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Paso Robles school board members ‘shocked’ by superintendent’s sudden resignation

The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Superintendent announced his sudden resignation on Thursday. Two other top administrators have also resigned.

Superintendent Chris Williams announced his resignation during a closed session meeting where the school board was set to discuss his mid-year evaluation.

“To actually hear him that he was going to leave actually blew a lot of us away,” said Joel Peterson, Board Member and Clerk of the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District. “You know, it was emotional and it was hard to hear it.”

“I think we’re shocked that it’s actually happening but at the same time, after some of the torment Mr. Williams has had to deal with over the last couple of years, there’s an element of not being surprised as well,” said Matt McClish, Board Member of the Paso Robles Unified School District.

His announcement came after his ninth consecutive positive evaluation that a district spokesperson says met and exceeded standards.

Williams has been superintendent since 2014.

Recently, he came been under fire for a budget crisis that has left the district with $2.1 million less than what was projected for this school year.

A couple of months ago, he even announced he would donate his 1.5 percent raise to the district.

“I think there was some writing on the wall he was struggling with maybe a couple of the board members,” Peterson said. “There’s been some contentious issues going on. The school district budget didn’t help. Chris Williams vision didn’t — every student will have success, it’s about the students and moving forward — it was being challenged by some board, by some folks in the community that didn’t support Chris and he saw that.”

In a cryptic statement issued on Thursday, Williams said in part, “Many of you, my friends, have what it takes, yet there are those who will need to focus on why they are here, what their purpose is, and what they have done to positively impact those around us, who sit in the chairs of our schools, and who depend on us as role models and leaders so they may find greatness within.”

Williams’ supporters say he’s a visionary and he’s brought great change over the last four years, including new music and art programs and growing enrollment.

Two other admins also resigned: Kristen Shouse, Director of Student Services, and Rich Clayton, Director of Athletics.

“They stand behind Chris Williams in everything he does and there was some solidarity there and we’ll miss them as well. They’re both great individuals and great professionals,” Peterson said.

“I don’t think this had to do with education. I don’t think any of this had to do with what’s best for our community. I think it was egos and other things that ultimately hurt us,” McClish concluded.

Shouse told KSBY she has accepted a job as Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Schools at a school district near her hometown and that she actually submitted her resignation in mid-November.

“It has been an honor to serve here and the genuine relationships that I have formed with staff and students will be recalled fondly,” Shouse said.

Next week, three new board members will be sworn in. Chris Williams’ last day is February 6.

The district also released this statement Thursday, saying, “It is with the deepest gratitude that we thank Chris Williams for the passion, purpose, conviction, and leadership he has provided in the transformation of our district into one of excellence.”

Alexa Bertola

Alexa Bertola

Alexa Bertola has been a Multimedia Journalist at KSBY for more than two years. She's a general assignment reporter. Story idea? Email her: abertola@ksby.com
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