Where are the Superintendents?

Superintendent Toni Beal’s contract was bought out by the West Sonoma County Union High School District board of trustees at the January 19th closed session board meeting. “We did not make this decision lightly and we believe that this leadership change will help us create the climate necessary to end the disruptive and divisive activities that are inhibiting our school community from coming together and moving forward with a shared commitment and focus for students,” Patrick Nagle, the president of the board of trustees, said during open session. 


The vote was unanimous with trustees Patrick Nagle, Julie Aiello, Jeannie Fernandes, and Kellie Noe who voted to part ways with the former superintendent. Angie Lewis was absent. 


Toni Beal has been the superintendent of the district since July 2018. In 2020, she and other district administrators came up with a possible plan to consolidate both the Analy and El Molino High Schools as a way to get rid of a $1.2 million deficit. 


In March 2021, the school board voted to consolidate the two schools and later adopted a bridge name: West County High School for the new consolidated high school. However, in December of 2021, after the Analy Alumni Association’s threats of pulling out funds and stopping monetary support for the school, the school board voted to go back on their promise and keep the Analy name. This decision, as expected, sparked community outrage and two student-led walkouts with hundreds of students participating on both occasions. 


Were these the disruptive and divisive activities that Patrick Nagle was referring to? 


After the WCHS Activists Club tried to reach out to Toni Beal for an interview regarding the recent events in the district, she stated that she must “decline our interview request at this time.” “As justification for terminating my contract, the Board President implied it happened because I am divisive and disruptive,” Toni Beal stated, and the augmented, “Consenting to an interview with the WCHS Activists Club could be viewed as validating the Board President’s charges against me.” It’s unfortunate that the former district superintendent fears talking to the students because it could contribute to Nagle’s charges. Perhaps this was not intentional and the board is seeking to make students’ voices less loud. 


As per the knowledge of the WCHS Activists Club, Toni Beal was a supporter of the West County High School name. Could this be one of the factors that greatly contributed to the termination of Beal’s contract? 


Absolutely. All of the board of trustees except for Angie Lewis voted to rebrand back to Analy High School. These trustees have been ignoring the students’ voices and opinions, and some have expressed discord with the recent walkouts and actions led by the WCHS Activists Club. 

The board’s decision to rebrand back to Analy has caused community instability from students, staff, and parents. With this instability comes the students voicing their opinions and calling the board trustees out for choices that represent their self-interests. All of the board of trustees are related to Analy High School in some way or another; some are alumni and others are really close with people who graduated from there, such as friends or family members. Therefore, it is fair to say that another great contributing factor to their decision to rebrand back to Analy is the fact that they’re personally attached to the name Analy. 


One of the main purposes of a board trustee is to provide community leadership, but is this really leadership that represents the entirety of West Sonoma County? 


From what we have seen, it could be argued that the termination of Beal’s contract comes mainly from the recent walkouts organized by students that seem to destabilize the biased school board making choices for the “benefit” of the “entire” community. With students criticizing the board’s choices and logic, the trustees face backlash from the community that supports a district for the students and not the adults who graduated decades ago. This makes the trustees’ jobs harder because the students are asking them to do their jobs right, and doing something right requires real effort and consideration of the bigger community. 


With the instability brought upon once again by the board’s decision, we decided to reach out to the incoming short-term superintendent to get his thoughts on the proceedings of the board. Dr. Donald Evans is taking over the district for a little while. When reaching out to him via email wondering what his ideas and opinions about the state of our tumultuous students vs. school board conflict were, he denied comment and said he is still, “gathering information and learning about the District.”


Throughout the process of consolidating, the main reason presented by the board was to save money. By primarily using one campus, one administration, and one of each of the specialized positions (department chairs, athletic directors, sports coaches, etc.), we would be saving a lot of money.


However, the choice to fire Toni Beal and hire an interim Superintendent until a search can be conducted to find a permanent replacement completely contradicts all of that. There is no money being saved in this decision and instead more money is being spent than would otherwise be.


By buying out Toni Beal’s contract ($218,734) and paying for an interim superintendent, we pay double the price for someone not working anymore and someone with no intention of staying in the district.


In addition to this, keeping the name West County High School would cost about $31,500 this year, compared to going back to the name Analy High School, which would cost about $103,410. 


Now we might still be taking high school math, but that doesn’t seem like we’re saving money. It seems as if the board is spending even more money than we would’ve, and this release of Toni Beal and the decision to rebrand back to Analy is counterintuitive to the “save money” backbone of this board. 


What we’re currently seeing in our school district is a lack of representation for the Western-most side of Sonoma County and adults making choices driven by their own self-interests. Is this the leadership we deserve? And most importantly, are we just going to sit in silence and let them do whatever they please?