In a marathon closed session that lasted more than seven hours, the Pleasanton School Board decided to replace Jon Vranesh as principal of Walnut Grove Elementary School.
In a statement made at 3:15 a.m. Wednesday morning after the closed session meeting, Board President Jamie Hintzke, said "In closed session by a 4 to 1 vote, the board found merit to complaints filed against an administrator of the district. The board has directed the superintendent to issue a written decision to the parties in this matter."
Board member Valerie Arkin voted against the action.
"With all the information that the board had, the action that was taken, that motion, I didn't feel it was warranted," Arkin told the Pleasanton Weekly. Another board member, Jeff Bowser, would not comment on the board's actions and none of the others could be reached for comment.
With the search for a new principal underway, Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi confirmed that Vranesh remains on paid administrative leave, which began Oct. 25, 2013. She would not comment on the district's next steps in the ongoing dispute.
"There was not a dismissal or any disciplinary action," said Vranesh's attorney, H. Paul Kondrick. "We don't have a next step."
The reasons for the board's action to replace Vranesh have not been made public and were not included in documents provided to the Pleasanton Weekly this week by the district in response to a Public Records Act request received this week.
However, among the documents was a Nov. 7, 2013, letter from the district's attorney, Kim Kingsley Bogard of Kingsley Bogard LLP in Folsom, to Kondrick states, "As previously stated, the allegations are that (Vranesh) created a hostile work environment at Walnut Grove through, among other things, the use of vulgar/derogatory terms to describe female employees of the district."
The letter also claims these allegations were made by "several women" and that Vranesh also "made statements to subordinate employees which were interpreted as threatening and intimidating in nature."
"Mr Vranesh, under penalty of perjury, denied the use of any inappropriate language in the workplace, including at Walnut Grove," Kondrick told the Pleasanton Weekly after the special board meeting held Tuesday.
In addition, Vranesh, in an email to district representatives dated Oct. 29, said he "emphatically and unconditionally stated I didn't use those words in the workplace."
He also said in his email that he discussed the matter with Ahmadi, who, he stated, said "I know, that's ridiculous" and acknowledged that Vranesh "would never use that language or treat co-workers so crudely."
In the email he also accuses the board of stopping a meeting when he asked that his attorney be present, and that the board and district officials "were not prepared to discuss specific issues" or allow him to respond.
Vranesh claims the issue began a year ago with a complaint he made to the district about student and faculty safety concerns.
An email dated Dec. 15, 2012, the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., shows Vranesh asked the district to install springs on the gates so they close automatically at Walnut Grove, that emergency numbers be repainted so students can line up in the case of an emergency, that the alarm system at the school be turned on.
District Assistant Superintendent Luz Cazares said those requests have been addressed.
Vranesh filed a more formal complaint with the district in an Oct. 30 email. In it, he cites 12 concerns, including "failure of the District to take action on the Principal's reports of safety issues, including intimidation of teachers, within Walnut Grove Elementary."
Claims also include:
"Retaliation against (name redacted) for reporting safety issues, including intimidation of teachers, within Walnut Grove Elementary; Failing to act in good faith and deal fairly with employee (redacted); Placing (redacted) on administrative leave without good cause; Failing to conduct an investigation of (redacted) as (redacted) of Walnut Grove Elementary, or otherwise, that was appropriate under the circumstances, including the district's lack of reasonable grounds for believing that (redacted) had engaged in any actionable misconduct; Taking adverse personnel action against (redacted) without a reasoned conclusion, supported by substantial evidence."
Vranesh also cites defamation of character, "conflicts of interest," "harassment," "intimidation" and "discrimination - in terms and conditions of employment."
The well-liked, long-term employee who has been principal at Walnut Grove since 2011 after several years in other positions within the district, Vranesh has had numerous supporters speak at board meetings, asking why he was removed from his post and praising him. About 40 supporters were at at Tuesday's special board meeting before the board members went into closed session. That number dwindled to about 20 by the time the board emerged after 3 a.m.
Former City Councilwoman Sharrell Michelotti, one of seven who spoke, pointed to the "Community of Character" sign, which lists behavior characteristics the city and school district pledged to model and advance in the community, and spoke about one of the traits - integrity.
"In my mind, Jon Vranesh has not only lived this," Michelotti said, "but he has instilled that in students and teachers."
She added the district is "holding the life and reputation" of Vranesh in their hands.
Chris Jacob expressed frustration with "the shroud of mystery" surrounding the case, and called the district's handling of Vranesh "a textbook disaster."
"A lot of people don't trust the board any more," Jacob said. "Ms. Ahmadi, you are not trusted."
A Walnut Grove parent who called herself "Jennifer O" asked that Vranesh be cleared of any wrongdoing.
"Clearly some serious games are being played and we as parents are not amused," she said. She also asked the board to publicly respond to safety issues brought up be Vranesh. "We would like a full report no later than Jan. 10," she said.
The Pleasanton Weekly has submitted a request for documents related to Vranesh's removal as principal, including an investigator's report.
Vranesh's forced departure from Walnut Grove marks the seventh principal of the district's 16 schools who has left in the last year. That includes principals at all three high schools, at Donlon, Mohr and Walnut Grove elementary schools, and at Pleasanton Middle School.
Arkin said she's aware of the number of departures and said that's something the board may have to consider. She noted that principals now have new responsibilities, in part due to new state learning standards, and have an increased workload.
Ahmadi conveyed the board's decision in an emailed statement to Walnut Grove Elementary parents on Wednesday,which read, in part: "We remain very limited in our ability to discuss this case publicly, but I wanted you to be aware of the results of last night's meeting, which lasted late into the night. Personnel matters take time and involve numerous measures to protect the privacy of those who file complaints and those who are the subject of complaints."