Superintendent resigns as DA probes school finances

Suspected 'financial irregularities' in the Woodside School District now being examined

By Renee Batti

Almanac News Editor

Tim Hanretty has resigned as superintendent of the Portola Valley School District while an investigation is conducted into suspected "financial irregularities" in the accounts of the Woodside School District when he served as that district's finance officer.

Karen Guidotti, San Mateo County chief deputy district attorney, said her office has been investigating the matter since it was brought to its attention in early December. She would not elaborate on the details of the investigation.

Mr. Hanretty's resignation was effective Tuesday, Jan. 31. Assistant superintendent Carol Piraino was named acting superintendent. Attempts to reach Mr. Hanretty were unsuccessful.

Woodside district Superintendent Beth Polito said the district first discovered the irregularities last October. The questionable accounting dated back to a building modernization project that was completed in the 2007-08 school year, she said.

In a written statement, Ms. Polito said that, after the discovery, the district "immediately contacted legal counsel and through counsel, hired independent forensic auditors." The information gleaned from that audit led to the district's contacting the district attorney's office.

The Woodside School District, she said, "has retained independent accountants to further investigate these irregularities. We do not believe there will be any immediate negative impact on the ... district's budget."

Portola Valley school district officials have "absolutely no indication that any fiscal wrongdoing has taken place during Mr. Hanretty's tenure at this district," according to a letter from the district's school board president, Scott Parker.

"Nevertheless, in an abundance of caution, the board is working closely with the Office of the County Superintendent of Schools to retain an independent auditor to evaluate our district's finances. The district is not able to provide any further comment or details until the completion of the investigation."

Mr. Hanretty worked many years for both the Portola Valley and the Woodside elementary school districts, first as business manager, then as assistant superintendent.

He was appointed superintendent of the Portola Valley district in 2010, replacing Anne Campbell when she moved on to serve as San Mateo County superintendent of schools.

Ms. Campbell concurred that there's no indication of fiscal irregularities in the Portola Valley district, but her office is nonetheless overseeing the audit of certain areas of the district's finances. "We want to be absolutely, positively sure that everything is OK," she said. "We owe that to the public."


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Posted by AMDG
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 2, 2012 at 3:34 pm

WESD has for a very long while, a paragon of excellence in all respects, chiefly under the leadership of former superintendent Dr. Bruce Thompson. Since his departure, the position has been occupied by wholely lackluster types. How does one of the finest school districts in the state keep hiring deadbeats? This revelation now daylights the depths to which the district has been sunk. I encourage the Board of Trustees to HEIGHTEN their attention to the partculars and never again allow low talent types to occupy the superintendent position.

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Posted by 1tanoak
a resident of Portola Valley: Woodside Highlands
on Feb 2, 2012 at 8:09 pm

This is what happens when you put the clowns in charge of the circus.

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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Feb 2, 2012 at 11:31 pm

I do not know exactly what Mr. Hanretty was accused of and if the accusations are even true. I found this letter that Mr. Parker put out to all of the parents in the Portola Valley School district to be extemely imprudent given the fact that this investigation is not yet complete and that Mr Hanretty is not yet proven to be guilty of whatever wrong doing he is accused of. Shame on you Mr. Parker and the rest of the school board for not using the proper discretion in this matter. Also, Mr. Parker's letter does not explain how it happened that this matter did not surface during the initial hiring process of Mr. Hanretty.

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a resident of another community
on Feb 3, 2012 at 7:35 am

I am one of the first to be skeptical of public employees in top positions but this seems to be a PR fuss before investigation is complete. Were there really irregularities? Or as I understand it, just one carried out by his former boss?

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Posted by concerned parent also
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Feb 3, 2012 at 10:17 am

greatly appreciate that the PV school board sent a letter out explaining what they could in facts - Mr Hanretty resigned, there is an investigation elsewhere that is not complete, here is what they are doing about it. See the Woodside letter that was sent to woodside parents for more facts and naming Mr Hanretty specifically, surprised the almanac didn't publish that letter.

shame on "concerned parent" for asking that publicly revealed facts (by woodsie) not be referenced

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Posted by Member
a resident of Woodside School
on Feb 3, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Mr. Hanretty wasn't a Superintendent at WESD, but held a shared finance position at WESD and Portola Valley. WESD hired their own finance person some years ago and Mr. Hanretty later was appointed Superintendent at PV.

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Posted by concerned PV parent
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Feb 3, 2012 at 1:41 pm

I'm glad the public facts were referenced, but I don't understand why he wasn't placed on leave until the investigation is finalized. If Mr. Hanretty is proven innocent, it seems terrible that he should lose his job over an incomplete investigation.

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Posted by Baffled
a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Feb 3, 2012 at 2:44 pm

I agree with some others that they should have put him on leave and investigated . What if all is clear and he is not at fault. His position gone, name ruined and more apologies etc. The late was very harsh and not fair until proven guilty.

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Posted by AMM
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Feb 3, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Just to be clear, former superintendent Dr. Bruce Thompson hire Mr. Hanretty so I am befuddled by AMDG comment.

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Posted by Saddened
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Feb 3, 2012 at 3:59 pm

If Mr. Hanretty is guilty, his resignation will have been the only possible scenario. But if the charges are cleared, his name and reputation will still be ruined. That outcome is tragic. I hope this possibility gives the first few commenters reason to pause, rather than throw stones and 'I told you so's.

Of course I have no idea what the truth is, but my experiences with Mr. Hanretty has given me a deep respect for the man. In his dealings with the P.V. community and schools, he has been straightforward, fair, brave, and wise.

This is a human being we're bandying about, not a clown or low talent type. Why don't we all wait with quiet compassion while the people with knowledge uncover what truly has happened?

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Posted by PV Resident
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Feb 3, 2012 at 4:29 pm

I want to echo "Saddened in PV".

I had the opportunity to work with Tim Hanretty over the last few years and have nothing but respect for his service to our community and would appeal to others to reserve judgement until more facts are known.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Feb 3, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Agree Mr. Hanretty is a good man and did good things for PV. However, Mr. Hanretty resigned, so putting him on a leave would not be an option

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Woodside School
on Feb 3, 2012 at 9:01 pm

This seems a heavily pointed story towards Portola Valley when it is a Woodside situation with not a lot of information to make it meaningful. Mr. Hanretty served both school districts through his career and was well respected. I and many others admire his work as Superintendent in Portola Valley and we should aspire to deliver the same quality and innovative education as he drove the Portola Valley district towards. As a parent, it is interesting that Dr. Polito's email to parents was -- in contrast to Portola Valley's statement -- stark and lacked the ability to instill confidence to me as a taxpayer and parent. The district would be served well to look back at the quick and unexpected exits of the previous superintendent and other senior level members last summer. What was the role of the superintendent that Mr. Hanretty reported to during his tenure at Woodside?

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 4, 2012 at 7:56 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It is instructive to read the responses to the exact same story posted on the Palo Alto Weekly Town Forum:

Web Link

On the PA Forum there is a focus on the audit process while on the Almanac Forum the focus is on the individual.

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Posted by Really Concerned
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Feb 4, 2012 at 11:38 am

Gee, the fox is really in the hen house here, isn't it? For any audit of the PVSD finances to be truly independent and scrupulous, Superintendent Anne Campbell needs to recuse herself of all oversight and participation in the auditing process. She and Tim Hanretty worked side by side for years and she has a vested outcome in the audits results.

Because of her close working relationship with Mr. Hanretty, the audit should not be conducted by her office as it creates a flagrant conflict of interest. Rather, it should be conducted by the state.

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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Really Concerned......

Could you please enlighten us as to the "Vested outcome in the audit results" as they relate to Ms. Campbell.

I am sure you must have a considerable amount of information to backup your allegation....

Or perhaps not, maybe your just [portion deleted - please don't attack other posters] that loves to put the last kick in when the opportunity arises.

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Posted by Karma in Action
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 6, 2012 at 7:01 am

Mr. Hanretty obviously resigned for his own reasons, feeling it in his own best interests. As for his qualifications for Superintendent, he had none. Since Anne Campbell left, PV has been on a wave against teachers by hiring such unqualified staff. Mr. Hanretty, for example, has no education background other than his report that his parents were teachers. The message of the Board represented by his and other such staff is that teacher expertise and educational professionalism are relatively unimportant in difference to the innate wisdom of PV residents in overseeing the District's operations and educational processes.

We shall see.

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Posted by PV Resident
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Feb 7, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Just to be clear, Ms. Campbell's office is NOT handling the investigation. That is being done by the San Mateo DA's office and Ms. Campbell's office, as well as the WESD, are cooperating with the investigation. This was stated in the letter that the WESD superintendent sent out. Ms. Campbell's office is supporting PVSD during this transition when we are down one administration official.

As to qualifications, if you look at the job of superintendent, it's as much about the business management of the district as it is about the instruction of students. Mr. Hanretty's specific job was more about the business managment; Assistant Superintendent Carol Pirano was/is in charge of instruction. Neither of those people are unqualified -- you may not *like* the way they work, but that doesn't make them unqualified (assuming innocence here, of course).

Whatever happened to being innocent until proven guilty? This whole thing was only brought to light in October -- 3 or so whole months of investigation so far and no charges brought yet. If he's guilty, he'll deserve what's happened and more. If not, I feel really sorry for the guy.

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Posted by john cleese
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Feb 10, 2012 at 10:21 am

I agree with the comment that Anne Campbell should recuse herself from the investigation of Tim Hanretty. There are questions to her role as Superintendent when Mr. Hanretty served with her in the renovations of PVSD.

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Posted by J. De Santos
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Feb 10, 2012 at 5:15 pm

This is a sad day for Portola Valley and Woodisde.
Hanretty's rsignation raises questions about Anne Campbell and her role in handpicking him as her successor at the PVSD. In july of 2010, Anne Campbell gave Hanretty her complete vote of confidence as she departed for her job as Superintendent of San Mateo County Schools. Our board should mouint a full investigation of the district's practices during her tenure.

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