A truce has been struck between the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District board and Supt. Bruce Newlin, who has agreed to drop many of the confrontational clauses he wrote into his contract in November before three supporters left the board.
The changes were negotiated in an eight-hour session Monday and unanimously approved the same day by the board, which had been looking for ways to overturn several contract provisions that gave Newlin legal protections unprecedented in the district.
"I think it was an attempt on the part of the superintendent to demonstrate his willingness to work with the newly constituted board," observed William Campbell, a new board member who campaigned against Newlin's policies. "And the new board agreed we wanted to show some solidarity and not divisiveness."
Last fall's election replaced some Newlin supporters with Newlin critics, prompting the superintendent to seek contract additions arming him for possible legal battles with the incoming board. The new language was included in Newlin's contract when the outgoing board extended his three-year contract by an additional year, to 1991.
Two of the board's three newcomers were furious about the additions. After they took office, the board directed the school district's attorneys to review the new language--as well as the manner in which it had been adopted--for possible legal challenges.
"We had some parts of the Education Code that led us to believe we had the right to make some changes," said Campbell, who was not sure which sections of state law were at issue. The district's attorney declined to comment, and other board members said they had agreed not to discuss the precise nature of Monday's negotiations between Newlin and board representatives. The district on Tuesday, however, released a copy of the new contract.
Newlin said he consented to the revisions because "the whole situation had gotten blown out of proportion, and in an effort to bring some stability to the situation, we both agreed to make some compromises."
Some Wording Dropped
The latest contract sheds some, but not all, of the wording added by the old board.
It eliminates the year's extension, leaving a 1990 expiration date for Newlin's contract.
A clause requiring the district to pay all of Newlin's legal fees in the event of a conflict with the district has been rewritten so that the loser in a court battle--whether it be the district or Newlin--has to pick up the legal bills for the winner.
A paragraph has been dropped that stated that "any termination or attempted termination" before the expiration of Newlin's contract would damage his career.
Board newcomer Sal Ambriz called the new contract "a workable compromise. . . . The teeth are no longer in it."