HESPERIA -- Two weeks after being sworn in, the newly elected board of the High Desert's largest school district has ousted the district's superintendent.
Mark McKinney, who has led the 21,155-student district for five years, was let go by the board in a special closed-session meeting Tuesday evening.
Effective immediately, McKinney was reassigned to serve as the vice-principal of discipline at Hesperia High School.
"The exciting thing is that I get to go back and work with kids," he said Wednesday.
No interim superintendent was appointed on Tuesday, although the district will be closed for the winter break after Friday.
"We have three assistant superintendents at the district office that are more than capable of taking care of whatever needs to be taken care of in the next day and a half," board president Lee Rogers said.
McKinney's tenure was distinguished by contentious school boards - one former member even challenged another to a fight mid-meeting - and he had a yearlong public feud with the school district's former police chief, Mike Graham, which ended in Graham's firing in February for insubordination. Two of the newly elected board members, Rogers and Cody Gregg, had been vocal supporters of Graham's. (Rogers also previously served on the board from 2006 to 2010.) But the official reason for McKinney's demotion may never be known.
"All I can say on the record is that he was terminated 'without cause,"' meaning McKinney did not violate anything in his contract or district policy, board member Eric Swanson said Wednesday. "Anything else I could say would be breaching (the confidentiality) of closed session."
"The only thing I can tell you is that the board is going in a different direction," Rogers said.
McKinney has worked in education for 28 years, 25 of them in the HUSD. Despite his demotion, he will continue to be paid the superintendent's $156,260 salary for the duration of his existing multi-year contract for at least two more years.
"I think I have (the) skills and abilities to lead a district, and lead it well," he said. "But in the meantime, I will be the best vice-principal on record."
McKinney's firing came with a false start a week ago, when the new board first held a special meeting to discuss his contract. At both special meetings, a large crowd of vocal McKinney supporters came out to express their displeasure with the board's actions, including more than 20 members of the public speaking on his behalf on Tuesday evening.
"I was overwhelmed and humbled by the support," McKinney said. "And that has been very touching."