Fate of Peoria Unified superintendent postponed, governing board was set to decide on employment of Stiffler

By Philip  Haldiman, Independent Newsmedia

A Peoria Unified School District Governing Board meeting was held late Friday afternoon to decide the fate of Superintendent Darwin Stiffler, who is currently on a leave of absence.

There have been complaints about the school board becoming politicized and fears of rolling back technology on personalized learning. Recently, rumors have swirled over what might come of Mr. Stiffler, who is in his second year as leader of the district.

Mr. Stiffler would not comment on the meeting other than a statement via email that he did not anticipate the vote to be continued.

The school board has also been silent on any reasons for a possible separation of Mr. Stiffler from the district, citing that information discussed in executive sessions cannot be made public.

In Arizona, municipalities and school  boards are allowed to discuss certain items away from the limelight of the public arena. These closed-door meetings are known as executive sessions, and Mr. Stiffler has been the subject of at least three executive sessions since Oct. 16.

On Friday, the board went into the executive session to discuss his employment at 4 p.m. and did not emerge until about 6 p.m.  Around 50 community members and district employees had been waiting during those two hours to see what would happen. The crowd had dwindled to less than  30 when the five-person governing board finally came out of the closed door session.

The board took their seats to begin the meeting, and Governing  Board member Monica Ceja Martinez motioned to postpone a decision on the employment of Mr. Stiffler. Consequently, the second agenda item — the appointment of an individual to act as temporary superintendent — was also postponed.

Both agenda items were approved unanimously.

Ms. Ceja Martinez said the board needed more time to come to a decision. She would not comment on why Mr. Stiffler’s job is at risk.

“What I can say is that this was unexpected,” she said. “He has taken his discretionary leave, but we still have a superintendent, and 37,000 students will continue to come to school and teachers will continue to do what they do best.”

A date has not yet been set for more discussion on this issue.

At a recent board meeting Trina Berg, president of the Peoria Education Association and a teacher at Heritage Elementary School, expressed disappointment that the governing board voted last May against a bond for the Nov. 7 election, in which every Maricopa County school district funding measure was approved by voters.

She said, recently employees have been blind sided by events they know nothing about, which has created uncertainty in the district. Ms. Berg said she felt the governing board has become political when it should be non-partisan.

“I’d rather have it postponed than have them rush into anything hastily,” she said.

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