Superintendent Marilou Ryder steps down but keeps salary, benefits until 2012
November 05, 2010 8:02 PM
Natasha Lindstrom

By the numbers:

Victor Valley Union High School District’s Board of Trustees agreed to give outgoing Superintendent Marilou Ryder 18 months of “paid leave,” during which she will collect her regular salary and benefits while serving as an on-call consultant for the district. To read the settlement agreement, click here.

Here are the costs of Ryder’s settlement agreement:

• $350,620 — Total cost of 18-month paid leave

• $20,354 — Health and welfare benefits

• $21,656 — State retirement earnings

• $28,620 — Vacation pay

• $17,490 — Sick leave

• $262,500 — Salary

Source: Herb Calderon, assistant superintendent of business services

VICTORVILLE • Marilou Ryder stepped down from her post as superintendent over Victor Valley Union High School District on Thursday, but she’ll remain a district employee and consultant on paid leave for the next 18 months.

The cost of Ryder’s settlement agreement: $350,620. That includes her regular salary, benefits, vacation, sick leave and retirement earnings through April 30, 2012.

Ryder’s sudden move to leave her leadership position after barely a year stunned district employees, including several dozen who showed for a special meeting Thursday where they planned to urge her to change her mind.

Ryder said she made the decision Tuesday evening as the election results rolled in. Three VVUHSD Board of Trustees incumbents were ousted by newcomers, including Duneen De Bruhl — a former assistant superintendent whom Ryder fired earlier this year.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my career is to do this,” Ryder said by phone Friday. “I just believe at this point that the new board coming in is going to be very different from the agenda that I’m following … I just feel that the new board needs to pick their superintendent.”

The Board agreed on Ryder’s re-negotiated contract and settlement offer on a 3-1-1 vote. Board members Ken Larson, James “Chief” Moitoso and Felix Diaz — all of whom were voted out Tuesday — supported the agreement. Board President Judy Munoz abstained.

Board Member Barbara Dew opposed the move, but not because she was against the details of the settlement. Dew said she knew nothing about Ryder’s request until the day of the meeting and didn’t understand the reasons behind it.

“This was her doing, not ours,” Dew said. “I never heard from her any reasoning why. I think it was wrong for a person to just make a decision without letting us know what was going on.”

Since taking the district’s helm in July 2009, Ryder has promoted a vision of taking the district “from good to great” through open communication, strong customer service and data-driven goals. She drove the launch of the Early College High School at Silverado High School, a full-time virtual school at Victor Valley High School and the EveryDay Counts program, an anti-truancy campaign in partnership with Victor Elementary School District.

Ryder said she’s proudest of her success cultivating leaders and teaching others to train leaders.

She spent Friday morning calling every principal and urging them to encourage teachers and support staff workers to continue “doing the great things they’ve been doing.”

Ryder’s departure follows a string of abrupt leadership changes in the district.

In November 2008, the board fired then-Superintendent Julian Weaver “without cause” and gave him a $230,000 buyout. In June 2006, then-Superintendent Greg Lundeen agreed to retire early in exchange for a year of salary — $124,500 — plus an undisclosed lump sum.

“What we’re doing again is paying another person,” Dew said. “We did the same thing with Julian Weaver, we did the same thing with Lundeen. We end up paying all kinds of people all the time because