The action fills a large gap in the district's personnel policy, which became painfully obvious in July 2009 when Superintendent Maurice Ghysels informed the district's trustees that he and Principal Carmen Mizell were in an intimate relationship. Ghysels gave no thought to ending the relationship or resigning. Instead, apparently on his own, he decided to transfer oversight of Mizell to the assistant superintendent and go on with his job.
Under the district's personnel rules at the time, the board was powerless to dismiss Ghysels or take any other action. There simply was no policy on the books that barred supervising employees from having a romantic relationship. The district had rules related to sexual harassment and conflict of interest, but not nepotism. Instead, the district relied on the California School Boards Association for updates on policy, but received no guidance at the time, according to Stephanie Totter, the district's assistant superintendent for administrative services.
Craig Goldman, who became superintendent in July, when Ghysels left the district, said the new policy is not meant to discourage district employees from recommending relatives or dating. Nor, at this point, does it cover the superintendent, who will sign a separate agreement with the trustees.
"The policy does not prohibit district employees marrying, being related, or having romantic relationships," Goldman said. But it does set standards for supervisors and subordinates to insure that conflicts of interest don't exist, he said.
That is the key provision. In most cases, employees who are not in a direct reporting relationship can be related or in a relationship with no harm or conflict to the district. Only if one supervises the other does it become a problem.
As it turned out, it took nearly a year for Ghysels to find another job, which meant that he continued to draw his full salary long after the trustees had announced that Goldman would take over. It was an awkward situation that might not have happened if the policy, including coverage for the superintendent, had been on the books in the first place.