A Special Board meeting to discuss the Reconstitution of West Valley was held on September 15, 2015 at Nimitz Elementary School in Sunnyvale, CA.
For those who weren’t able to attend, a full video recording can be found at http://bit.ly/cusd091515.
A Special Board meeting to discuss the Reconstitution of West Valley was held on September 15, 2015 at Nimitz Elementary School in Sunnyvale, CA. The agenda included two items in addition to public comments. The meeting was well attended by parents, teachers, and community members across Cupertino Union School District (CUSD) with standing-room only. Video of the meeting will soon be available. Continue reading
It has been reported that the Superintendent and some Board Members in a recent talk at a school said that West Valley Elementary had one of the lowest scores on the CA Assessment tests compared to other CUSD schools. They further said that West Valley scored just barely above Title 1 schools.
It seems the Superintendent and Board Members may be looking for further justification of their good judgment in dismantling West Valley Elementary and hiring Human Systems Dynamics (HSD) to reinvent the school.
To avoid any distortion of the facts, the charts below illustrate the 2015 Test Results for English Language Arts / Literacy and Mathematics, by the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, for all CUSD elementary schools.
Human Systems Dynamics Institude (HSDi) is a small non-profit organization that claims to help individuals and organizations deal with complex change. HSD has become highly controversial within the Cupertino Union School District (CUSD) community for a variety of reasons ranging from credentials and theory to financial accountability and conflict of interest.
Read the The Real West Valley Story to learn about the pivotal role HSD played in the reconstitution of West Valley Elementary in Sunnyvale, CA.
The information below serves to inform parents and taxpayers about HSD’s theory that is being applied within CUSD schools and the tax dollars spent on HSD services.
Read the Disclaimer
Phyllis Vogel’s Legacy
Wendy Gudalewicz’s Selection
Enter Human Systems Dynamics Institute (HSD)
Developing the “Reinvention” Plan
Trouble Brewing at West Valley
“Climate Survey” Conducted by District
Facilitation Plans Sent to WVE Staff
HSD Facilitation Proven To Be a Sham
District Sends “Stop Glaring” Memo to Staff
Superintendent Kicks Off Long-Held Plan
Board Approves the Decision, With Exceptions
Superintendent Informs CEA of Change in Plans
March Begins for WVE Teachers and Staff
Parents Informed that Teachers Must Reapply
CEA Issues a Cease and Desist to District
Superintendent Deceives at Parent Night
Introduction of MOU and Board Meeting
Finalization of MOU and Notice to Teachers
District Notifies Parents of WVE Reconstitution
West Valley Is Only the Beginning
Phyllis Vogel had spent 50 years in education. She was beginning to think about her legacy as Board President of Cupertino Union School District (CUSD), in Sunnyvale, California.
She liked that each school had its own personality, but CUSD didn’t have a culture or a brand.
Phyllis wanted a common way of doing things across the schools. So, she looked for a Superintendent who could help her change that. ^
“Interviews with the Cupertino schools community indicated that they wanted someone with personal and professional integrity who valued collaboration and the diversity of the district,” Phyllis Vogel told the San Jose Mercury news.
After a search by a reputable recruiting firm, Wendy Gudalewicz was at the top of the list. In May 2012, Wendy Gudalewicz was hired as Superintendent of CUSD Schools.
“Dr. Gudalewicz showed herself to be an outstanding candidate who the Board of Education feels will be a strategic visionary, an open communicator, and a collaborative leader,” said Phyllis Vogel in announcing Wendy Gudalewicz’s appointment as Superintendent. [Wendy Gudalewicz Welcome Letter, 5/22/2012] ^
Phyllis asked Wendy whether she knew any outside vendors that could help reinvent CUSD schools. Wendy highly recommended Human Systems Dynamics (HSD). She had used them on an ongoing basis at previous jobs for professional development and various change initiatives.
HSD was the perfect choice. It made managing complex change sound simple if their process was followed. Plus, HSD’s founders had started promoting their approach as a method to achieve school reform. They’ve even contributed to a book written by the founders’ third sister called Radical Rules for Schools!
Human Systems Dynamics (HSD) promotes an approach to managing organizational change, based on one of the sisters’ Phd dissertation from Union Institute & University in 2001. They have a“common language” of terms and buzzwords that sound important and pseudo-scientific, which they sell via training, consulting, and products (books).
HSD’s whole approach is to create “simple rules” for the change, and created these 6 simple rules for their own business:
1. Teach and learn in every interaction.
2. Search for the true and the useful.
3. Give and get value for value.
4. Share the HSD story.
5. Attend to the whole, the part, and the greater whole.
6. Engage in joyful practice.
Never mind that HSD is a non-profit organization led by two sisters, whose headquarters is their home in Minneapolis. And never mind that HSD lists 11 Directors on their Board and zero employees in their IRS filings. [2013-HSD IRS Form 990]
HSD has proven to work closely with Superintendent Wendy Gudalewicz for many years, as described in their book, Adaptive Action: Leveraging Uncertainty in Your Organization. ^
Wendy and HSD spent the first year sending all the CUSD principals and Board Members through training, so they could learn “the HSD-way.” [CUSD Board Minutes, 2/12/2013]
Upon examination, they decided the best school to start with in reinventing CUSD would be West Valley Elementary (WVE). After all, the District knew the WVE principal had failed for the previous 2 years, and teachers and parents weren’t happy. Yet the District did not intercede to correct the situation during any of that time.
So, the District hired Theresa Johnson as Principal of WVE for the 2014-2015 school year to define a new vision for the school. Theresa had “coffees” with parents and meetings with teachers in an attempt to define the vision for West Valley, but without much success. [WVPTO Minutes, 10/15/2014] ^
Principal Theresa Johnson was making many changes at WVE without consulting teachers and staff. She had a good rapport with some parents, especially PTO members. But teachers and staff didn’t like it. They were feeling disrespected and undermined by Theresa continuously meeting with parents as a stakeholder group before having the same discussion with them.
So, at the end of January 2015, the teachers and staff got together to discuss their concerns. A few teacher representatives met with Theresa the next day to share the list of concerns. They asked for more open communication and professionalism. [WVE Staff Concerns, 1/26/2015]
At the faculty meeting on January 27th, the teachers met with Principal Theresa Johnson to discuss the concerns that had been brought to her earlier that day. The meeting didn’t really help. It just made Theresa more defensive and frustrated, and she started to drive a wedge between the parents and teachers, and the teachers themselves.
For the next few months the tenuous working relationship between the principal and the staff was allowed to continue without any apparent intervention or help from the District. ^
On May 19th, the District’s HR staff showed up at West Valley unannounced to conduct a confidential “climate survey.” Teachers were pulled out of classrooms and off playground monitoring to participate in 1:1 interviews with District staff.
Teachers were asked questions about their relationship with the Principal, teacher morale, and the overall environment at West Valley.
The next time the teachers heard about the survey was at a West Valley faculty meeting on May 26th, where the District read a list of directives about interpersonal behavior. They announced there would be a mandatory all-day meeting with a neutral facilitator on June 2nd. The District would provide substitutes for all full-time employees.
On May 29th, the District prepared a “Stop Glaring” memo which contained the directives presented at the faculty meeting, but didn’t send it to teachers. The memo berated the teachers for such behaviors as – [Memo to WV Staff, 5/29/2015]
Three days after preparing the “Stop Glaring” memo, Superintendent Wendy Gudalewicz sent an email with the plans for the mandatory facilitation for the following day on June 2nd.
In the email, Wendy Gudalewicz introduced the facilitator as Royce Holladay from Human Systems Dynamics. Touting Royce as a former educator herself, the Superintendent said, “Royce works so well with educators because she understands the complexities we are confronted with daily, and she is an expert in understanding and shifting human systems.” [Facilitation Notice, 6/1/2015]
Encouraging the teachers to speak freely without leadership in the room, the Superintendent said, “Remember, this is your day so the only people in the room will be the West Valley staff and the facilitator.”
Later that night, the District informed Royce they intended to hand out the “Stop Glaring” memo to the staff at the facilitation and put teachers on notice that hostile behaviors would not be tolerated. In her response, Royce first thanked the District for providing her the “interviews [from the climate survey] and other information” and added, “I would really appreciate it if we did not hand out the letters tomorrow, as that would potentially pull them away from the focus they will need to consider the dynamics they are creating … The only thing that would accomplish is to let them displace their blame and avoid responsibility.” [HSD District Facilitation, 6/1/2015]
At the beginning of the day, teachers were led to believe they were participating in a team building session. The session ran from 7:30 am – 1:30 pm. The day was filled with HSD buzzwords such as recognizing patterns, adaptive capacity, and simple rules as norms. In essence, the teachers discussed the environment at West Valley; worked in small groups to brainstorm ideas on how they would like to improve it; and then the groups came back together to discuss and reach agreement on shared expectations. The teachers left the session, thinking they knew what needed to be done next year. [HSD Staff Facilitation Guide, 6/2/2015]
The very next day, on June 3rd, the Superintendent informed Kai Brown and Dave Villafana, the Teacher’s Union Presidents (CEA), that the District was considering many options, one of which was to transfer all teachers out of West Valley, stating that the “mediation” had been unsuccessful. This information was never communicated to the teachers. ^
How could the Superintendent have received feedback from HSD on the facilitation literally overnight and used it in a decision to get rid of all the teachers? Well, she didn’t. The outcome of the HSD-facilitated session hardly factored in to Wendy Gudalewicz’s decision to reassign teachers and staff.
Royce Holladay, HSD facilitator, provided a de-brief of the facilitation to District HR Management (not the Superintendent) during an 11 am meeting on Wednesday, June 3rd, the day following the session.
Two hours after Royce de-briefed the District, at a 1:00 pm meeting, the Superintendent informed Kai Brown and Dave Villafana, the Teacher’s Union Presidents (CEA), that all the teachers and staff may be transferred out of West Valley. The “mediation” had been unsuccessful.
Later that afternoon on June 3rd, Wendy Gudalewicz sent an email to Royce Holladay listing the patterns she discovered from the teachers’ feedback during the climate survey. Wendy said the things that matter most to teachers are students; a common purpose; right to an education; learning; and high quality, balanced education. [W.Gudalewicz Re: Patterns, 6/3/2015]
As an outcome of the Facilitiation, Royce Holladay delivered a written report of the teachers’ agreements made during the facilitation some time on or after June 5th when she returned to Minnesota. The report is very positive. There is no mention of tension or unresolved issues. The report reflects a very productive team building session. [HSD Staff Facilitation Report_6/2/2015]
Wait a minute. None of what was reported from the Facilitation speaks to remaining “tensions” among the Staff. Also, why was Royce Holladay given a $15,000 contract for a facilitation that has no merit or value? [R. Holladay Expenses, 5/26/2015]
Well, Royce Holladay actually provided more professional development training, rather than facilitation, to West Valley staff during her visit. She worked with Principal Theresa Johnson to “help me in my own demeanor in channeling my frustration.” Theresa was hoping that she could meet with the Superintendent to discuss next steps and asked Wendy whether it’s part of her plan. [T. Johnson Demeanor, 6/3/2015]
Wait a minute. How can the Superintendent use information shared by the teachers during a “facilitation” to say that “mediation” was unsuccessful? The Superintendent and everyone trained in “the HSD-way” know there’s a big distinction between the two. A Facilitator simply guides the process, encourages participation, and ensures all viewpoints are heard and understood. Facilitation is often a preventative measure; it helps build consensus in a group –much like team building. On the other hand, a Mediator helps ease friction between sides. They act as neutral parties – sometimes as a go-between – to break an impasse in negotiations or to resolve conflict.
Well, then it makes sense that Royce Holladay is a Facilitator, not a Mediator. She is on the District’s side and hardly impartial. So then what intervention or so-called mediation did the District provide to ease “tensions” at West Valley? ^
Following the facilitation, the District sent the “Stop Glaring” memo, dated May 29th, to teachers and staff. They were required to sign the memorandum, stating they had received it, and return to the District by June 5th. [Memo to WV Staff, 5/29/2015]
Some secretaries and CSEA employees (California Employees School Association) reported having to sign the memo, even though they hadn’t been interviewed for the survey conducted on May 19th.
On June 3rd, Kai Brown (CEA President) and Dave Villafana (CEA-elect President) sent a notice to the District challenging the validity and legality of the “Stop Glaring” memo. “Your memorandum erroneously mentions behaviors … the directive is vague, troublesome language, and wide open for misinterpretation … it violates Educational Employment Relations Act…” [CEA Re: Climate Survey, 6/3/2015] ^
As mentioned earlier on June 3rd, the Superintendent informed CEA Presidents Kai Brown and Dave Villafana that all teachers may be transferred out of West Valley. She said the Board would be approving the decision at the next Board meeting on June 9th.
Kai and Dave were shocked by this information! They knew teachers weren’t happy with the Administration, but they thought issues were being addressed during a staff meeting, and everyone was committed to mending fences. What happened?!
Wendy said the decision was made due to problems with “staff dynamics and the school’s interaction with the parent community.” Wendy said parents were unhappy; there were “tensions” among the teaching staff; and the District’s attempts at mediation including the previous day’s meeting were unsuccessful.
Wait a minute. Didn’t Wendy Gudalewicz tell WV parents that no parents were involved in the discussion or consulted before any decisions were made? [Superintendent FAQ_7/3/2015]
Dave questioned the District’s authority and asked whether they had gone through the legal team, to which Wendy responded that contract language made it clear that she can transfer or reassign any personnel at any time.
Given the claims of the Superintendent about the magnitude of the problem and her claims of repeated attempts at mediation, Kai and Dave reluctantly concurred with the dismantling of employees at West Valley. In a follow-up email, Dave referenced the decision; the Board’s impending approval; and asked whether it would fall under “6.7 Opening Schools? [CEA Re: Decision, 6/3/2015]
Kai and Dave left the meeting knowing they had a lot of homework to do. They quickly needed to confirm the District had the authority to transfer all the teachers from the school. They also needed to hear the West Valley teachers’ side of the story, which unfortunately did not happen. ^
During a closed session on June 9th, Wendy Gudalewicz informed the Board of the issues she claimed existed at West Valley and her decision to transfer all the teachers and staff from the school.
She claimed that during the 19 staff interviews on May 29th, the District learned that teachers were “shunning, taunting, threatening, gossiping about, and excluding from staff meetings and emails two or three teachers.” The situation was just dreadful!
It was so dreadful; in fact, the District had to send a “No Glaring” memo to the teachers ordering them to STOP their abhorrent behavior.
Wendy even went so far as to set up a facilitation meeting – lasting the entire day – just for the teachers. The teachers even had the beginning of the day to speak freely before the Principal joined their discussion.
Unfortunately, this facilitation was not successful. “There was something about the group absent of leadership that wasn’t ok. Sometimes there’s an insular environment where people just take care of themselves.” [Superintendent / Parent Meeting, 7/1/2015]
Wait a minute. According to Royce Holladay’s report, the “Facilitation” was very successful. There was never a “Mediation” or an attempt to resolve any “tensions” among the Staff. And didn’t the West Valley teachers and staff have three principals in 4 years? They were probably pretty used to having to take care of themselves.
The Board knew it had a difficult decision to make. They wanted to support the Superintendent’s decision, yet they didn’t want to lose the history of the school. After all, West Valley is one of the highest performing schools in California, and many of its veteran teachers have been “Teachers of the Year”!
The Board decided to approve the Superintendent’s decision with the caveat that she allows a few teachers to remain at West Valley as goodwill. Darn it! If it weren’t for so many “individual personnel issues” among the teaching staff, more teachers could stay.
The Board heard Wendy’s report during the closed session under the Agenda item “Unrepresented Employee Wendy Gudalewicz.” The Board “approved” the decision without taking a vote, as the Superintendent had been granted the authority to reconstitute any CUSD school under Board Policy “4113 BP Assignment.” [CUSD Board Minutes, 6/9/2015]
Wait a minute. Isn’t this a violation of the Brown Act, which provides for open legislation? Well, not technically. The Board President, Phyllis Vogel, told the Deputy District Attorney upon inquiry that the transfers were discussed during closed session as “individual personnel issues” – a related side topic to the agenda item, explaining why it was not clearly described in the agenda. And because there was no “vote,” nothing was captured in the meeting minutes, … nor was there a formal judgment to overturn. Therefore, nothing legally could be done about the decision, in and of itself. [District Attorney Letter, 7/17/2015] ^
The next day, on June 10th, the District met with Kai Brown and Dave Villafana from CEA and told them about the Board’s decision. Wendy Gudalewicz said the District would be transferring only 20 of the 24 teachers – not all of them. Wendy explained to Kai and Dave the Board’s reasoning: they didn’t want to lose West Valley’s history.
Kai and Dave were flabbergasted! They demanded to know how the District would decide which teachers would stay at WVE and which would get reassigned? They wanted to know the criteria – would it be based on tenure or something else? Dave suggested that Wendy was targeting certain teachers. Wendy denied that, responding that she couldn’t even recall any teachers’ names. She also said she would take a polygraph test to prove she wasn’t lying.
The Superintendent then shared with Kai and Dave the draft memo they planned to present to teachers the following day. The memo said that teachers who were willing to commit to West Valley’s new philosophy could reapply for their jobs.
This made the CEA Presidents even more furious, but they couldn’t act on it until they obtained the consent of CEA’s Executive Board. Again, Kai and Dave questioned the criteria for selection. How would the District be fair in the interviewing and selection of teachers? Wendy Gudalewicz didn’t have an answer.
Dave couldn’t believe what he was hearing: The District was planning to invite all teachers to reapply for their positions, knowing they were only going to allow four of them to come back! He couldn’t go along with that. ^
On June 10th, the teachers and staff received an email from Principal Theresa Johnson: “I know there are festivities planned tomorrow after our students leave midday, but before you leave tomorrow, we will be having a mandatory all-staff meeting at 12:20 p.m. in the staff room.” [Staff Meeting Notice, 6/1/2015]
During the meeting, the Superintendent first announced that Theresa Johnson had accepted a position in the District office, and Eaton’s Principal, Robin Robinson, would be taking over the principal position at West Valley.
The District also informed the teaching staff that they would have to reapply for their jobs at West Valley. The memo presented to the teachers provided no reason for the drastic and sudden decision. Rather, it said: “Outcomes from a period of input, reflection, and action-planning [regarding school climate issues] resulted in these administrative decisions.” [Memo to WV staff, 6/11/15]
The memo went on to inform the Staff of how to interview for their positions. “The District would make best effort to notify staff members selected to remain at West Valley by June 30th.” The memo concluded with instructions to teachers and staff, who would be leaving or moving from the portables, for packing their personal belongings and returning their keys.
Wait a minute. Didn’t a huge shipment of boxes and packing tape arrive at West Valley on the morning of the last day of school? And didn’t that shipment contain enough packing materials for ALL the teachers and staff to pack their belongings?
The teachers and staff left the meeting angry, shocked, and heart-broken. Many rushed to the website where they could sign up for interviews. Much to their surprise, all morning timeslots in the next day’s interview schedule had already been filled by Eaton teachers and staff.
Less than an hour after notifying WVE staff that they must reapply for their positions, the District sent an email to all CUSD teachers and staff, informing them of the situation at West Valley and encouraging them to apply. “This may be a unique opportunity for you professionally.” [Memo to CUSD staff, 6/11/15] ^
On June 11th, two hours after the dismissal on the last day of school, WVE parents received an email from the Superintendent stating “the District has become increasingly aware that staff dynamics and the school’s interaction with the parent community need improvement… This awareness was brought about by stakeholder feedback … The District has attempted to resolve the concerns…. In an effort to prevent the evolving school climate issues from ultimately impacting the student experience, the District is immediately engaging in a plan to reinvent the school…. Existing West Valley staff (both teachers and support staff) will be asked to apply and successfully interview for an assignment at the school.” [LetterToParents, 6/11/2015]
Parents, sitting around swimming pools with their kids at after-school parties, read the memo on their phones, and were shocked! What?! They had no idea there were problems with the staff and interaction with the parent community. Parents love the teachers at West Valley!
Wait a minute? This is a pre-emptive move by the Superintendent to avoid impacting the students’ experience? How can a problem so big that requires “reinventing” the school overnight not have already affected the students, and how could the parents not have heard about it?! This doesn’t make sense!
In the letter, the Superintendent announced that Theresa Johnson had accepted a position at the District, and Robin Robinson would become West Valley’s new Principal. Wendy also invited parents to a meeting on June 15th to ask questions and provide input on the re-invention of West Valley.
That afternoon the Superintendent called a private meeting in her office with a handful of select parents and PTO members, with whom she had good relationships, to discuss the talking points and get a pulse on the community’s reaction. Following the meeting, parents posted to community and school message boards providing more details on what happened. The next day, the WV PTO President sent Wendy an email saying, “As promised, I sent out the message below to our parent community just now. Thought you might want to be aware of what was said…. I’ve also called a PTO executive board meeting so that we have more parents sharing the message.” [PTO Re: Parent Message, 6/12/2015] ^
The following day, on Friday, June 12th, Dave Villafana – now CEA President – sent a Cease and Desist letter to Wendy Gudalewicz ordering the District to stop any actions related to WVE teachers because they were in direct violation of the CUSD / CEA collective bargaining agreement. [Cease and Desist, 6/12/2015]
The letter informed the District that they cannot develop their own process of transfer and reassignments without it being agreed upon by CEA. Should the District ignore the Cease and Desist, the Association was prepared to file both a grievance and an unfair labor practice charge against the District.
The District was not happy. They sent an email to Dave on June 13th, reminding him that he and Kai had reviewed the draft letter on June 10th and had not expressed concerns about any perceived contract violations. [District Re: Violations, 6/13/2015]
On Monday morning, June 15th at 8:00 am, Dave Villafana and Crystal Watts, CTA (California Teachers Association) Support Staff, met with the District. At the meeting, the District confirmed they had abided by the Cease and Desist and stopped the interview process. Wendy Gudalewicz was upset because she thought the Teachers’ Unions were in agreement that the District could reassign personnel. Dave clarified that while he agreed the District had the authority to reassign personnel, he had huge concerns about the process, e.g. how the District will decide who stays and who goes. He also wanted to make sure something like this never happens again.
At the meeting, they reached an impasse. The District wanted to reassign 20 of the 24 teachers, and the Teachers’ Unions prohibited them from interviewing the teachers for their own positions. The Unions wanted to know how the District intended to select the four who remained in a fair process, and the District didn’t have an answer. Dave knew that if the District arbitrarily retained any of the teachers, he would have breached his own obligations to the teachers in not ensuring a fair and equitable agreement – that individual teachers would not be singled out. ^
That evening, on Monday June 15th, the Superintendent addressed the audience of parents, teachers, and media before introducing the new WVE principal, Robin Robinson.
The Superintendent explained, “There’s been a lot of tension in the community. It has transcended the school. It’s widespread across the school and community. We have tensions everywhere,… and so much so that ultimately our goal was to say we don’t ever want that tension to begin to affect the learning environment for our kids.” [WV Parent Info Night, 6/15/2015, 1:22]
She went on to say, “We made an attempt to fix it, but felt that due to the complexity of some of the issues the best thing to do was just move forward.”
The Superintendent shared the Selection Criteria for West Valley Teachers and said, “What we’re saying is we want a solid 100% commitment that this is what we’re doing at this school moving forward. That’s what we want. And that’s all we’re asking. … We’re also asking those who recommit to commit to coming a little early. So we as a District are committed to paying any of the teachers who come back to West Valley 3 extra paid days so that we can begin to build that culture together. [WV Parent Info Night, 6/15/2015, 4:34, 7:40]
Parents and teachers left the meeting on that night feeling that if the West Valley teachers agreed to the concepts that were expressed by the Superintendent, they could have their jobs back. ^
The following day, on June 16th, Dave Villafana and Crystal Watts met with the District to determine the process for filling the positions at West Valley. The District presented a draft MOU (Memorandum of Understanding), but it failed to address how the process would be fair and balanced. As they could not find a fair way to move some teachers and not the others, the District informed Dave and Crystal that all teachers and staff would need to be moved. The District then instructed the Teachers’ Unions to draft an MOU that would fulfill their needs and concerns.
That afternoon, Wendy sent an email to the Board giving them a “heads-up” that some parents may attend the Board meeting that evening. [W.Gudalewicz Re: Heads-up, 6/16/2015]
The topic of West Valley teachers having to reapply for their positions was not on the agenda at the Board meeting on June 16th, nor was it discussed during open session. In fact, only a few parents attended the meeting. Most parents did not know about the meeting because it had not been mentioned by the Superintendent at the previous night’s parent meeting. Some parents were still in shock about what was happening. Other parents took a “wait and see” approach, believing that interviews of West Valley teachers were underway, and the majority would be coming back.
That night, Crystal Watts (CTA) drafted an MOU that addressed the concerns of the Teachers’ Unions and sent it to the District. ^
The District sent Dave Villafana and Crystal Watts a final draft of the MOU. The MOU articulated the legal authority for the District’s decision to transfer personnel. It also addressed the Teachers’ Unions concerns that transferred teachers could not be penalized as a result of the transfer, and this event would not be precedent setting. [MOU 1st Draft]
The MOU was about to be finalized for signature, when Dave Villafana phoned the District to add additional language. He asked that the MOU specifically say that all teachers and staff would be transferred. He felt that it would be unfair because the District did not provide any criteria for how they would select the four teachers to remain at West Valley. He refused to give the teachers false hope for returning to West Valley if they committed to the District’s new concepts, knowing the District’s intent was to transfer 20 of the 24 teachers.
At 9:20 pm, the District sent the signed MOU to the teachers and said in an email: “To be clear, all West Valley classroom teachers will be transferred to other District schools, effective the 2015-2016 school year.” [MOU to Teachers, 6/17/2015]
Dave Villafana, CEA President, was asked by the District not to inform any teachers or staff until the District had sent its email. The next morning, Dave sent an email to his Executive Board outlining what happened. “Throughout our discussions we were looking carefully at how they would assign teachers to West Valley. They could not come up with a way that would be fair. So they fell back on their movement of everyone. The district was going to do this without notifying the teachers that they would not have a chance of getting their jobs back. This was decided on Tuesday night. I could not live with that as I could not face those teachers and lie to them that if they went through the process they would be rehired at West Valley. So on Wednesday I had them include the truth that teachers would be moved.” [P.Vogel / CEA Email, 6/18/2015]
Immediately thereafter, Dave Villafana forwarded the same message to Phyllis Vogel, CUSD Board President. Phyllis responded to Dave’s message with, “Thanks, Dave. I appreciate this. These are tough times – we’ll get through it! Let’s keep communicating. ~ Phyllis” ^
On June 18th, Wendy Gudalewicz sent an email to WVE parents, informing them of the decision to reassign all teachers.
The memo again claimed “tensions” and unsuccessful attempts at intervention. “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.” [Notice to Parents, 6/18/2015]
The District blamed the Teachers’ Unions for the abrupt reversal of decision: “All along the process District union leadership was consulted and present as the decisions were made. Union leadership agreed to all steps along the way until this week when we were asked by them to stop the interviews. After our parent meeting on Monday, the teacher’s union leadership asked for a process change and requested we not interview teachers to return to West Valley, but simply reassign all teachers. We have agreed to the union request.” ^
The teachers, parents, and community were shocked! Hundreds of people spoke out on message boards, and thousands signed a petition, against the decision to reassign all teachers and staff from West Valley Elementary.
The Board members received many emails from parents expressing various views, but mostly ones of shock and confusion. The Board members responded to these emails, and sometimes seemed to contradict the District’s version of events and timeline. [P.Vogel Response to Parent, 6/18/2015, P.Vogel Response to Parent, 6/22/2015]
The decision to reconstitute West Valley divided the parent community. One group of parents organized a rally for the teachers; facilitated parent forums; met with the Superintendent and Board Members; and conducted a parent survey. In July, they sent the School Board a letter, requesting a Special Board Meeting. Their request was denied. [Parents Letter to Board, 7/14/2015]
Another group of parents, including PTO members, brainstormed ideas to improve the public image; encouraged the community to move forward and prepare for school; and continually updated the Superintendent on discussions in the WVE parent forum. In a lengthy email thread with a WV PTO Board Member, Wendy Gudalewicz volunteered Jeremy [Nishihara] from the District office to assist with communication. [PTO Board Member Emails, 6/18/2015]
A CUSD Board meeting on August 18th, the second day of school, marked the first opportunity for teachers, parents, and community members to express their views about the reconstitution of West Valley Elementary.
On the agenda at the Board meeting was the vote to approve a contract for $100,000 with Human Systems Dynamics to provide professional development services throughout CUSD during the 2015-16 school year. Despite strong parent opposition, the Board approved the contract by a vote of 3-1. Kristen Lyn was the only Board Member in dissent. Board Members Phyllis Vogel, Anjali Kauser, and Soma McCandless voted to approve the contract. Board Member Josephine Lucey was not present.
Human Systems Dynamics (HSD) is now the vendor assigned to work with WVE parents to “reinvent” the school. They have said this will be a 3-5 year process. Many WV parents are furious because HSD’s involvement is perceived as a significant conflict of interest. Superintendent Wendy Gudalewicz has often pointed to HSD’s “unsuccessful” facilitation with teachers on June 2nd as a pivotal event in reassigning all teachers and staff from the school.
In this year’s West Valley PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) budget, $145,000 has been “reserved” for programs to reinvent West Valley as outcomes of the focus groups. This large sum of money is being reserved to fund the “reinvention” forced upon West Valley by the District; while at the same time, the School Administration is asking parents to donate additional funds for school supplies, field trips, and instructional aids.
With the reconstitution of West Valley Elementary, the plan to create Phyllis Vogel’s legacy has been set in motion. Which CUSD school is next? ^