West Contra Costa Unified Superintendent Dr. Bruce Harter will retire June 30, two years before his contract expires, as the result of “current political realities,” the district announced Friday.
The longest-serving superintendent in Contra Costa County at 10 years, Harter says his decision to step down relates to ongoing allegations of mismanagement of school bond construction funds. Last year, the Contra Costa Times called for his firing over the issue.
“The controversy over my service relating to the bond program could impede the District’s chances of renewing the current parcel tax in the November election,” Harter said in a district statement. “It is my hope that by removing myself from the equation, there will be more support for this critical funding source.”
Harter called the decision “difficult” but added it was “what’s best for our district.”
“It is clear that my continued presence would distract the conversation away from what is best for our students, and that is the renewal of the parcel tax,” Harter said.
In a statement, some of Harter’s supporters stood up for him. Maria Resendiz, a district community worker and parent, said Dr. Harter stabilized a system “fraught with uncertainty and fear.”
“When he was hired, the first thing he did was come to our schools and do listening sessions to find out what kind of change we wanted for our students. Someone was listening to where we wanted this district to go,” Resendiz said. “He was always there with us. I am sad that he is leaving, but I am honored to have worked with him hand-in-hand to try to change the challenges our kids face.”
The termination of his contract will be an agenda item at the upcoming Board of Education meeting. Amending Harter’s contract will save the district about $571,000. As part of the amendment, he relinquishes his contractual right to lifetime family health and dental benefits, among other compensation.
In retirement, Harter plans to volunteer in schools and in the community as well as provide professional assistance to aspiring administrators.
The district listed accomplishments that have been made during Harter’s tenure:
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