Patrick Sweeney

Napa Valley Unified School District Superintendent Patrick Sweeney discusses early election results of Measure H on Election Day in June of 2016. Sweeney announced Friday that he will retire at the end of the 2017-18 school year.

J.L. Sousa/Register

The Napa Valley Unified School District announced on Friday that Superintendent Patrick Sweeney will retire at the end of the school year in June.

Sweeney, 61, has led NVUSD since becoming superintendent eight years ago.

The announcement comes after a tumultuous year in 2017 for the school district.

It was rocked by a football hazing scandal, as well as public outcry over a recommendation to change the Napa High School mascot, plus a budget deficit that required $12 million in spending cuts, and an unsuccessful attempt to put the school board up for a recall election.

In a NVUSD press release on Friday, Sweeney did not address any of these controversies.

He said following his retirement on June 30, he and his wife, Michele, intend to spend time “serving students of poverty, traveling and spending more time with our children and grandchildren.”

He added that it has been an “honor and privilege” to serve the students, families, faculty, staff, and Board of Education for NVUSD.

School board Vice President Thomas Kensok said regarding the retirement news: “We all owe Dr. Sweeney a deep debt of gratitude for his passion and relentless effort on the behalf of our students for their academic achievement and social growth.”

The announcement touted some accomplishments achieved under Sweeney’s leadership:

— From 2005 to 2017, the number of NVUSD graduates who qualify for UC/CSU colleges rose from 23 percent to 49 percent.

— On the California Healthy Kids survey, NVUSD is ranked in the top 99 percentile for school climate.

— NVUSD’s graduation rate remains several points higher than the state average, at 89.55 percent.

Last year the school district endured multiple controversies that resulted in heated board meetings between parents and trustees, and calls for Sweeney to be fired.

After several members of the Napa High football team were expelled for participating in hazing activities, parents spoke out against Sweeney and Principal Annie Petrie, insisting the punishment had gone too far.

“I believe there is no longer public confidence in Dr. Sweeney, and I am asking the board to hold a no confidence vote on retaining Dr. Sweeney as superintendent of our school district,” said parent Rich Jacobson during a March 2017 school board meeting.

Asked at the time if he was concerned that his job might be in jeopardy, Sweeney told the Napa Valley Register: “Our focus remains on the safety of our students. Our responsibility is that all students are physically and emotionally safe.”

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While the hazing scandal continued during the first months of 2017, the school district was further rocked by a recommendation by a special district committee to dump the Napa High Indian and replace it with a new mascot and symbol.

The school board held two special public meetings in the district auditorium to garner feedback from the community on changing the Indian. Those events produced heated rhetoric between supporters and opponents, and claims that the district was being politically correct in trying to remove the mascot.

The trustees have yet to act on the mascot recommendation.

Sweeney also dealt with a looming $12 million budget deficit for the 2017-2018 school year, which resulted in more than 100 layoffs and early retirements of staff.

The hazing, mascot and budget issues were all cited by critics of the school board who launched a petition drive to place all of the trustees through a recall election. That effort failed to gather the necessary signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Sweeney succeeded John Glaser as superintendent in July 2010 after spending 15 years with the Patterson Unified School District near Modesto. He was Patterson Unified’s superintendent for 13 years.

A former elementary school teacher and principal, Sweeney spent four years at the American School in Durango, Mexico, also as superintendent.

Kensok said the school board would conduct a search for a new superintendent, and hopes to have Sweeney’s successor in place by July 1.

The trustees intend to “stay the course” in the tone and direction Sweeney has set, according to Kensok.

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