CUSD Superintendent Wendy Gudalewicz was recently caught administering an oath of office that contained extra words during the swearing-in ceremony for newly elected Board members, Liang Chao and Phyllis Vogel. Since the revelation was made public, Superintendent Gudalewicz has denied her responsibility and has attempted to cover-up any wrongdoing.
The facts and evidence in this case do not support Superintendent Gudalewicz’s version of the events. Read for youself…
SUMMARY OF FACTS
On December 8, 2016, the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters (ROV) sent to Superintendent Gudalewicz Certificates of Election Results with Oaths of Office for Liang Chao and Phyllis Vogel. The Superintendent was to complete the Oath of Office forms; administer the oath; and file the Certificates of Oath with the County Clerk’s office. [ROV Letter, 12/8/16]
On December 13, 2016, Superintendent Gudalewicz administered the oath of office to Liang Chao and Phyllis Vogel at a swearing-in ceremony. After viewing a video of the event, a community member realized that an extra oath, not part of the standard CA state oath, was slipped in. The additional words were “I will support in word and deed decisions made by the Board majority and advocate for those decisions.” [Video of Oath, 12/13/16]
On February 3, 2017, The Clerk-Recorder’s Office confirmed that the Certification of Oaths for Liang Chao and Phyllis Vogel had not been filed by CUSD as required by Government Code 1363.
On February 4, 2017, Scott Herhold of the Mercury News published an article about the oath incident titled “An Extra Loyaly Oath in Cupertino Schools? Nah” In the story, he reported:
Just after the word “evasion,” the oath that Gudalewicz used inserted these words, “That I will support by word and deed decisions made by the board majority, and advocate for those decisions.”
In these Trumpian days, that may not strike some readers as objectionable. But the context matters. You may remember that Gudalewicz — and by extension, a compliant board of trustees — has been the focus of controversy for a couple of years in Cupertino.
In June 2015, parents and students were outraged when the superintendent transferred the entire staff of West Valley Elementary School. An online petition supported by teachers on Change.org denounced Gudalewicz’s administration. And Gudalewicz has been under regular scrutiny by public meeting advocates who have hounded her for a lack of transparency.
Given all that, the addition to the school board oath smells like an attempt to stifle dissent. If you’re a dissenter on a board decision, you have precious little leeway to explain your disagreement.
The California Constitution says plainly that the newly elected do not have to swear to additional language. And it’s particularly objectionable because apparently neither Vogel nor Chao were told of the extra words before they took the oath.
When I called Gudalewicz, she blamed the controversy on her critics and said she was not the author of the extra pledge. “We got late notice on the election result,’’ she told me. “I asked an individual for an oath. It’s been used by another district.’’
Naturally, I was curious: Could the superintendent tell me the name of the individual who provided the words? And the other district that had used that oath? Gudalewicz declined to answer both questions, which is hardly reassuring. In any case, she has to take responsibility for the words she made the trustees repeat.
On February 6, 2017, Superintendent Gudalewicz readministered the oaths of office to Board members Liang Chao and Phyllis Vogel. The new oaths contained only the standard language as required by state law.
On February 6, 2017, Superintendent Gudalewicz released a letter to the CUSD community in response to the Mercury News article. In the letter, she stated: [Superintendent Letter, 2/6/17]
When our district administered the oath-of-office in December, I borrowed a copy of the oath utilized by the Oak Grove School District. At the time, I did not know that the additional line existed in the oath as we assumed that the language was standard for an oath. According to Oak Grove’s former superintendent, it is one that district has utilized for almost two decades.
On February 9, 2017, in response to a Public Records Act request, a community member received oaths previously administered at CUSD. Previous oaths for current Board members contained the standard language as provided by ROV. [Previous CUSD Oaths, 2/9/17]
On February 10, 2017, in response to an inquiry, a community member received a letter from the Superintendent’s office at Oak Grove School District, stating: [Oak Grove Letter, 2/10/17]
… the oath the District has historically provided to the District’s Board members verbally as well as the oath that Board members sign does not contain the provision referenced in your email below. Instead, the oath provided to Board members – both verbally and in writing – is what is contained in the California Constitution, with no additional language.
The District is not aware of any such communication with Ms. Gudalewicz.
On February 10, 2017, CUSD posted the agenda for the next Board meeting to be held on 2/14/17. Included in the agenda packet were copies of the oaths administered by the Superintendent — both the “doctored” oath and the standard oath. Note on the “doctored” oath, the extra words were hand-written by Superintendent Gudalewicz on the oath form provided by the ROV. It was also incorrectly dated “2017.” [CUSD Oaths, 2/10/17]
The facts and evidence suggest that Superintendent Wendy Gudalewicz “doctored” the oath herself by inserting additional language on the oath form provided by ROV. The “late election results” have no bearing. The ROV certified the election by December 8, 2016 as required by law. In CUSD, the swearing-in ceremony is always conducted at the first Board meeting in December, and this year was no exception. The agenda of the December 13th Board meeting was posted by the Superintendent on December 10th.
The timeline does not support the Superintendent’s assertion that because the election results were late, she had to borrow an oath from another district. She received the packet from the ROV on 12/8/16, containing pre-printed oath forms for Liang Chao and Phyllis Vogel. Plus, she had record of oaths previously administered to Board members as noted above. Finally, there is no evidence that supports the Superintendent’s claim that someone from Oak Grove School District provided the “doctored” oath.
Given the turmoil surrounding Superintendent Gudalewicz and Liang Chao’s public dissent, it’s more believable that the Superintendent added the additional words to the oath in an attempt to censor, intimidate, and silence her critics. By coercing Liang Chao to swear to “support in word and deed decisions made by the Board majority and advocate for those decisions,” Superintendent Gudalewicz was also attempting to silence the 22,478 voters who voted for Liang Chao and her message of change.
According to her employment contract, Superintendent Gudalewicz can be terminated … for … any ground enumerated by the Education code. California Education Code 87732(b) states that an employee can be terminated for DISHONESTY.
Unfortunately, this incident is one of many where Superintendent Gudalewicz has abused her authority and imposed her will on innocent people. It’s time for her to go. Our children deserve better! Let’s remove Superintendent Gudalewicz from our schools and put an end to her chaos, wasteful spending, and destructive leadership.
Sign the petition below, calling for the Superintendent’s resignation. Write a letter to CUSD Board members demanding the Superintendent’s dismissal. Attend the Board meeting on Tuesday, 2/14/17, 6 pm, at Stevens Creek Elmentary and speak up!