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Centinela school board votes to fire high-paid superintendent

FBI
Jose Fernandez's job appears done after making more last year than superintendents in the largest districts
Highly paid Centinela school leader has 10 days to fight for job under his contract
Centinela schools chief faces termination amid federal and state inquiries into his pay.

The Board of Education for the Centinela Valley school district voted Tuesday night to begin dismissal proceedings against Supt. Jose Fernandez, who attracted public scrutiny because of compensation that surpassed $750,000 last year.

The vote was 5-0.

Interim Supt. Bob Cox said legal counsel had advised the school board and staff not to comment, but that Fernandez was being dismissed “for cause.” Such an action would allow the district to avoid the contract’s costly buyout provisions.

Fernandez’s contract allows for termination because of a “substantial and material breach.” The termination cannot go into effect until Fernandez has received a written statement explaining the grounds for his dismissal, which had not yet happened on Tuesday, according to the district. Fernandez then has 10 days to schedule a conference with the school board to address the concerns.

The district had hired an outside firm to investigate Fernandez's compensation package and other matters. He was suspended in early April.

Fernandez, 54, made considerably more last year than the leaders of the New York, Los Angeles and Chicago school districts, the nation's largest school systems. His 2013 compensation was inflated by a one-time supplement of $230,000, which he used to buy seniority in state retirement systems. Doing so allows him to collect a higher pension when he retires.

The superintendent's contract and related issues also have been under investigation by the FBI, the L.A. County district attorney, the county education office and a state pension system.

Fernandez has been advised by his attorney not to comment, but in the past he has said that school board members understood his contract when they approved it with the advice of counsel. He also has insisted that the district contacted the county education office specifically to affirm that his employment terms complied with the law.

Follow @howardblume for news about schools and education policy

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