NEWARK -- A day after an angry overflow audience chastised district trustees for breeding the dysfunctional environment that led Superintendent Dave Marken to resign, school board members' biggest challenge remains: They must repair their toxic relationship with district employees and parents.
Reaching that goal seemed daunting Tuesday night, when about 200 people chanted Marken's name at the meeting's end, leaving no doubt over whom the community supports in the dispute.
"The show of support was very humbling, quite overwhelming," Marken said Wednesday in an interview. "It was surreal on one hand, yet on the other hand there's a sense of sadness for students and the district." He had sat silently on the dais with the board Tuesday night as speakers attacked the trustees and praised him.
When Marken resigned last week, employees and parents were outraged that the leader who had lifted Newark Unified to unprecedented heights was leaving after three years on the job.
At the meeting, the community put its anger on full display. A dozen speakers lambasted the board for creating the "negative, back-stabbing" atmosphere that eroded trust and chased away Marken.
After nearly an hour of blistering critiques, the clearly shaken school board members agreed with most of their critics.
"Our board is extremely proud of this district. But, unfortunately, we lost our way," trustee Charlie Mensinger said, reading from a prepared statement. "Please join me in changing our climate: no more negativity, no more fighting, no more talking behind each other's backs and, finally, let's ... develop the action for success that we all want."
The board soon will hold a workshop to review its policies and procedures, including the protocol on communication with district employees, said trustee Ray Rodgriguez. "Communication is supposed to be from the board to the superintendent, not to staff employees," he said. "That's another reason to have the work session, so that our fellow board members understand that."
Marken's resignation is effective Sept. 30, and a change of heart is not likely, he said.
"We have some serious leadership and governance issues, and unless they are repaired immediately, I have serious concerns," he said. "With the damage that has been done, it's probably time to look elsewhere."
At the meeting, speakers accused some trustees of poisoning the relationship between the board and district staff by intimidating principals by showing up unannounced at school sites, publicly bad-mouthing district employees and micromanaging how Marken ran the district.
"I am heartbroken," said Graham Elementary Principal Terrance Dunn.
Dunn called on trustees to cease their "toxic reputation of operating by gossip and bullying" and instead follow Marken's model of "trusting good people to make good choices."
Loud, extended applause followed his remarks.
The Newark Management Association, a labor group representing district managers, announced a no-confidence vote in the school board.
Marken became Newark superintendent in April 2011 and immediately helped persuade voters to pass Measure G, a $63 million school improvement bond.
Last year, Newark Unified achieved the largest growth in API testing scores among Alameda County school districts, and two Newark campuses were awarded the state's Distinguished School Status for the first time in more than a decade.
Marken garnered the Superintendent of the Year award for the Association of California School Administrators' Region 6, which includes nearly 20 East Bay districts.
Marken said he does not plan to retire.
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.