Newark Unified School District superintendent ousted

Former Superintendent Mark Triplett. (Credit: Newark Unified School District)

The superintendent of Newark Unified School District has been dismissed despite opposition from the community.

Newark Unified School District board of education accepted the resignation of Mark Triplett on a 3-2 vote during a special meeting on Monday evening, with board members Bowen Zhang and Phuong Nguyen opposed.

“If he was the one who initiated this resignation from the district, member Zhang and I would not have voted against it today,” Nguyen said.

Triplett’s contract was extended for a year with a 2% pay increase on a 4-1 vote at an Aug. 4 meeting, with board member Aiden Hill opposed. At the time, Hill said he would have preferred terminating Triplett’s contract for his “involvement in malfeasance and corruption,” though former board member Terrence Grindall pointed out the district’s attorney investigated claims of corruption and determined they were unfounded.

At Monday’s meeting, Nguyen said the only thing that had changed between the extension of the superintendent’s contract and the approval of his resignation agreement was the makeup of the board. Board members Nancy Thomas and Katherine Jones recently replaced Grindall and Alicia Marquez.

“The new board members are now aligned with member Hill,” Nguyen said, “and he has made several attempts during prior open public meetings, asking for the superintendent’s and executive assistant’s resignation on unsubstantiated claims of wrongdoing. Likewise, President Thomas has also made no secret of wanting to buy out the superintendent’s contract if she was elected.”

Nguyen pointed out that the life expectancy of superintendents at the district over the past 10 years has been 2 1/2 years.

The students, staff and community members who spoke at the meeting said they were upset with the lack of transparency around Triplett’s departure and were unanimous in their opposition to the decision to part ways with him.

Newark Memorial High School student Sophia Rollins, a junior, said she appreciated the superintendent taking the time to come to the school and hear directly from the students about what they needed, like a new track and field, which Hill opposed approving.

“Thank you for actually caring about what’s best for the students,” Rollins said.

Parent Michelle Padilla thanked Triplett for his transparency and communication while guiding the district through the early days of the pandemic and then told the board they were being irrational.

“Two of these board members, who have made no secret that they want to get rid of Dr. Triplett, have been in their role just over one month,” Padilla said.

Student trustee Diego Torres said the superintendent went above and beyond to make sure students were being heard and getting the resources they needed.

“How are we supposed to function with our fifth superintendent in just 10 years,” Torres asked.

A couple of people said this has been a pattern with the board, citing a 2015 Alameda County Grand Jury Report that found the board “with alarming regularity, ignored and violated the rules, regulations, guidelines – and sometimes even the laws – created to govern how they conduct the public’s business.” It stated that previous efforts by the board “to self-police its own misconduct have been unsuccessful.”

Triplett, whose resignation was effective immediately, said it was an honor and privilege to serve Newark Unified, but the newly seated board wanted to go in a different direction so they decided to amicably separate.

“I am confident that Newark Unified will continue on the path to becoming a world-class school district under the leadership and the guidance of the board of education and the incredible dedication and hard work of the teachers and staff of our district,” Triplett said to a standing ovation from the audience.

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