The man the Newark school board selected as the district's new superintendent backed out this week, leaving the district without a superintendent days before the start of school.

The trustees had chosen Donald Gill, superintendent of Antioch schools, to lead Newark's district after interviewing him in closed session for more than two hours last week.

But Antioch board members persuaded Gill to stay after increasing his salary and asking him to finish important district projects, he said Friday.

Gill's decision sent Newark Unified back to its superintendent-search consultant.

Newark's board announced the surprising turn of events on Friday, Superintendent Dave Marken's final day. Last week, the Newark school board's legal counsel, in anticipation of hiring a new superintendent, asked Marken to vacate his office well before his Sept. 30 resignation date. Gill on Friday elaborated on the programs he wants to keep working with: the district's consideration of a new charter school and hopes to make progress on its African-American Male Achievement Initiative.

"Those are two big ones," he said. "Also, the residents voted to renovate Antioch High and we're looking at renovating other schools."

Antioch's offer was made in a special closed session Wednesday, in which Gill participated by phone from San Diego hours after the birth of his second grandchild.


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"I'm required by contract to inform the board if another district selected me as a finalist," said Gill, 62. "They wanted to know if they could match Newark's offer and they were able to."

Gill, who said he earned a base salary of $236,000 this year, has been Antioch's superintendent for six years. He said his new salary likely will rise each year by 2.5 percent but that details still must be completed, pending a meeting with district leaders and board approval.

Newark Unified's five-member board had selected Gill after hiring consultant Leadership Associates to search for Marken's replacement.

"Our next step now is we go back and look at the other candidates," Newark trustee Charlie Mensinger said. "We'll work with Leadership Associates and our legal team on moving forward."

Newark's school board has been searching for a superintendent since Marken resigned in late May amid public accusations that board members' micromanagement chased him away.

At meetings since, dozens of speakers have criticized board members and urged them to keep Marken, honored this year as East Bay superintendent of the year.

Contact Chris De Benedetti at cdebenedetti@bayareanewsgroup.com or Paul Burgarino at pburgarino@bayareanewsgroup.com.