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Poway Unified School District officials are looking for a new superintendent.

The district posted an advertisement seeking interim superintendent candidates on Wednesday after board members met in private with their own legal counsel to discuss Superintendent John Collins. The agenda also listed an item for “employee discipline, dismissal, release.”

Collins, who’s led the district since July 2010, has been on paid leave since April 25 pending an audit of his employment contract.

The five-member board took no reportable action, said district spokeswoman Christine Paik, but the job posting signals they want new blood to lead the 36,000-student district with schools in the cities of Poway and San Diego. Thursday is the last day of the school year.

Associate Superintendent Mel Robertson has served as acting superintendent in Collins’ absence.

Officials have been mostly mum about why Collins was placed on leave this year, saying only that it was a “matter of standard protocol” so an internal review of his employment contract could be done. Talks over his employment have been ongoing for months.

Now it looks like that review may have led to a separation deal or termination, though neither the audit results nor documentation of his departure has been released publicly.

Collins’ nearly six-year tenure as Poway superintendent has gone through seasons of broad support as well as public distrust and outcry.

Much of the negative attention on Collins and the district came as a result of a 2011 bond deal that gave the district $105 million but will cost $1 billion to repay over 40 years. The news sparked state school reform laws.

District officials have continued using the financial adviser who oversaw the deal – Benjamin Dolinka – and some board members now want his contract audited for possible overpayment.

Collins also drew criticism for his undisclosed editing of a scathing education technology consultant report first reported by Voice of San Diego. His role negotiating raises for employees that boosted his own pay also attracted self-dealing concerns.

According to Collins’ contract, he would be entitled to his regular pay and benefits for the remainder of the contract term – about 12 months – if terminated without cause. Any mutually agreed on departure also caps the severance payout at 12 months’ pay. A firing for cause carries no payout but requires the board to justify a dismissal by citing a breach of his contractual duties, fraud, theft, material dishonesty or another violation of law.

The job posting on educator website EdJoin.org lists a starting date of July 1 with a “negotiable” salary and a job length of 60 to 120 days. Requirements include a master’s degree in education administration or a related field, as well as a supervision or administrative credential.

Collins’ base salary stands at nearly $300,000, according to his contract, which doesn’t expire until June 2017. The figure doesn’t include longevity pay, doctoral stipends and other perks.

According to Transparent California, Collins’ total compensation, including benefits, topped $478,000 in 2014.

Collins could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

Collins’ exit would coincide with the departure of at least three other top district officials who are retiring, including the heads of human resources, business services and facilities.

Ashly McGlone

Ashly is a freelance investigative reporter. She formerly worked as a staff reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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