COSTA MESA — Newport-Mesa Unified school board Trustee Karen Yelsey said the board “will be in the search for a new superintendent” in light of Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard’s conviction of two felonies on Monday.
“It is what it is,” said Yelsey, a Hubbard supporter who added that she was saddened by Hubbard’s verdict in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
“The district will continue to function and move forward positively as it has been doing,” she said.
Other board members were not as confident about what’s in store for Hubbard’s future with the district.
School board President Dave Brooks called for special closed-session meeting 3 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the “board’s legal options regrading the superintendent’s employment contract and next steps in light of the outcome in the case,” district spokeswoman Laura Boss said in prepared statement.
Deputy Supt. and Chief Business Official Paul Reed, who stepped as superintendent in while Hubbard took more than five months of paid leave to prepare his defense, will continue to lead the district in the meantime.
Parents and educators have expressed sadness and disappointment in the verdict, while others say they saw the writing on the wall.
“As educators, of course, we are saddened with what this has done for the reputation of Newport-Mesa, and we look forward to getting a new superintendent who will put money into the classroom and focus on what’s happening in the classroom,” said Kimberly Claytor, president of the teachers union.
The jury found Hubbard, who turns 55 on Thursday, guilty of two charges of felony misappropriation of public funds related to his time as head of the Beverly Hills Unified School District. He was acquitted of a third felony charge.
Trustee Walt Davenport, who has adamantly supported Hubbard, said he doesn’t feel Hubbard mislead him about his innocence — he drew his own conclusions from what he knew.
“I’m very surprised,” Davenport said. “I did not expect him to be found guilty.”
Foley, the only trustee who voted against allowing Hubbard to go on paid administrative leave, wasn’t surprised by the outcome, based on what she read in the newspapers.
“I’m glad that justice was done,” said Foley, an attorney. “We can close this chapter in the district and move forward.”
Trustees Dana Black, Judy Franco and Martha Fluor — each of whom supported Hubbard — did not return calls for comment.
Corona del Mar High School PTA President Anne Gordinier said she was sorry to hear of the conviction, considering the state that schools are in.
She said Hubbard has always been professional and approachable, and she was impressed with his leadership.
“I just wish the whole thing hadn’t happened,” Gordinier said. “I’m really sad. I was really, really hoping it wouldn’t be this way.”
TeWinkle Middle School PTA President Donna Barnhard-Swift said she was shocked by the verdict, but is waiting to see what happens during the appeal and how the school district handles the situation.
“I have trust and faith in [the board] that they’ll know what to do,” she said. “I have faith in them that they’ll do the right thing.”
Some in the community believe the school board should be held accountable for standing by Hubbard.
Newport Beach parent Amanda Dill
said she was appalled when the board allowed Hubbard to take paid leave; she said was disgusted with the way everything has been handled, starting with the sexually tinged correspondence Hubbard sent from his school district email account to Karen Anne Christiansen, his co-defendant in the case.
“I think I’m just embarrassed and appalled — I’m just still very disappointed in our board for approving paid leave,” she said. “It makes me feel like our board is not capable of doing a good job, and I can’t wait for the election.”
She is considering running for the school board. The four-year terms for Brooks, Black and Fluor are up this year.
Foley said she will request at the closed session that the district conduct an audit and that Hubbard make restitution for the payments, his paid leave and pension contributions he has received.
“It may be that we have to take it as a loss, but I think we owe it to the community to ask,” she said.
This isn’t the first time the school district has had a top official convicted of a felony.
Former Chief Financial Officer Stephen Wagner was arrested in 1992 for embezzling more than $3.7 million in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s from the district. He was sentenced to six years in prison, but died of AIDS before his sentence was complete.