Aug. 18, 2004 - Former Marana Unified School District Superintendent Rick Lesko may have been given options to stay on his job or take another position in the district but chose to resign, a board member indicated in an Aug. 4 telephone interview.

Board President Janice Mitich said she told Lesko June 11 that it's common for superintendents at their first year evaluation to provide a growth plan that describes their accomplishments during the year and outlines their plans for improvement in the next year. Lesko did not provide a growth plan at his June 23 evaluation, Mitich said.

She would not say whether his failure to provide the plan specifically led to his resignation because that discussion happened in a meeting that was closed to the public.

Lesko did not respond to phone messages left by the Northwest EXPLORER.

It's also common for a high-level administrator to be offered another position in the district, Mitich said. The district has no intentions of losing effective administrators she added, though she would not say whether or not Lesko was offered another job within the district.

The governing board accepted Lesko's resignation July 13 because of what board members described as irreconcilable differences in communication.

Students, faculty and staff throughout the district have repeatedly said that communication problems are not a sufficient reason for Lesko to have resigned. Many have said they believe the board is withholding the real reason.

According to information obtained by the Northwest EXPLORER from a public records request, Lesko did provide a detailed weekly report that highlighted his upcoming schedule and updated the governing board on significant events within that schedule.

In the weeks before his resignation Lesko also communicated with the board via e-mail several times a week about a variety of issues. Despite this, Mitich said Lesko had not communicated with the board at a high enough level. She said she and other board members would hear about events and issues going on in the district through other administrators, faculty or on the news, which made it difficult for them to govern the district effectively.

Board members maintain that they're not intentionally keeping information from the public. The board is restricted by law from revealing any discussion that happened in executive session, or meetings closed to the public, board member Dan Post said. He added that Lesko chose to have his evaluation in a closed session.

"What people don't understand is whenever an administrator is evaluated by the board, the employee has the right to request whether those evaluations happen in public or private, closed sessions," Post said. "Mr. Lesko scheduled all of those sessions for closed, private sessions. It was at his request that all of those were held in private, and that is for his protection."

In an earlier interview, Lesko said to his knowledge superintendent evaluations always happen in closed sessions.

Post acknowledged that a reason such as communication "covers a lot of ground." Attorneys for the board and Lesko advised that the two parties not openly discuss the reason for Lesko's resignation, Post said. He also said differences in leadership style may have contributed to Lesko's resignation.

"Maybe both parties agreed that they didn't want to change the way they looked at things," Post said. Lesko and the governing board were unable to reconcile their differences and the two parties "agreed to disagree," Post said.

In a previous interview, Lesko said he thought he communicated well with the board and that diverging leadership philosophies led to his resignation.

Post also said he would prefer to further discuss the reasons for Lesko resignation with the public so people would have a better understanding of the situation.

"It's difficult for us at this time because we're taking the brunt of the misconceptions and we're not able to clarify what happened," he said. "But that's the way it is, and it's done for his protection."

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