Sunday, June 21, 2015

It was probably a good decision to move all 24 teachers at West Valley Elementary to other schools

This story is updated HERE.
Maura Larkins: In my experience some schools have serious problems behind the scenes that are caused by teachers who appear to be sweet and caring.  Often these teachers have won "teacher of the year" awards. I taught at two such schools in the 90s/early 00s: Harborside and Castle Park in Chula Vista Elementary School District.

All the teachers at Harborside Elementary were transferred out a few years later.

The same thing should have been done at Castle Park Elementary, but instead Superintendent Libia Gil, and Assistant Superintendents Richard Werlin, Dennis Doyle, Lowell Billings and Maria Guasp allowed themselves to be led by the nose by the teachers who controlled the school.  The school had 11 principals in 11 years.  Finally a few teachers, dubbed the "Castle Park Five", were transferred out in 2004.

All 24 teachers at West Valley Elementary will be moved to other schools, district says
By Kristi Myllenbeck and Matt Wilson
Mercury News

In a stunning move, the Cupertino Union School District announced late Wednesday night that all 24 teachers at West Valley Elementary School will be reassigned to other district campuses.
As a result, the high-performing Sunnyvale school will open in the fall with an entirely new roster of teachers as well as a new principal.
The district and the Cupertino Education Association agreed Wednesday evening to start with a fresh slate at West Valley, which by the district superintendent's own admission was rife with tension for a long time.
West Valley teachers were alerted via email Wednesday night of the decision; included in the message was an attachment of a memorandum of understanding jointly crafted by the district and union.
The latest development came as a surprise to teachers and parents, who had been told at a community meeting Monday that West Valley teachers would have to reapply for their jobs; they weren't told that the teachers would necessarily be sent to other schools.
Union president Dave Villafana said the decision to reassign everyone at West Valley stemmed from a desire to protect teachers from feeling singled out if moved elsewhere.
"We were looking at a fair process of how you would elect the teachers that would stay (at West Valley) and the teachers that would leave," he said. "The fair process would be to move everybody and we agreed with that."
The Cupertino Education Association would not have been involved in the rehiring process but wanted to avoid any fairness or perception issues."

"[Teachers would be asking], 'why did I get moved and somebody else didn't? And what criteria did you use?' " Villafana said. "We're trying to protect all the teachers when it comes to that."
The memorandum asks West Valley teachers to indicate the schools and grade levels they prefer for the upcoming school year, which begins in August.
It also states that special education resource specialists, speech language pathologists, psychologists, nurses, fourth- and fifth-grade physical education teachers and music teachers are exempt from relocation.
It remains unclear what specific event or series of events at the school resulted in the apparent turmoil. The district, citing legal reasons, said it won't release details about individual personnel or specific incidents.
But on Thursday, Superintendent Wendy Gudalewicz sent out a letter to school parents elaborating on some of the issues that sparked the dramatic changes.
"There has been a great deal of tension at West Valley among and between teachers, support staff, parents, and administration," Gudalewicz states in the letter. "If you and your family did not experience or were unaware of this tension--that's a good thing."
Gudalewicz adds that the group dynamic at West Valley created "a culture that was not serving educational needs" and that the district's decision to break up the faculty was "not taken lightly."
The letter confirms that a number of measures were taken to try to deal with issues that appear to have been simmering even before this school year.
"Multiple interventions took place throughout the year," Gudalewicz states in the letter. "A new principal was put in place at the beginning of the year. District level union leadership talked with staff. An all-day session with a facilitator took place at the end of the year to access the school climate. At this meeting it became clear that progress was minimal and internal change seemed unlikely."
Teachers were first alerted to the campus shakeup the last day of school June 11 when teachers were informed by district administrators during a staff meeting that they would have to reapply for their current jobs.

 Read more, including promotions for principals, here:


WVE town said...

Recent discoveries by parents found that the key problem was with the principal, as shown from internal district emails. Teachers had complained that the principal's unilateral actions and lack of communication were causing low morale. Instead of addressing the concerns, the principal and Superintendent did not renew the contracts of the first year teachers. Rather than admit that she made a mistake with her selection of the new principal, Superintendent Wendy Gudalewicz decided to transfer all the remaining teachers, which later included all staff. The teachers were not told of any problems. The teachers were asked to attend a consultant's "Human Systems Dynamics" training class, which the Superintendent falsely portrayed as "multiple interventions". Superintendent Gudalewicz discussed it with the School Board in a single closed session without a vote, and then she told parents that teachers would apply and interview for to return to their positions, but internal district leaks revealed that all the teachers would be transferred. Within a week, they started using the description "reconstitution", Superintendent Gudalewicz, and the School Board led by Phyllis Vogel, refused to meet with parents in open meetings all through the summer. One thing to note is that the consultant Royce Holladay of Human Systems Dynamics that was paid $15,000 to "facilitate" the failed teacher session is now hired to facilitate the "re-imaging" of the school which was said would take 3 to 5 years. From the internal emails obtained, it is a story of administration arrogance and retribution, facilitated with some consultant greed.

WVE town said...

By the way, the new principal is former San Diego area principal Robin Robinson, and she has mentioned "re-imagining" the school into a "Design 39" school.