In a complaint against the San Bernardino City Unified School District, former Superintendent Harry “Doc” Ervin says two school board members publicly disparaged him, breaking the terms of a settlement agreement between him and the district.
Ervin, who retired from the San Bernardino school district on June 30, is seeking $500,000 in damages.
In a closed session on Tuesday, January 17, school board members Scott Wyatt, Mayra Ceballos, Mary Ellen Abilez Grande and Mikki Cichocki denied Ervin’s claim.
Trustees Danny Tillman and Abigail Rosales-Medina abstained from participating in the vote, according to a report from the closed-door meeting.
The board currently has one open position.
Contacted by phone this week, Tillman and Rosales-Medina declined to comment on the claim under the advice of legal counsel.
Ervin was named superintendent in March 2021 and took over in July.
His contract ran until 2024.
In a phone interview Thursday, Ervin said his relationship with the board soured in March 2022 after receiving little support for a year-long project called the “Framework for Excellence,” a plan designed by Ervin and stakeholders from the district to strengthen the district’s culture of teaching and learning. through the development of specific professional development for administrators, certificated and classified staff in reading, mathematics and language development.
Only Wyatt, Ceballos and former trustee Gwen Dowdy-Rodgers supported the initiative, Ervin said.
The proposal ultimately died on the vine.
Ervin announced shortly after that he was retiring.
“I felt that (the board) needed someone who was a better fit with their educational philosophy,” Ervin said this week. “If my presence was going to impede the children’s ability to succeed, it was better for me to go ahead and retire.”
In April, Ervin and the district signed a settlement agreement that included a provision that prohibited either party from disparaging the other.
Tillman and Rosales-Medina violated that clause, Ervin says.
First, in June, at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Chicago, Rosales-Medina spoke to a group of school administrators, board members and others from the Bakersfield City School District, where Ervin previously served as Superintendent, that Ervin “was a terrible Superintendent, who would not listen to the Board [sic]that he should never have been hired, or words to that effect,” Ervin writes in his complaint filed with the district.
Second, in August, Tillman called Ervin a “sick person” and “evil” in a report published by the San Bernardino County Sentinel, Ervin says.
A month later, Ervin adds, Tillman said in another Sentinel report that Ervin had “set him up to look bad” by requesting an audit of the district’s contracts with after-school service providers.
Such comments violated Ervin’s settlement agreement, the former superintendent claims, and “have caused untold damage to my reputation as a professional educator, intentionally causing emotional distress and the loss of future employment opportunities.”
Ervin, the first black superintendent in San Bernardino, and his legal team are weighing their options after district leaders rejected his claim this week.
A claim is usually the precursor to a lawsuit.
“I have nothing negative to say about my time in the district,” Ervin said. “Sometimes things don’t work out. But I didn’t lower my expectations and I didn’t lower my ethics.”