Hanson's Chief of Staff Bob Nelson the acting superintendent. Nelson pledged to honor Hanson's 12 years of service and provide that stability until the board makes its next move.

"It's a time to venerate the service of Michael Hanson," Nelson said. "There's only been two leaders in the state of California who have had a tenure as long as his as, so we need to respect the 12 years he has served here."

Board members promised to make the search process for the permanent replacement transparent but a timeline still hasn't been released yet.
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