SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) - San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Carlos Garcia announced Wednesday that he will retire in July, ending his five-year tenure as the head of the district.
Garcia, who turned 60 in January, said at a news conference late Wednesday morning that he is retiring as superintendent on July 5.
The decision, which Garcia said he made a couple of months ago, comes "with great, mixed emotions," he said.
KCBS' Anna Duckworth Reports:
He said he was retiring to spend more time with family and friends and travel around the world, but said that "this has been the best job I've ever had in my life."
Norman Yee, president of the district's board of education, announced at the news conference that Deputy Superintendent Richard Carranza will be Garcia's successor.
The district is still negotiating the terms of Carranza's employment as superintendent.
Garcia said knowing that Carranza, who he also previously worked with in the Clark County School District in Nevada, would be taking over for him "made my decision much easier."
Carranza said he would "look to continue the work we've started" when he takes over.
Mayor Ed Lee, who also attended Wednesday's news conference, congratulated Garcia on his tenure, saying "he is leaving at a time where there's been marked improvement because of his leadership."
However, leaders of the city's teachers union questioned the timing of the announcement, which comes just two weeks after Garcia announced that layoff notices would be handed out to 485 district employees, including 210 teachers, counselors and nurses.
The union, United Educators of San Francisco, is taking issue with the method the district is using to select teachers to lay off.
The board of education on Feb. 28 approved Garcia's proposal to exclude the layoffs of teachers from 14 schools in a zone that includes low-income neighborhoods in the city's Bayview and Mission Districts, based on the argument that those schools are most in need of stability from year to year.
"The superintendent's proposal poisoned the well, and now he's leaving the farm," said Ken Tray, political director for UESF and longtime social studies teacher at the city's Lowell High School.
"What is he leaving behind? He's leaving behind a school district pitting student against student, school community against school community, parent against parent and teacher against teacher," Tray said.
Garcia said his decision to retire had nothing to do with the union's complaints, and said that he disagreed with the union's opinion of his proposal.
"I don't buy that, I think we made a great decision," he said. "For once, students were given the first priority."
He said when making layoffs each year, the district already skips over 300 teachers in hard-to-fill positions in math, science and special education classes, and said the schools in the low-income zones are also hard to recruit teachers to.
"Where was the outrage before about those being the lowest performing schools for decades?," Garcia said. "Why did we allow this to exist for over 40 years?"
Tray also took issue with the school district's large financial reserves, saying the district "has more than enough money to save each and every school worker's job" but is refusing to use it.
Garcia called that "misinformation" and said "we're going to utilize (the reserves) to save teachers and jobs."
He said, "We feel awful about giving pink slips to people ... but we have to look financially, how does this school district stay afloat?"
The district is facing a budget deficit that could be as high as $119 million over the next two years, depending on whether a tax proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown fails.
The district has until May 15 to issue final layoff notices to teachers. Along with getting an anticipated $6 million from the city's rainy day fund, Garcia said he will also be negotiating contracts within the district to reduce the number of layoffs.
"I may be a lame duck, but I won't be a dead duck," he said of his remaining months in office. "There's a lot of work to be done, and I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting that work done."
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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