Former Walnut Grove Elementary principal Jon Vranesh was properly dismissed by the Pleasanton Unified School District due to "immoral conduct, dishonesty, evident unfitness for service and a persistent violation of and refusal to obey the school laws."
That was the conclusion of members of the Commission on Professional Competence in a decision released this week by the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).
The ruling by the Office of Administrative Hearings details why a three-panel commission determined the Pleasanton Unified's termination of Vranesh based on allegations of harassment was valid.
It was released to the Pleasanton Weekly Thursday by the OAH, an administrative dispute tribunal.
The decision, which was announced Wednesday, comes after a May administrative hearing that served as Vranesh's legal challenge to the district's intention to fire him amid allegations of inappropriate conduct.
Vranesh was removed as principal of Walnut Grove and placed on administrative leave in October 2013. According to documents obtained by the Pleasanton Weekly in early 2014, Vranesh was accused of creating a "hostile work environment" by calling female employees derogatory gender-based slurs. He was also accused of invasion of privacy and causing emotional distress.
The OAH document stated Vranesh changed the culture of Walnut Grove from a "happy, extremely positive, cohesive unit" to a culture where he "took advantage of his position as principal to bully, humiliate and isolate teachers who were not in his inner circle." The document said teachers felt uncomfortable and, at points, "fearful for their physical safety."
The office's findings include allegations of inappropriate and threatening language.
The documents continues by stating incidences where Vranesh allegedly knowingly destroyed district emails and conducted himself in a "dishonest" manner.
The administrative hearing was heard by Commission on Professional Competence council members Andy Evans, Mary Pippitt-Cervantes and Diane Schneider. Schneider is an administrative law judge who signed the decision.
Nicole Steward, a spokeswoman for the Pleasanton school system, said the district hopes the decision will be the final word on the matter.
"The District is hopeful that this decision brings an end to this matter," Steward said. "Our employees should be confident the district respects and supports their right to work in a safe and non-threatening and hostile free environment."
"The district appreciates the support of the community, including its support of those who had the courage to come forward," Steward added.
However, Vranesh's attorney, Paul Kondrick, rebutted that the Office of Administrative Hearings ruling was based on insufficient evidence.
"Based on the limited evidence that was allowed at the Commission on Professional Competence hearing, the decision and its findings are not surprising to Mr. Vranesh," Kondrick said.
"We are confident that a more complete review of the testimony and exhibits, not cited in the Commission on Professional Competence Decision and additional material evidence excluded from the hearing, would and will ultimately lead to a different result," Kondrick added.
In July 2014, two Walnut Grove employees, Lynn Cronin and Marissa Swanson, received settlements of $245,000 each after filing claims alleging Vranesh sexually harassed them and created a hostile work environment. A third unidentified settlement was also paid in the case for an undisclosed amount.
Vranesh claimed the allegations were unfounded and the district was retaliating against him after he raised complaints regarding health and safety issues several times in 2013.
The ruling stated his comments made to the Pleasanton Weekly regarding alleged retaliation "were untrue and had the effect of further fracturing the Walnut Grove community."
An independent investigation by Sue Ann Van Dermyden of Van Dermyden Maddux Law Corporation was undertaken "to determine if any of Respondent's complaints against the District had merit."
"Following an exhaustive investigation, in June 2014, Van Dermyden determined that Respondent's complaints against the District lacked merit. Specifically, she found no evidence supporting Respondent's claims that he had reported safety issues to the District and that the District had failed to take action on such claims," the ruling stated.
"Although there were personnel-related performance and relationship issues with one of the custodians at Walnut Grove, this problem did not rise to the level of a work place safety violation, and was not reported by Respondent to the District as such. When Respondent reported on routine personnel, curriculum and management issues, Van Dermyden found that the District was responsive to Respondent's reports."
The issue has upset some stakeholders in the district, particularly regarding to the perception of lack of transparency. Vranesh was placed on administrative leave in October 2013 and formally removed as principal in December 2013, and weeks later the reasons why Vranesh had been removed as principal and placed on leave came to light.
District officials stated at that time they couldn't legally discuss the matter because rules protecting employee privacy forbade it.
Vranesh finished out the school year with the title of "itinerant principal" doing data analysis, and he wasn't offered a contract for the 2015-16 year.
Vranesh has also filed a civil suit against the district, which has not been resolved as of yet.
Editor's note: The Office of Administrative Hearings written decision, a link to which is included in this story, contains explicit language.