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Parents push for principal's return

Board, district remain mum on what led to replacement

An email from School Board President Jeff Bowser did little to dissuade a group of advocates from attending Tuesday night's board meeting to lobby in favor of restoring Walnut Grove Elementary Principal Jon Vranesh to his post.

"There are no items on our upcoming agenda related for actions for or against Mr. Vranesh. As a confidential personnel matter I will not allow the public to discuss nor address the board on this topic at the board meeting. Normally I would encourage people to speak out at a board meeting, but not in this case," Bowser said in an email to a Walnut Grove parent that was forwarded to others.

"This will only lead to their sense of frustration and unfairness. Please reach back out to your group and explain the circumstances that 1) this is a confidential personnel matter; 2) the District cannot and will not discuss the matter in public; 3) the Board is asking the public to let due process work through the cycle."

Bowser apologized for the email at the meeting.

"I do want to let folks know I made an error in my recent email," he said. "The public can comment on any matter within the board's jurisdiction."

It's unknown how many parents did not attend the meeting due to Bowser's email, but about 20 people did show up to ask that Vranesh be reinstated. Those who spoke were limited to a minute each instead of the three minutes usually allotted.

It's also unknown what led to Vranesh's departure and an interim principal being named at Walnut Grove. Vranesh offered a statement to the Pleasanton Weekly in a voicemail Monday morning.

"I put the Pleasanton Unified School District on notice months ago regarding situations that negatively affect staff safety, working conditions and a conducive environment for instruction and student learning," Vranesh said. "Rather than taking effective action to eliminate those conditions, they put me on administrative leave."

Vranesh added that the home number used last week by the Pleasanton Weekly in its attempt to reach him was incorrect.

In reply to questions from the Pleasanton Weekly, school Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi responded:

"It is true that Mr. Vranesh has been placed on administrative leave. The reasons for this leave, however, are not those listed by Mr. Vranesh in his statement. We have explained the reasons for this personnel action to both Mr. Vranesh and his attorney. The rules covering employee privacy do not allow us to comment on them publicly at this time.

"Our district can, however, comment on the typical administrative leave process. In situations where employees are placed on leave, a thorough investigation is conducted. Information shared during the investigation may be limited. This is done both to maintain the integrity of the investigative process and to respect the privacy rights of all parties involved. The District's goal in this and all such cases is to achieve a fair and appropriate outcome.

"We understand that our inability to provide detailed information about this matter has created concern on the part of some parents. We ask for the public's continued patience while we work to resolve this matter. Please know that we are all here to support our students and provide the best learning environment for them."

Peggy Carpenter, head of the Pleasanton Association of Teachers, did not mention Vranesh by name at the school board meeting, but alluded to him while speaking to the board.

"There are people here who want to exercise their right of free speech, but there are other rights," Carpenter said. "We have to respect that."

The Pleasanton Weekly has not been able to confirm speculations that a complaint by teachers led to Vranesh being placed on leave. A call to Carpenter's office at APT headquarters was not returned.

Parents and friends made it clear to the board that they want Vranesh reinstated.

"He was an excellent principal. I have to say he did a lot more than previous principals," said Andrea Wells, the parent of a former Walnut Grove student. "I want to say we want him back."

The handling of the issue was also criticized by those at the meeting.

"The lack of information and emotion was shameful," said parent Erin Lyons. "It was almost like you expected us to smile and nod."

Tracie Vollgraf, mother of four at the school, said the Walnut Grove parent community is "very upset" about the district's handling of the matter and asked for an explanation of what is involved in the due process procedure.

"What Mr. Vranesh is guilty of is change," she said.

Other supporters included longtime friends, such as one woman who watched him grow up.

Joann Pennisi said it would be a "travesty" if Vranesh were not brought back.

"I think it's mental cruelty, what you're doing to him," said Marilyn Wright, the parent of former Walnut Grove students.

Under the provisions of the Brown Act, the board was not allowed to respond to the comments.

Vranesh was not at the school board meeting.

Comments

Posted by unbelievable, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2013 at 7:38 am

I watched the board meeting the other night and I never thought I would say this, but because of this mess and others, the board needs to put Casey back as interim superintendent and search for another superintendent. I watched:

-- People in the public given only 60 seconds to speak
-- Sessions on so-called "Instructional Coaches" that indicated teaching in Pleasanton schools will soon resemble "Throwdown! With Bobby Flay"
-- Discussion about the fact that there had been no PUSD published technology plan in the last 4 years since John Casey did one that ran from 2006-2009 that is on the web here Web Link
-- Chris Grant stated PUSD needs a technology plan. Admadi indicates PUSD is already "state of the art" (what?)


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2013 at 7:57 am

It is sad when a community is asked to shut up about things they think truly matter. It is sad that teachers feel scared to speak up for someone they value and respect because of fear of reprisal. I am concerned this is a small example of something bigger happening in this country where our rights and ability to speak out are being increasingly stifled and now people are becoming too scared to speak. It does not bode well for the future. Cudos to those who spoke even though they were told not to. Freedom of speech is very important.


Posted by Judy, a resident of Birdland
on Nov 14, 2013 at 8:09 am

Unbelievable- it's simple to take a sentence out of an hour presentation and turn it into something so out of context it doesnt make sense. What's more complicated is listening to the message from the coaches and comprehending the work they are doing.

Also, since you are interested and concerned, Im sure you were present at one of the tech meetings for parents and community members to give input on the new technology plan than is currently being written.

Posting inflammatory incorrect information here is a part of your hopes to improve our district?


Posted by Joanna, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Nov 14, 2013 at 8:49 am

Regarding Walnut Grove. Ahmadi was involved in doing something very similar in the Fremont School District.
She was involved in ousting the then principal (RIley) of Warm Springs Elementary School, Fremont. She was one of the best principals they have had so far. Now that I am a new resident of Pleasanton, I was quite shocked to see the same thing happen again here. Is it a coincidence to have Ahmadi involved in this again. I remember everything happening quickly with no explaination what so ever. Rumors were being spread around. None of those had anything to do with the students. My opinion is that Riley did what's best for the students and may have not obliged the board and hence the fallout. Its weird after all those years, I move to Pleasanton and find the same thing happening in Walnut Grove.


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