After a rocky year-and-a-half on the job, Santa Clara County Office of Education Superintendent Xavier De La Torre will be heading back to Texas for a job as superintendent of a smaller school district. He sent an email to county Board of Education members late Wednesday night informing him of his decision.
San Jose Inside reported more than three months ago that De La Torre was on the brink of being fired or resigning after a series of dustups with staff and a dissatisfactory performance review. He accepted the county’s top education post in February 2012.
As county superintendent, De La Torre oversaw 31 school districts, 17,000 teachers and 280,000 students. Some of his top priorities after coming to the county office were to make staff leaner and more productive, which didn’t sit well with some district employees. He cut 33 administrative positions, though some were later restored.
Going from managing a 44,000-student district in El Paso to overseeing an office the size of Santa Clara County’s, with different personalities, protocols and a mandate to make the office more lean, proved to be a difficult situation.
“Xavier kind of walked into a hornet’s nest,” one board member told San Jose Inside in October. “There’s always going to be complaints.”
But De La Torre’s management style was considered so disruptive that the Board of Education hired an “executive coach” last summer to help him interact with staff in a more productive manner. Before coming to the county, he worked as superintendent of Socorro Independent School District in El Paso, Texas. He will reportedly return to El Paso to take the superintendent post for Ysleta Independent School District.
The Board made this official statement in an email making the rounds: “Dr. De La Torre preferred to return to a local district and continue the work in which he had been previously engaged. The Board respects his decision and wishes him well in his new endeavor. The path forward for the Board is to select a new Superintendent as quickly as possible and soon designate interim leadership for the County Office of Education.”
Details of De La Torre’s departure are still unclear—a settlement is currently being negotiated—but a source with knowledge of the situation said he will be gone before June 30.
El Paso’s school districts have been subject to widespread rumors of test manipulation to gain federal grant money—although no evidence ever linked De La Torre to the test cheating scandal. He left his former post just before an audit came out accusing his top administrators of impropriety. Several administrators were suspended until a final report cleared them of any wrongdoing.
As part of a negotiated buyout, De La Torre will likely have 18 months from the time he leaves to pay back a housing loan of about $960,000. The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 19, but a special session could be called sooner.
Calls for comment to De La Torre’s office were not immediately returned.
Josh Koehn contributed to this report.