Friday, February 14, 2014

CVESD teacher removed for requesting massages from students, but Pettit isn't the only employee whose job is threatened

Stephenie Pettit

See comments at bottom of this post.

Stephenie Pettit has been placed on administrative leave for requesting massages from students. (See Channel 10 News story below.)

No one, including the police, has found that there was any hint of wrongdoing in Ms. Pettit's classroom--only bad judgment.

(Updated Mar. 14, 2014) But a parent has made me realize that Ms. Pettit's actions could result in serious harm to students in the future because they conditioned children to touch an adult on request. Even worse, kids were given class currency to do the touching. If CVESD used my plan for master teachers, this would not have happened. Our system puts untested teachers in full and solitary control of classrooms right after getting their teaching credentials. There is no close oversight or support to guide them.

Superintendent Francisco Escobedo will need to be careful in this case. A couple of members of his administration have more to hide than a few massages.

Asst. Supt. Sandra Villegas-Zuniga and Human Resources director Peg Myers will want to go easy on Ms. Pettit. They will want to continue the district's policy of avoiding investigations. It's a good policy when the people with the most to hide are not the ones the district is targeting. Ms. Pettit might say more than they want to hear if she were pressed for information.


Let's compare the two situations: guns and violence in the earlier case versus kids giving massages in the current case. Why was there NO investigation in the first case, while the police were called in in the second case?

The fact is, CVESD doesn't do thorough investigations to keep kids safe. Instead, it tries to protect its reputation. Too often this means covering up truly illegal actions by staff. As soon as as a report of child molestation surfaces in any school, a district administrator runs over to the school and threatens all the teachers that they'd better keep quiet. And they do keep quiet. The public has the right to vote for board members, but clearly does NOT enjoy the right to know what's going on at school districts.

Stephenie Pettit would NOT be the target of any investigation in the earlier case, but she'd be a star witness. She knows the truth about the reports of "fear for their lives" by teachers Jo Ellen Hamilton and Linda Watson when they taught at Castle Park Elementary in 2001. Pettit knows the role that Peg Myers played in the cover-up of crimes by Robin Donlan and other teachers.

And Sandra Villegas-Zuniga and Francisco Escobedo also know, or they should know.

Asst. Supt. Sandra Villegas-Zuniga might want to review her bizarre dealings with Peg Myers.

Peg Myers at her deposition

When Myers was the site representative at Castle Park Elementary School about ten years ago, she kept a tight rein on Stephenie Pettit in order to make sure that illegal actions were kept hidden. Stephenie Pettit was not involved in the original illegal actions, but she did keep her mouth shut after she found out about them. Later, when Myers was President of Chula Vista Educators (CVE), she continued to use her position to cover-up events at Castle Park in 2000-2001.

When she was President of CVE, Myers apparently impressed Villegas-Zuniga as someone who would help the district manipulate teachers. After sitting across from Myers at the bargaining table for a number of years, Villegas-Zuniga convinced Myers to clamber across the table to the other side and accept the job of Director of Human Resources. Obviously, Peg's intimate knowledge of individual teachers, and the workings of the teacher union, have been very helpful to the district in intimidating teachers. [Yes, I know that the district website claims that Myers is in charge of "classified" staff. Don't be fooled. She spends at least some of her time intimidating teachers.]

So here's the problem in the current situation. Stephenie Pettit knows the details of who was involved, and what actions they took, during the years when a large number of violations of civil and criminal laws were committed at Castle Park Elementary School, the district office, and the teachers union. The near-destruction of a school by power-hungry teachers and administrators was just the boost Peg Myers' career needed, and she has catapulted dramatically to higher positions since she was just an ordinary teacher at Castle Park Elementary in 2001.


The effects of the decade-long teacher meltdown at Castle Park Elementary--that resulted in the school having 11 principals in 11 years--continue to ripple through the district.

It staggers the imagination to realize how many teachers involved with Castle Park Elementary's descent into a miasma of dysfunction have continued to make news long since the Chula Vista Star-News and San Diego Union-Tribune lost interest in supporting a troublesome group of teachers, parents and administrators that brought the school to its knees during their years of arbitrary power.

Pam Smith and Larry Cunningham

Current Chula Vista Elementary board members Pam Smith and Larry Cunningham oversaw the cover-up of illegal actions by CVESD employees at the school in 2000-2001. (I was a teacher at Castle Park Elementary, with Stephenie Pettit and Peg Myers, at that time.)

Former CVE president Jim Groth wanted a replacement who would continue the teacher versus teacher culture that he had helped create. Peg Myers fit the bill perfectly. See all Jim Groth blog posts.

It should be mentioned that current member of the statewide CTA board of directors Jim Groth played a big role in the concealment of illegal actions. He was then, and still is, a member of the Chula Vista Educators board. I imagine he's already hopped in his car and driven over to the district office to remind the administration that the district and the teachers union need to continue the cover-up.

After the district paid $100,000s of taxpayer dollars in legal fees to lawyers Dan Shinoff and Mark Bresee for their successful efforts to protect teachers and administrators who had committed crimes, the prevailing teachers apparently felt invulnerable. They delighted in their arbitrary power to do whatever they wanted and get away with it. What else could the district expect when it had fired a teacher (me!) simply for demanding an investigation, and for refusing to come back to work until something was done about the relentless harassment of me by teacher thugs.

Former CVE President Gina Boyd. See Gina Boyd's deposition HERE.

Robin Donlan, notorious along with her husband for $7 million Wireless Facilities stock options fraud case. See Robin Donlan's deposition HERE.

The rogue teachers were led by Robin Donlan, a personal friend of both Peg Myers and former CVE president Gina Boyd. Gina Boyd was a member in extremely good standing of the self-styled "Castle Park Family". The self-styled "Castle Park Family" resisted all efforts by a string of principals (averaging one principal per year for 11 years) to get them to settle down and do their jobs. I myself was a target of the ruling teachers. Administrators Libia Gil and Rick Werlin did the bidding of those teachers.

Before my lawsuit was even finished, five teachers were transferred out of the school during the summer of 2004. Stephanie Pettit was one of the "Castle Park Five" group that included the notorious Robin Donlan, Peg Myers, and Nikki Perez.

This district keeps finding that its favored employees have big problems. Perhaps an effective evaluation system for teachers would help? But no, that would interfere with the politics that currently guides employment decisions at the district. And the district wouldn't have hired Peg Myers if it didn't want to keep politics in the forefront of district decisions.

I doubt that the district will try to fire Mrs. Pettit. She knows too much about criminal actions by teachers and administrators. I predict a settlement.

And as far as the parent who says Stephanie should not teach again, I don't see how voluntarily giving a massage to a teacher could seriously harm a child. The situation is no more serious than if Stephanie were rewarding kids to fan her. The problem with the behavior is that the students are being asked to treat the teacher like a queen rather than a professional. The touching was clearly NOT sexual. It's only wrong because kids shouldn't be performing personal services for teachers--like combing hair, cutting hair, shining shoes, etc. Of course, Stephenie used poor judgment, but she's been taught by the district and the teachers union that she and other teachers with political connections are free to indulge any whim without repercussions.

A more important issue is that kids are being damaged by teachers every day in CVESD classrooms. There is psychological damage being done by cruel, rigid teachers who take pleasure in causing pain. Stephanie did not cause pain to the kids who volunteered to give her massages.

It would be interesting to know what else was happening when the kids were giving the teacher a massage. Was she teaching them at the same time? This could very well be the case. But there are so many classrooms where teachers spend huge amounts of time NOT interacting with their students that it would be very dangerous for anyone to criticize Stephanie even if she had not been teaching while receiving a massage. She could easily get plenty of witnesses to talk about the time wasted in classrooms while teachers are doing something other than teaching. I could write a book about it.

Stephanie deserves the due process than she herself helped to deny to me. Lawyer Dan Shinoff of Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz took tax dollars for his successful efforts to keep Stephanie from being deposed in my case. I would be happy to deposed in any case she might file--which is exactly why I think that the district won't try to fire her. Here's my deposition in the current defamation lawsuit against me by Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz. Stutz is quite miffed, it seems, that the Court of Appeal says I have a constitutional right to discuss the lawyers who act on behalf of public schools.

Though I was not able to depose Stephanie, I was able to take the depositions of Castle Park Family members Gina Boyd, Peg Myers and Robin Donlan. (I recommend clicking on these links for these depositions if only to see the hilarious expressions on the faces of teachers who don't like being asked to tell the truth.)


Channel 10 News and San Diego Union-Tribune have covered this story. Let's see if Channel 10 will investigate further the failure of school districts to do meaningful evaluations of teachers. The SDUT has been covering up for CVESD for years. I hope they will start to cover the real stories instead of only the sensationalistic ones.


Researches say that 10% of teachers are doing a bad job, failing to add value to their students' academic abilities. Many teachers have serious personality problems. But the fact is that CVESD really doesn't know its teachers. I never met a principal who really observed and really talked to staff members to find out what they were up to.

It's time that ALL teachers in CVESD were properly evaluated.

Chula Vista teacher removed from job, accused of soliciting massages from students
Kandiss Crone
10 News

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - Some parents at a South Bay elementary school told 10News they couldn't believe what their kids said went on inside their third-grade classroom.

"This behavior, to my son, has become so normalized that he did not report it to me," said parent Andy Stumph.

Some parents say Salt Creek Elementary School teacher Stephanie Petitt solicited massages from the students during reading time in exchange for $10 in class money. The parents also say Petitt also encouraged the third graders to give each other massages.

"The most children I've heard at any one time that was massaging the teacher was seven -- one on each leg, one on each arm, one on each shoulder, one playing with the hair," Stumph said.

The parents voiced their concerns at a school board meeting Wednesday night but weren't happy with the outcome, so they contacted 10News.

Chula Vista Elementary School District Superintendent Francisco Escobedo said Chula Vista police were called in to investigate but did not find any criminal wrongdoing.

"This behavior is absolutely not acceptable. We have professional standards at Chula Vista," Escobedo said.

Escobedo said Petitt is no longer teaching at the school, but is still employed with the district.

"She's on administrative leave; these allegations we take very seriously and we have to do due process to investigate," Escobedo said.

Parents say that's not enough, and they worry the teacher's actions could have a lasting impact on their kids.

"If there's a goal to be had ... Mrs. Petit would never be able to teach again," parent Samantha Trickey said.

Three parents pulled their children out of the school, 10News learned.

The district says a long-term substitute will replace the teacher.

Teacher on leave over massage claims
U‑T San Diego
Feb. 14, 2014 - She reported back to work Monday and taught her class after investigations by the Chula Vista Elementary School District and the Chula Vista ...


Anonymous said...

I honestly don't know where to start. As a parent directly involved, with a student in Mrs. Pettit's class, I take serious issue with quite a few things you have posted in the blog. I am also quite surprised that you, as a former educator, would make some of the comments you did.

I have zero first hand knowledge as to the amount of information you are basing your decisions and comments on, but I certainly hope it is not only the newspaper article and news 10 story.

Your statement of "No one, including the police has found that there was any hint of wrongdoing in Ms. Pettit's classroom--only bad judgment. Kids are being harmed every day in CVESD classrooms by cruel and/or incompetent teachers and administrators, but there is no evidence that giving a teacher a back rub is damaging to a child." is not only appalling given your background as an educator, but it highlights how little you know about what you are talking about.

The Chula Vista Police does not investigate for wrongdoing, they investigate for evidence of criminal activity. They cannot pursue further once the determination is made that there is no criminal behavior, and in this case, because the massages were not to the breast, buttocks, or groin, the behavior did not rise to the level of criminal. To be crystal clear, the Chula Vista Police investigation found one thing and one thing only, the behavior was not CRIMINAL, they have made absolutely no comments as to whether they feel the behavior was right or wrong.

As a former educator, I find it impossible to believe that you do not know and understand the difference between criminal behavior, and unethical, immoral, and unprofessional behavior.

My eight year old son, and other seven and eight year old children did not "voluntarily" give their forty year old teacher massages. Their teacher structured her classroom environment to reward the massages at a rate of 10x what they could receive for other classroom activities. She did not get her "back rubbed" as you said on your blog, she would have children massaging her legs, arms, and shoulders for 10 dollars per chapter she would read to them. She would also facilitate group massages where they children would massage each other.

As a former educator, please provide for me an explanation as to how the above activities fits into a professional classroom environment. Please explain to me what lesson my child is learning by being paid to massage an adult in a third grade classroom.

"but there is no evidence that giving a teacher a back rub is damaging to a child."

Are you a practicing psychologist or psychologist? Have you had the opportunity to talk to any of these children? Please provide the information you are using to justify this statement, or is this your personal opinion positioned as fact?

"The situation is no more serious than if Stephanie were rewarding kids to fan her. The problem with the behavior is that the students are being asked to treat the teacher like a queen rather than a professional."

I completely disagree. This situation is absolutely nothing like my son being asked to "fan" his teacher. My son't classroom environment was structured in a manner that rewarded him for massaging his teacher. My son's teacher controlled the environment, controlled the touching, and also facilitated group massages where the children would massage each other. What educational benefit/lesson did my son receive from these activities? What benefit did Mrs. Pettit receive?

Anonymous said...

The problem with the behavior has nothing to do with my son being asked to treat his teacher like a queen instead of a professional. The problem with the behavior is that it crosses professional, ethical, and moral lines. The problem with the behavior is that the activity, the teacher, the monetary reward and the environment degrade the boundaries that I have tried to instill in my child since his birth. Bottom line, we live in a world where there are dangerous people. A sexual predator would love nothing more than to find a child that has been taught touch, solicited from an adult in an authoritative position is totally normal, especially if you are rewarded.

"Stephanie did not cause pain to the kids who volunteered to give her massages."

Really? You should have heard how devastated my son was when we told him Mrs. Pettit was not returning. He was not devastated that she was gone, he was devastated because he felt like it was his fault. His exact words were "it was probably my fault, I told the Principal that we were giving her massages." Yeah, he wasn't manipulated at all was he?

Based on the content in your blog, it seems as if you have other issues with the school district.

As a parent directly involved in this situation, I would appreciate it if you would focus your efforts to raise awareness on other issues you feel are important without attempting to juxtapose them with a situation you are obviously not involved with, and know little, if not nothing about.

Maura Larkins said...

I am truly sorry that you and your son have been negatively affected by Stephenie's inappropriate behavior.

You make a good point that kids should not be conditioned to touch adults on request.

You now have a perfect opportunity to talk to your son about this. This should go a long way toward protecting him from sexual abuse in his future.

I would be happy for your son if Ms. Pettit were the worst teacher he ever has. I doubt very much that that will turn out to be the case. I know that there are worse teachers than Ms. Pettit in CVESD. I say this even though I believe that Ms. Pettit has made bad decisions before, particularly regarding bilingual students.

I think poorly-performing teachers could do a much better job if the district cared enough to evaluate teachers and give them the academic and psychological help they need.

The culture of the district is dysfunctional; problems need to be prioritized and dealt with. First, the district needs to properly evaluate all teachers.

I'm surprised that you don't support this. Your son is important to me, and so are all the other children in the district. We need to care about the big picture, and the hidden picture, not just the issues that make it to the evening news.

The culture of corruption and secrecy that exists in many schools is a threat to all children because it protects bad teachers. I have seen corruption at CVESD since Pam Smith and Larry Cunningham were working with Bertha Lopez (yes, that Bertha Lopez) to make sure that the CVESD decision-making process takes place behind closed doors.

One indication of this behind-closed-doors phenomenon is that almost all votes by the board are unanimous; I am unaware of any serious discussion of opposing points of view at any board meeting. Board meetings are not supposed to be mere rituals. They are supposed to be like town hall meetings.

If any member of the Castle Park Family were to engage in sexual abuse of children, the district would be vulnerable to the threat that that employee would spill the beans if the district tried to fire the employee.

Do you see why the culture of corruption is very important? It's not a separate issue that should be ignored. It's part and parcel of the dysfunction exhibited by many teachers and administrators and board members.

Maura Larkins said...

P.S. to Anonymous,

I'm hoping that your child's new teacher will be a good one, but I hope you'll continue to be vigilant. The chances are that there is a teacher molesting children in CVESD right now.

Below is a clip from a Channel 6 news story about a current lawsuit involving CVESD.

Kinloch taught at CVESD for a decade, and even though a student came forward during that time to report sexual abuse, Kinloch was kept in the classroom.

So watch out.

And I urge parents to demand effective teacher and administrator evaluations. Innocence isn't the only thing a child can lose to bad teachers. A child can also lose the successful life he or she would have had with a good education.


Mr. Kinloch was in his classroom at school, disrobing this child with the door locked. That's negligent supervision in my mind,” Elaine Heine, the boy’s attorney, told San Diego 6.

The boy’s lawsuit, filed in August, also argues that the Chula Vista Elementary School District negligently hired Kinloch because he was a known distributor of child pornography.

In 1998, Kinloch agreed to testify in Great Britain about his involvement in a child pornography ring. In exchange for his testimony, the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to offer Kinloch immunity, and he was never charged, Camarena said. Kinloch was hired by the school district two years later.

Heine has filed claims against the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing on the boy’s behalf, and plans to add those agencies as defendants in her lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages.

The Chula Vista Elementary School District has filed a lawsuit against the federal Department of Justice, trying to determine why Kinloch’s background check raised no red flags.

Anonymous said...

Ms.Pettit is a good teacher she gave me Zumba for a whole year for free. The whole school did zumba with her. she is really nice and you guys are mking a big mistake

Maura Larkins said...

Yes, I agree with the last comment that the district is making a grievous mistake by not properly evaluating teachers. The district should act based on accurate information. Instead, the district sends teachers home when there's political pressure. And brings them back when it's politically expedient.

I'd estimate that a minority of teachers are actually better than Stephanie. Stephenie is comfortably in the range of the average capable teacher who makes mistakes but also accomplishes a lot.

I'm guessing that the district is doing NOTHING to evaluate Stephanie at this time. Politics alone will decide how this case progresses.

That's what happened with John Kinloch. The district put him back in the classroom after a molestation accusation, instead of thoroughly investigating him.

Francisco Escobedo and Sandra Villegas-Zuniga have little to be proud of regarding the functioning of the Human Resources Department.

Perhaps parent might want to investigate THEM.

It's actually extremely unprofessional that CVESD does not frequently observe classrooms and interview teachers--ALL CVESD teachers.

Maura Larkins said...

Click HERE for posts regarding CVESD teacher/child molester John Kinloch.

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