Pleasanton Weekly

News - February 28, 2014

Mystery still surrounds fate of school administrator

Future of former Walnut Grove principal still not clear

by Gina Channell-Allen

The employment status of former Walnut Grove Principal Jon Vranesh still isn't clear in spite of a 3-2 vote taken in closed session Tuesday night to apparently strip him of any administrative duties.

According to a statement read by Board President Jamie Hintzke after the closed session, "The Board took action to authorize the Superintendent to send notice to two administrators pursuant to (California Education Code) 44951 regarding assignment for the 2014-2015 school year."

Education Code 44951 deals with end-of-year release or reassignment of certificated administrators who do not hold multi-year contracts. By March 15, the employee in question has to be notified that he or she might be released or reassigned from his or her position for the following school year.

Hintzke and board member Valerie Arkin voted against taking the action, which appears to put Vranesh's situation in limbo. He is not being terminated, although according to Vranesh's attorney, the district sought to negotiate a financial settlement in exchange for his resignation, which he refused.

Vranesh was placed on administrative leave Oct. 25 in a dispute that he claims stems from complaints he made to district administrators about health and safety issues at Walnut Grove. However, the district alleges that Vranesh created a hostile work environment at the school through the "use of derogatory language in reference to women," according to a statement of findings issued by the district on Nov. 20.

Arkin said her vote against Vranesh's release was consistent with her prior vote, in December, when she opposed a closed-door decision to seek a new principal at Walnut Grove.

Board members Jeff Bowser, Chris Grant and Joan Laursen voted in favor of Vranesh's release from his administrative position. None of them would comment about their decision.

Vranesh will continue in his job as itinerant principal until the end of the school year, but will then be "reassigned to a non-administrative position in accordance with your statutory seniority," according to a letter sent to Vranesh by the district. Vranesh spoke before the board Tuesday night in open session for the first time since the dispute erupted last fall.

He said he'd received a letter from Bill Faraghan, assistant superintendent of human resources, advising him of the inclusion of the item on the Feb. 25 meeting agenda and that "the district was willing to accept a letter of resignation any time prior to the meeting."

"I advised the district yesterday that I would not resign," Vranesh told the board Tuesday night.

Vranesh also said he requested that the board's discussion about this position be held in open session as opposed to closed session, which he said is allowed under California Education Code if requested 24 hours or more in advance. The board, however, chose to vote in closed session.

A Feb. 24 letter from Vranesh's attorney, H. Paul Kondrick, to the district's attorney, Kim Kingsley Bogard of Kingsley Bogard LLP in Folsom, notes that Kondrick had specifically asked for a public session the week of Feb. 17.

"Based on my communications with the District, including Dr. Faraghan (assistant superintendent of human resources), Luz Cazares (deputy superintendent) and your law office, I fully expect that the Board will not afford Jon Vranesh this good faith, due process opportunity to be heard on these important matters," Kondrick says in his letter to Kingsley Bogard.

District officials were not available by press time to respond to Kondrick's and Vranesh's claim they had asked to be heard in open session.

Vranesh said that, to date, no formal charge or complaint has been made and that he was told by Bogard that he was "not entitled" to a discussion about his release.

He also said he had been asked "how much money I wanted to get my release from the district."

Kondrick, in his Feb. 24 letter to Bogard, referenced this by writing he been asked, "point blank 'how much' Jon Vranesh would like to be paid by the District to resign or quit his employment."

Beyond that, Vranesh said, as itinerant principal -- the post he was appointed to in January -- he's been assigned to do menial tasks.

"It seems pretty clear that my doing data entry is a poor use of scarce funds," Vranesh said, adding that he is receiving about $125,000 a year to do that work.

Several supporters of the ousted principal criticized the closed-door decision.

"I'm here to convey my utter disgust," supporter Chris Jacob said, later calling for Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi to resign."It's time for some of you to step down and go, and you are the captain of the ship I think you should go."

- Reporter Glenn Wohltmann contributed to this story.

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