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City Schools CFO Resigns

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Video published April 16, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: What factors might have led the San Diego Unified School District's Chief Financial Officer to resign earlier this week? We talk to KPBS Education Reporter Ana Tintocalis about the CFO's resignation, and the latest admissions data for UCSD.

GLORIA PENNER (Host): What a week on the education front. On Tuesday, the San Diego city school chief financial officer resigned after just over a year on the job and there's still no replacement for the resigned superintendent. And on Wednesday, UCSD announced its admissions numbers for the fall quarter and they look somewhat better than last year's. KPBS Education reporter Ana Tintocalis sorts out the news for us. Ok so, first of all Ana, what are the reasons that might have contributed to James Masias's decision to resign from city schools.

ANA TINTOCALIS (KPBS Reporter): Well it's hard to get to exactly why because it’s a personnel matter and that's very difficult to get the details of his resignation. But he was placed on placed on paid administrative leave about two weeks ago and that's when speculation started to spread. Was he not getting along with the school board? Did the school board not like his work? But school officials said that this has nothing to do with Masias's financial analysis, the credit of his numbers, or his performance as the CFO. But they hinted around that there has been tremendous stress and pressure placed on Masias and his finance team because of several years of very deep budget cuts and the school board's demands to overhaul its own budgeting process. So the question is did Masias crack under that stress? Was he exhausted, mentally fatigued; he couldn't do it anymore? Or was it that there was a lot of tension – tensions that flared within the financial office? Those are things we haven't really been able to get to but for the most part school officials have hinted that might have been the reasons.

PENNER: Well here's a copy of the agreement James Masias and the school district and what it says is that he will serve on special to the superintendent – I guess through the end of June…


PENNER: And the other interesting part: that during this period he can work or consult for compensation with other entities or individually. So, you know, he may be overworked but he can take on another job while he continues to work for the district.

TINTOCALIS: It's quite a deal. He was making about $155,000 as CFO and he will continue making that salary until he is let go or officially resigns in June. He won't be working in the central office. He'll be working on what is called "special projects" for the district but those have not been identified. So it's interesting what exactly he will be doing during his time off.

PENNER: What kind of a challenge does this present to the school board. They still don't have a superintendent in place, they're still kind of figuring out what they want in a superintendent, and now they're losing their chief financial officer.

TINTOCALIS: Well I think the biggest challenge is public perception that San Diego Unified has that it can't hold onto its top ranking officials and when it comes to the CFO it's a very important position, as it is in any company. It's even more important in the public school district because you're dealing with tax payer dollars. And the fact that he is now gone means that there might now be a flow problem in terms of, there's not going to be a quick turnaround in scrubbing the numbers and turning out more financial analysis and it provides even more pressure for the finance team that does exist.

PENNER: Before I let you go Ana, this week UC San Diego released its admissions data for the fall quarter. How has – apparently they look better. What about the numbers for minority students?

TINTOCALIS: Well it was a bit of good news for UCSD because they've been dealing with this fallout from earlier this year, that there was a series of racially inflammatory incidents directed at black students. So they've really pledged and have agreed to step up their efforts to admit more minority students. And so the seven percent increase in the number of admissions that they've put out there for certain minority groups: black, Latinos and Native Americans. The challenge for UCSD is to get those students is to accept their admissions offer. And the university has always had a tough time doing that, so – and critics say it's not a friendly campus to these certain minority groups so we'll see how that translates later in the fall.

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