The Austin school district’s executive director of facilities — who has spearheaded the effort to explain the proposed $892 million bond proposal to the public — has handed in his resignation, days before early voting begins on the school bonds.
Paul Turner said he had long been thinking of retiring, and his decision to leave the district was not related to the proposed bond package. His resignation is effective June 30.
“It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for a while,” Turner said. “A lot of it is related to that kind of thing of keeping balance in your life when you’re in a very demanding role that requires a lot of your personal time as well. I’m very grateful for the school district. The decision I made in this has nothing at all to do with the bond. Myself and my team have put our heart and soul into this.”
Turner’s resignation and the recent retirement of longtime director of construction management Curt Shaw, who the district has pulled back in to advise on bond projects, marks a change in the administrators who have overseen decades of previous bond projects.
Jeff Kauffmann, who recently came to the district from San Antonio, now heads construction management and is the lead administrator on the bond package, and will continue in that leadership role.
Trustee Robert Schneider, who has worked with Turner within the district for nearly 15 years, said the timing “probably is not the most beneficial thing for the district,” but he wishes Turner well. Schneider said Turner told him last year he was considering retiring in 2013.
“He was an invaluable asset in working with the district and the community,” said Schneider. “I’m very sad to see him leave. Anytime you have one of your chief facility people leave when you’re about to have a bond, it’s a concern. Jeff hasn’t been on the job very long, though I’m sure he’s very capable.”
Turner, who is 65, said he wants to spend time with family, including his 90-year-old mother and 5-year-old grandson. Turner said he wanted to stay with the district through the bond election but noted that it’s a five-year bond package and he would 70 before all the projects in it are completed.
“The timing of this may seem odd, but it was really an effort to give the district sufficient notice to know about and start looking for someone,” Turner said, adding he is open to coming back to work with the district on a case-by-case basis.
Turner has served as head of facilities for nine years and has been with the district for 39. He has had an array of jobs with the district, starting in 1974, including serving as principal at Dobie Middle School and Lanier High School, director of support services, acting deputy superintendent of finance and human resources and director of bond execution and development in 2003-04, before becoming the director of facilities.
Some don’t think Turner’s exit is a concern.
Steve Rivas, a political consultant who supports the bond package and campaigned for three of four new trustees elected in November, said those who help craft the bond have different roles from those who execute the projects. Therefore, he said, Turner’s role is most important prior to the election, not after.
“In the world of bond management, once a bond is passed, it enters a phase of implementation that is then managed closely by contract managers and committees for oversight of that bond,” Rivas said.
Trustee Gina Hinojosa, elected in November, attended a citizens bond oversight committee meeting this week in which Turner provided the committee information and answered their questions.
“It’s a very high-profile and highly difficult job,” Hinojosa said. “I remarked that to him after the CBOC meeting, not knowing he had resigned.”