ACSA proposal to support leaders is now law
January 8, 2024
A new state law providing greater transparency and accountability for school leaders went into effect Jan. 1, resulting from the ACSA-led effort to mitigate the abrupt dismissal of district superintendents in politically charged communities.
Senate Bill 494 requires a “cooling-off” period following a school board election and at least 72-hours public notice for a school board to vote on the dismissal of superintendents without cause.
ACSA collaborated with the bill’s author, Sen. Josh Newman, who chairs the Senate Education Committee. Together they secured the successful passage with bipartisan support throughout the legislative session. The bill arrived on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk with all previous registered opposition removed.
The need for the new law became clear after a spate of superintendent and school leader dismissals, often with limited public notice. In one example, Orange Unified School District’s newly elected board dismissed its superintendent and assistant superintendent without cause and with just 24-hour notice to the school community and the superintendent. The vote took place at a special meeting held during winter break.
ACSA’s Governmental Relations team heard directly from superintendents at a January 2023 convening about their concern that sudden leadership dismissals can destabilize schools, cause financial difficulties and negatively impact students, staff, parents and the broader school community.
ACSA crafted the legislation to uphold the authority of school board members while providing greater assurances for educators. Specifically, SB 494 permits district school boards to only vote on superintendent and assistant superintendent dismissals without cause at a public meeting with at least 72-hours notice, following Ralph M. Brown Open Meeting Law requirements for non-special meetings. It also provides a 30-day “cooling-off” period following an election that resulted in a change in school board membership.
The cooling-off period will help board members gain a more complete understanding of their district, which will equip them with the tools they need to responsibly deliberate and act upon significant personnel decisions over which they have direct authority.
Earlier this year, Sen. Newman said public engagement in such meetings was key to transparency and fairness.
“School leadership plays a key role in strengthening our communities and attracting and retaining high-quality educators and staff ...”
Edgar Zazueta, ACSA Executive Director, explaining the importance of SB 494
“Meetings of a school board where the termination of school district leadership may be considered should occur only with sufficient public notice, thereby providing an appropriate opportunity for public engagement, which is so critical as it relates to major decisions which may have far-reaching effects,” he said.
ACSA Executive Director Edgar Zazueta emphasized the importance of strong and consistent school leadership when it comes to student success.
“School leadership plays a key role in strengthening our communities and attracting and retaining high-quality educators and staff, as well as providing the tools our students need to become college- and career-ready,” Zazueta said. “This bill is focused on doing what is best for students inside and outside the classroom.”
Advocacy in Action
Read ACSA's complete 2023 Advocacy in Action summary.