Petaluma city schools chief Steve Bolman retiring

Longtime Petaluma city schools administrator Steve Bolman has announced his retirement, effective at the end of the school year.

The announcement, which Bolman made in a letter to the community Tuesday, said he has “decided not to seek an extension to my contract,” which expires June 30. He was a top business administrator with the district for 19 years before being tapped as superintendent four years ago.

Bolman was attending a conference out of town and unavailable Wednesday afternoon, his assistant said.

His decision comes at a time when district administration is in the midst of contentious contract negotiations with the Petaluma Teachers Federation. Talks broke down so badly last year that an impasse was declared and a federal mediator stepped in to help improve dialogue.

Bolman’s decision was unrelated to the discord, school board President Mike Baddeley said.

“It absolutely had nothing to do with that,” he said. “He’s a numbers guy and a business guy. He likes working in that arena, when it comes to budgeting, analysis, money.”

The Workers Rights Board, part of the labor-backed North Bay Jobs for Justice, has taken up the teachers union’s cause, informing the community about teacher issues and holding a public hearing on their complaints.

The board has prepared a report that is critical of the superintendent and the district that is to be released Thursday. Some members of the board suggested Bolman’s announcement was in response to that.

Matt Myres, chair of the workers’ rights board, said he spoke with Bolman after a hearing in December that was perhaps the most public airing of complaints against the district.

He said he alerted Bolman that their report will be highly critical of him and the district. He suspected that was part of Bolman’s decision-making process.

“I’d say there has been mounting pressure from the teachers on the superintendent and the district to respond to their concerns,” he said. “I would guess that may have had something to do with it.”

The sides are at loggerheads over several issues, primarily the amount of a potential wage increase for teachers. The teachers, who say they haven’t had a raise in seven years, are seeking a 4 percent increase, while the district has insisted a 2.5 percent hike is all it can afford.

Negotiations are to continue this spring.

The president of the teachers’ union, Kim Sharp, didn’t return a phone message seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.

For 19 years, Bolman served as a top business officer in the district. In 2011, he was hired as superintendent.

The district includes six elementary schools in the Petaluma City Elementary School District with an enrollment of about 2,120. The Petaluma Joint Union High School District includes two junior high schools, a community day school, two high schools, two alternative/continuation schools and a continuation high school, with a combined enrollment of about 4,900.

You can reach Lori A. Carter at 521-5470 or On Twitter @loriacarter.

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