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Two area superintendents will leave their school districts this month, an uncommon move mid-school year.

For seven years, Robert Haley served as superintendent of Cotati-Rohnert Park, a district of about 5,800 students. He recently accepted a superintendent position at a district more than double its size — San Dieguito Union High School District in San Diego County.

“I’m excited,” Haley said about his new job. “We love the area. The people, the team that I work with (here), it’s hard to let that go, but I think the district’s in great shape.”

Tony Roehrick, superintendent at the Rincon Valley district for more than three years, will be Cotati-Rohnert Park’s interim superintendent beginning Nov. 1.

It’s unusual for a superintendent to leave a school district midyear. For Rincon Valley, it’s a transition that caught officials by surprise.

On Oct. 11, Rincon Valley board president Cynthia Evers sent a letter to the school community announcing Roehrick’s intention to retire by the end of the school year and the district’s decision to hire Mahoney Consulting to help with a new superintendent search.

Less than a week later, on Oct. 16, the Cotati-Rohnert Park school board voted 3-2 to hire Roehrick as interim superintendent.

“This wasn’t something we were expecting, but we wish Tony well,” said Jeff Gospe, a Rincon Valley board member. “He’s chosen to take a different path, and he has a right to.”

At a special meeting Oct. 18, the five-member Rincon Valley school board relieved Roehrick of his contract. The next day, they announced their plans to bring back former superintendent Diane Moresi on an interim basis. Moresi, who served as the district’s superintendent from 2004 to 2011, likely will begin on Nov. 14, after her contract gets approved at a regularly scheduled board meeting.

“We selected Mrs. Moresi because of her calm but strong leadership style and because she knows the history, climate and culture of our district so well,” the board wrote.

Evers said the Cotati-Rohnert Park position was “a great opportunity” for Roehrick, whose background includes K-12 districts. He previously served as superintendent at Cabrillo Unified in Half Moon Bay and Bellevue Unified in Santa Rosa.

“This is an interim position that gives me the opportunity to help the (Cotati-Rohnert Park) district over the next eight months,” Roehrick said in a phone interview. “I’m looking forward to getting to know the teachers, students, principals and families in the district.”

However, in a move indicative of discord on the Cotati-Rohnert Park school board, two of its five members — Leffler Brown and Tim Nonn — voted against hiring Roehrick as interim superintendent at an Oct. 16 meeting. Nonn accused the other three trustees, who make up the majority vote, of banding together and being secretive about their process of selecting Roehrick.

“The public should be made aware of the process that we engage in, otherwise we’re betraying the trust of the community that we’re supposed to represent,” Nonn said at the meeting. “This is clearly a case where the lack of transparency in making major decisions in governing the district is apparent and outrageous.”

Brown also questioned the process, background check and why there were no other candidates.

“It was just too rushed,” Brown said in an interview. “If there had been two or three other candidates, maybe Tony would have come out.”

Roehrick will be paid $133,904 for serving as interim superintendent for eight months.

At Rincon Valley, Roehrick worked to renew a parcel tax two years ago to provide funding for science and music programs. He said he valued working with principals.

Roehrick said he still plans to retire at the end of this school year.

Cotati-Rohnert Park board president Tracy Ferrell recognized departing superintendent Robert Haley at the Oct. 16 meeting for his seven years of service.

“I’ve seen you at sites — I’ve seen you interacting with staff and with kids, and your heart’s always in the right place,” Ferrell said. “We’re really, really going to miss you.”

Haley, however, has come under criticism over the years. Nonn sued the district last year after he said Haley and three board members violated state and federal disability discrimination laws, barring his special aide from assisting him at school board meetings. Nonn later agreed to drop the suit in exchange for the district footing his $37,500 legal bill and hiring special aides of his choice to assist him at meetings.

Previously, Haley spent seven years at St. Helena Unified. He has four children, and his youngest is a senior at Montgomery High School.

“We’ve enjoyed living in Wine Country and raising our children here,” he said.

The Cotati-Rohnert Park district opened three schools during his tenure: Technology Middle; Richard Crane Elementary, a year-round school; and University Elementary, in partnership with Sonoma State University.

An expansive new multipurpose building opens at Rancho Cotate High School in March, and Haley said he may come back for the opening.

You can reach Staff Writer Susan Minichiello at 707‑521-5216 or susan.minichiello@pressdemocrat.com.

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect figure for how much Tony Roehrick will be paid to serve as the Cotati-Rohnert Park school district interim superintendent. The number has been corrected.

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