Assistant superintendent explains resignation

Deni Christensen, Laguna Beach Unified School District's assistant superintendent of instructional services, is leaving her post, she confirmed in a phone interview Monday.

Christensen, who began with the district last July, submitted her resignation letter Friday afternoon, three days after parents questioned during a board meeting the district's process of hiring to fill administrative positions.

"I don't want to be in a situation where people view my hiring as cronyism within the district," Christensen said. "I don't want to be part of a distraction. The teachers don't need that and the kids don't need that. I want what's best for the district and the kids."

Christensen said she hadn't planned to resign but decided otherwise after speaking with her husband and daughter.

"I'm fine with being questioned, but I've never experienced mistrust as to who I am as a professional or my abilities; that's when it went sideways," Christensen said.

Tuesday's meeting became heated during public comments when several speakers brought up their concern about whether the district was hiring the most qualified applicants for administrative positions or if hiring was being based on friendships.

"I worked in education for 20 years, including curriculum and instruction the last nine years; that was called into question," Christensen said. "I don't understand it and I don't want to have to defend it."

Christensen's last day at the district will be July 19.

"I definitely have plans [for future work], but I can't be more specific," Christensen said.

Supt. Sherine Smith, in an email, lauded Christensen's service to the district, noting as an example her work toward integrating upcoming new state testing standards called Common Core.

"Deni is a stellar educator and leader and has done an excellent job at [the district]," Smith said.  "She has helped enlarge and enhance our K-12 music program, led our Common Core state standards initiative, and supported our principals with problem-solving and school issues.

"I am disappointed that certain members of our community have criticized her ethics and credibility. I wish Deni the very best in her new position."

Christensen said she had a good relationship with Smith and the board and resigned because she thought it was the right thing to do.

"I love and appreciate the opportunity [to work for the district] and value being a part of the community," Christensen said. "This shouldn't be a hugely divisive thing. The right thing to do is refocus on what should be discussed: supporting teachers and supporting the move to Common Core."

Smith said the district will post the job opening on, a national online public education job search website, and EdCal, which lists California school administrative openings, as soon as possible, probably this week.

Candidates will go before an interview panel of principals, teachers, classified staff, and SchoolPower and PTA representatives, according to Smith.

Staff will make a hiring recommendation to the school board perhaps in August, she said.

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