Cayucos School Superintendent to Retire

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

February 24, 2022

Cayucos Elementary School District will need a new leader after the Superintendent announced his retirement effective the end of February.

It’s been a rocky start to the new year for Scott Smith, who has been Superintendent for both the Cayucos Elementary School District and the Coast Union School District in Cambria for several years. 

The unique shared-leader situation has long been in effect for the two tiny districts. 

Cayucos is a 1-school district that goes from kindergarten through 8th grade. Cayucos 8th graders can then go to Morro Bay High or Coast Union H.S. in Cambria, a situation which Smith was able to negotiate a few years ago in an solution that had eluded district officials for years. 

Under the agreement with Coast Unified School District, when a student chooses to go to MBHS, half of the property taxes his or her parents pay into the schools follows them, with Coast Union getting to keep the other half.

Smith said in a news report that he would retire from Cayucos District at the end of February. It is unclear if he intends to continue on as the Coast Union superintendent. 

Estero Bay News contacted Smith via email to try and sort out what was a confusing news report but he declined to answer any questions.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the students of Cayucos Elementary for the past five years,” reads a letter Smith sent to parents, staff and board members. “I want to thank the trustees for their recent vote of confidence and pay increase that they have provided for me. Despite their best efforts to get me to delay my retirement a little longer, I intend to submit my retirement notice before Feb. 30.”

Smith was sharply criticized by parents in January after both districts voted to increase his pay, which rose to a combined $220,000 a year with each district paying $110,000.

The salary issue was the latest issue between Smith and the parents, as they’ve clashed several times over the course of the coronavirus pandemic over rules being instituted at the school. 

Smith was criticized by some for not strictly adhering to the State guidelines about facemasks. 

Nevertheless, Smith was gracious in his good-bye letter. “I consider what we have done together as an overwhelming success that has benefited students. I am proud of our work together. As I move into this new season in life, I wish you and your children happiness and success.”

School District to Address Super’s Retirement

The President of the Cayucos Elementary School District Board said they were all a bit stunned when earlier this month the district superintendent announced his intentions to retire and will delve into the process to replace him at an upcoming special meeting.

Cayucos School Board President, Pete Schuler, told Estero Bay News that the special meeting on Feb. 29 (6:30 a.m.) they would “discuss our options and determine a plan of action in closed session.

“Mr. [Scott] Smith remains our superintendent. He has put forth a date for his retirement and intends to submit his stipulated, 120-day notice at the end of this month.”

Smith made a surprise announcement at the Board’s recent meeting, announcing that he intended to put his retirement papers in by the end of February. Schuler said that gives them some time, as the process is supposed to do.

“This, as intended,” he said, “should provide our board the time to plan for the future and allow us to follow a thoughtful and deliberate plan of action. Of course, if needed we could pursue an interim, but I, personally, do not expect us to shortcut the recruitment process.”

Schuler added, “We hope the hiring process will be quick, but we do not intend to hurry. Hiring a Superintendent is a critically important task for a school board, so we shall adhere to our, yet to be determined, process and make the best decision for our district.”

The school districts in Cayucos and Cambria are a somewhat unusual situation, as the Cayucos District is just one, K-8th grade school; Cambria School District is one elementary school and a junior high; and the Coast Union School District encompasses both Cambria and Cayucos but also just has the high school and continuation school. 

Smith was superintendent of both Cayucos Elementary and Coast Union, deriving half his salary from each district, and despite the announcement nothing has changed yet.

“It would be premature to consider a NEW shared-services agreement at this point,” Schuler said. “The current agreement was set in place based on circumstances and personnel situations that are currently evolving.”

Is the loss of Cayucos’ superintendent an opportunity to re-think the whole triple-district arrangement, perhaps a chance to look into unifying the three?

“Combining districts is not something we have ever discussed as a board,” Schuler said, “so it is unlikely to be part of our immediate plan.”

Why hasn’t the Board issued any statements? “We have not issued a statement on Mr. Smith leaving,” Schuler said, “because we have not been able to meet as a Board. Our small quorum at the last meeting, three of five, determined that any statement should come from the entire board. Although, I think we may all still be a bit stunned by Mr. Smith’s announcement 10 days ago.”

Estero Bay News contacted Smith via email asking for an interview, and he declined at this time. 

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