Pleasanton's school superintendent resigns, takes Castro Valley post

In surprise email sent late Thursday night, Parvin Ahmadi says she starts new job July 1

Pleasanton schools superintendent Parvin Ahmadi is resigning from the school district after accepting an offer to become the new superintendent of the Castro Valley Unified School District starting July 1.

Ahmadi wrote in an email to PUSD teachers and staff Thursday night, "This by no means was an easy decision for me as I have absolutely loved serving our students and you in Pleasanton. I have thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful journey we have shared together the last five year and want to thank you for trusting me and sharing my passion to serve all students."

The CVUSD Board of Education appointed Ahmadi during its meeting Thursday. She will succeed Castro Valley's current superintendent, Jim Negri, who is retiring.

"I am very excited about starting a new journey in Castro Valley, a wonderfully diverse school district serving preschool to adults and following an amazing leader, Mr. Jim Negri," Ahmadi said. "I look forward to working with another stellar team of educators and a wonderful team of Trustees who have a deep commitment to educating all children."

Trustees were notified Thursday that Ahmadi accepted a new position, according to PUSD school board president Valerie Arkin.

"We are confident that our excellent school district will attract a large pool of well-qualified candidates for the position of superintendent," Arkin said "on behalf of the Board of Trustees" in an email interview Friday. "We look forward to working in tandem with the Pleasanton community to make this important selection in the coming months."

Castro Valley board members interviewed 20 "highly qualified" candidates of both current superintendents and assistant superintendents, according to a statement released by the district.

"Candidates were interviewed in depth as to their strengths, commitment to education, high student achievement for all students, an understanding of a kindergarten to adult education system, the ability to articulate a clear vision, and work effectively with well-educated and dedicated teachers, administrators, classified employees, parents, and community members," CVUSD board president John Barbieri said.

"We found a new superintendent who meets and surpasses the above said qualifications," he added.

Embroiled for the past year in a controversy over the removal of Jon Vranesh as principal of Walnut Grove Elementary School, Ahmadi was the frequent target of critics both at school board meetings and in the media.

An administrative hearing to determine if the district's actions against Vranesh were justified ended earlier this month. A hearing panel's decision in that case is pending.

During the five years Ahmadi has been Pleasanton schools superintendent, test scores and state commendations of schools in the district have increased. In recent national press reports, Pleasanton schools have been given excellent ratings and cited as a key reason people move here.

"I am forever indebted to Pleasanton Unified School District for allowing me to fulfill my dream of making a difference in children's lives and to take an amazing school district to new heights," Ahmadi stated in Thursday night's email.

Ahmadi was hired at a starting salary of $220,000 in May 2010 to succeed John Casey, who was superintendent of schools in the Pajaro Valley school district that serves Watsonville. Negri, whose job in Castro Valley Ahmadi will be taking, was assistant superintendent in Pleasanton, but was passed over when the board hired Casey. Negri was hired as superintendent in a Mountain View district before moving to the Castro Valley position.

When hired by the Pleasanton school board in May 2010, Ahmadi was assistant superintendent of instruction for the Fremont Unified School District. She has an extensive background in education and also served as Fremont schools' director of elementary education.

The Pleasanton board paid nearly $30,000 for a nationwide search by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, Ltd, to replace Casey, drawing at least one applicant from Canada along with others from Texas and the Midwest -- although only California candidates were interviewed by the board. It turned out that the "right" candidate, Ahmadi, was found less than a half-hour away.

The recruitment for a new superintendent is scheduled to be discussed at the next school board meeting June 9.

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107 people like this
Posted by Adnan Syed
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 29, 2015 at 5:49 am

Don't let the door hit you on your way out.

89 people like this
Posted by Mighty Mouse
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 29, 2015 at 5:54 am

Wow. Not predictable at all. LOL. Get out while the gettin's good. Destroy a school district and a town's morale in 5 years, and then speed away in your luxury car to your next destination, while leaving dead bodies in your wake. Nice Ahmadi. My guess is her job search started the second she realized that people actually supported Jon Vranesh. LOL. Lotsa luck Castro Valley....make sure your teachers don't say naughty might offend someone.

99 people like this
Posted by Huge win for Pleasanton
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 29, 2015 at 5:55 am

It has not been a good 5 years. Ms. Ahmadi's email stayed true to what we've seen for the last half decade. "passion to serve ALL students" (implying that Pleasanton's 2 percenters don't get it), "Castro Valley, a wonderfully diverse school district" (unlike P-Town, where superintendents must bring along NAACP protection at board meetings!), and even an "all students matter" thrown in for good measure. Through her email, Ms. Ahmadi also showed us the eloquence and grammar we've enjoyed during her tenure: "the wonderful journey we have shared together the last five year".... uhhh...plural much?

Ms. Ahmadi has been in over her head. For 5 years. During that time our district has become fractured. Trust is at an all time low. Parent vs. District. Union vs. District. Union vs. Parent. Administration vs. teacher. Teachers vs. Union. We have all been so afraid of this administration - fearful of the backlash from Ms. Ahmadi and Ms. Cazares. Arrogant, dictatorial leaders who use pressure and threatening behaviors to yield their desired outcomes. Hidden agendas have prevailed. Manipulation of data is the norm. Go online and watch any meaningful topic during the school board replays, and Ms. Ahmadi and Cazares' responses sound like the Clinton hearings from another era ("depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is..."). Power and righteousness run amuck.

I wish Castro Valley good luck, and Ms. Ahmadi. Aside from my view of her performance I do not believe she's a bad person. I do think she cares, but she and Ms. Cazares were a terrible fit for Pleasanton.

Where from here? Trustees, the ball is in your court. Please know that you will have NO support to even consider promotion from within. You would be wise to inform Ms. Cazares that she may want to shorten her commute from San Francisco. Castro Valley would cut off at least 15 minutes. Please Trustees, PLEASE find a Superintendent for our district who UNDERSTANDS our parents and children, and wants to maximize their satisfaction. Not a superintendent, like the last one, with an agenda to CHANGE Pleasanton to match HER viewpoint. BIG EARS, and a small mouth are two criteria you should consider searching for. The opposite of what we've had for the past 5 years. It's time to re-build our district and gain back the trust of the CUSTOMER - the parents, students and residents.

42 people like this
Posted by Moving forward
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 29, 2015 at 6:35 am

Good freakin luck in CV. I hope she learned how to deal with administration issues properly after she dug herself a hole that she couldn't get out of. Thank you for the good things that you did along with the snail trail of wreckage you left

15 people like this
Posted by Good
a resident of Castlewood
on May 29, 2015 at 6:49 am

I certainly hope that the search will include someone Asian in order meet our swiftly changing demographics . Soon the majority in Pleasanton will be from Asia and the leadership of the city council and school board should change to reflect that. We should demand that change and vote in blocks to achieve it.

86 people like this
Posted by Jumping for Joy!
a resident of Harvest Park Middle School
on May 29, 2015 at 7:14 am

Best news all year! There is much more than test scores to determine a district's success. In my mind, grades are secondary to character, integrity and compassion. I have seen no evidence of this from Ms. Ahmadi and her team.

Grades will only take a person so far in life. No one cares about your GPA after you get that first job. From that moment on they care about the person's values, work ethic, flexibility, trustworthiness, decision making and work experience/results. We haven't seen enough of that from our school district.

So long Ms. Ahmadi. I never met you, but it's good to see you go. It's been a very toxic few years. Have fun in Castro Valley!

91 people like this
Posted by JacS
a resident of Birdland
on May 29, 2015 at 7:19 am

It's gotta be a troll planting racist comments here on the weekly trying to make Pleasanton look bad right? No way intelligent, normal people think that way. Only a damaged, ignorant soul would utter such nonsense.

As for Ms Ahmadi she's left our school district in a much worse state than she found it. She fostered mistrust and hostility between parents/teachers/board members. I hope we are able to find someone who not only has a strong educational background but a eye on the business side as well. And please let us find someone who won't waste precious educational dollars on lawyers fees. It sickens me to think of hundreds of thousands of dollars we've wasted because the superintendent and her cabinet couldn't handle a simple employee dispute in an efficient manner.

Best of luck to CV you'll need it.

72 people like this
Posted by Eric
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on May 29, 2015 at 7:20 am

Fantastic! What a great way to start the day. Alright School Board, now it's up to you to get someone in here that is in it for the children. I hope Ahmadi is taking her senior staff and Principal with her too. Condolences to Castro Valley.

48 people like this
Posted by Mary Ann
a resident of Ruby Hill
on May 29, 2015 at 8:34 am

Mary Ann is a registered user.

Good riddens!!! Castro Valley, did not do their homework before hiring her!! Oh well, she is now their problem, we need to fix all the ones she caused!!!

38 people like this
Posted by Mr. Z
a resident of Golden Eagle
on May 29, 2015 at 9:34 am

Mr. Z is a registered user.

Bring back JOHN DWYER as our new superintendent !! As a proud parent of 2 kids well educated in Pleasanton, we had the pleasure of dealing with Mr. Dwyer for number of years while he was principal at Foothill. He is an exceptional leader, well respected and liked by all stake holders. This is a very tough job and needs a person with a lot of solid experience and strong character to manage. Let's save the $30K headhunting cost (specially after the money paid out for the mess that was poorly managed) and bring back a great person/leader.

9 people like this
Posted by ChrisD
a resident of Oak Hill
on May 29, 2015 at 11:53 am

ChrisD is a registered user.

Can't blame a SI for many of the district's problems. However, I witnessed firsthand the lack of accountability and oversight of her administrators. She supported Jon Vranesh of certain allegations when he was referring to his teachers as "C%N%s and B!%chE$" In addition, our family had informed SI Ahmadi that Program Specialist (removed) had referenced her special needs site as, "The Red Headed Step-Child of the District!" Brushed under the mat! :( Pretty sad, too many top PUSD administrators earning 6 figures flying on "auto-pilot!" Time to clean house!

60 people like this
Posted by Ptparent
a resident of Birdland
on May 29, 2015 at 4:33 pm

Ptparent is a registered user.

This is in response to Good's Comment:

I commend you for advocating change through the democratic process. The United States of America is a country differentiated from others due to its unwavering commitment to democracy. I suppose that is why many people of Asian decent emigrate here in the first place. With that being said, you have a gross misunderstanding of what it means to be an American.

It is insulting to suggest that we should vote for a candidate on the sole basis of their ethnic heritage. We should vote for candidates because of the ideas they represent, integrity of their character, and overall experience, not because they are from Asia. Democracy works best when one idea is pitted against another, not two different ethnicities.

I anticipate that you will respond with the following point:

“We do not wish to vote for someone purely based on their Asian decent, but for the fact that they will better represent the interests of our children than a candidate who is not Asian.”

To this point I have but one simple question, why must the interests of your child be different from a child of any other race? Is it not the common goal of all motivated children to excel in school, attend a prestigious University, and secure a job that will provide for their family? I do not ask for an answer to this question, because I know there is not a good one.

We are residents of Pleasanton before we are Asian, Indian, African American, or Caucasian. Your post is a fine display of the exact type of ignorance that we, as members of the Pleasanton Community, should strive to keep away from our school system.

30 people like this
Posted by Debbie D.
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2015 at 5:09 pm

Debbie D. is a registered user.

Castro Valley is excited to have Parvin Ahmadi lead our District. We've heard great things about her and have complete faith that those who chose her for Castro Valley did their due diligence. Castro Valley is a very different, diverse District, and we are sure that she will do a great things for and with our District! She has been a very sought after Administrator with a successful career... Pleasanton chose her and we're lucky she chose Castro Valley!

Welcome Parvin Ahmadi! (from Castro Valley parents)

54 people like this
Posted by Love my Kids
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on May 29, 2015 at 6:48 pm

Love my Kids is a registered user.

@Debbie D

I'm glad that you are excited about your new superintendent. I hear excitement and optimisim in your post. A fresh, new start always feels so good.

I have no doubt that Ahmadi looks good on paper. It's true that Pleasanton's academic scores are through the roof. I even bet she can make an exciting motivational speech - full of visions of high school graduates and academic scholars. The only problem is that she leaves carnage in her path - destroyed careers, retaliatory decision making, and wreckless financial management.

Don't get me wrong - I love our schools. They are full of amazing teachers, excellent programs and support. The magic happens at the school sites - not because of the district, but in spite of the district.

It also doesn't hurt, that this community spends millions (and I mean MILLIONS!) on tutoring and after school help. Those grades come at a cost. The Pleasanton School District (and stellar academic performance) is very much subsidized by the parent's pocketbook.

Take a minute to look at the posts - not just this thread, but all the posts where Ahmadi's resignation is discussed. Do you see a devastated community? NO. In fact, I have yet to read a single post that laments her moving on. The Pleasanton Community is more than ready for OUR fresh, new start. And it does feel great!

27 people like this
Posted by Debbie D.
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2015 at 8:39 pm

Debbie D. is a registered user.

@ Love my kids

Thank you for your feedback, I appreciate your candidness.

I have read much more than these threads and I know parents, teachers, students and staff that attest to her leadership capabilities and also to genuinely putting the needs of the students first and foremost. I encourage them to speak up.

I also hear the other side, which is fair enough. I think we all agree that the best scenario is when the students, teachers, principals, parents, community, and the District all work together. If even one of those pieces are missing, the others have to work harder to achieve success. Unfortunately, not having a good team, comes at a price.

"It also doesn't hurt, that this community spends millions (and I mean MILLIONS!) on tutoring and after school help. Those grades come at a cost. The Pleasanton School District (and stellar academic performance) is very much subsidized by the parent's pocketbook."

The demographics of Castro Valley are very different. Our parents can't spend millions on tutoring and after school help, but we do have camaraderie and our School Board works hard to keep all the pieces working together.

All that being said, one can be stellar and not be a good fit.

Blessing to both Districts that they find/have found the right fit.

Debbie D.
Castro Valley Parent

2 people like this
Posted by Debbie D.
a resident of another community
on May 30, 2015 at 1:09 am

Debbie D. is a registered user.


31 people like this
Posted by Brock
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 30, 2015 at 10:42 am

Brock is a registered user.

Parvin, I want to say thank you for serving in our District. Clearly, serving in Pleasanton can be a challenge, but I always found you to be a wonderful, caring person who was first and foremost an educator that understood the important connection between the teacher and the student in the classroom. Your work on bringing STE(A)M and PLTW to the District will be appreciated by future generations. And thank you for the wonderful Education Summits that you produced each spring for those of us in the community to see and experience some of the highlights of our great schools, students, and teachers here in Pleasanton. I do not claim to understand much about “the right fit”, but I know it takes more than one person to make that happen. As well, I do know this: our next superintendent will likely read this blog as part of their due diligence (and the past blog from the exit of our previous superintendent). I hope they will understand that there are many supportive community members in our District that do not find an anonymous blog to be the best way to show their support.

13 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on May 30, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Jack is a registered user.

This is just another step in the process. Our community had grown complacent with our school district, and that was okay as long as Haugen and McGovern and the like were at the helm. We lost their quality leadership and we didn't replace them with like quality trustees. How many recent school board elections did the incumbents run unopposed? Then they bungled the calendar for all to see… Which drew attention to how they are operating, and how they can't even handle the simple stuff. This draws out Mark Miller and Paige Wright, so then the community once again has a choice, a chance at quality. Miller won, Paige did not, but the community won big! Parvin, Hintzke, Laursen, and Grant have all been put on notice. These are all good things, huge steps in the right direction!
Now we truly get a fresh start! We have a community that is engaged, and a school board who is being held accountable, and a superintendent who is going to get hired knowing those two things.

30 people like this
Posted by Registered Joe
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 30, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Registered Joe is a registered user.

Parvin made one mistake which bloomed into others. Rather than taking the more difficult road of at least providing John Vranesh with a fair hearing, Parvin caved in to the interests of the Pleasanton teachers union. I believe she hoped to avoid a larger union problem down the road by getting rid of a person the union had identified as a problem for itself.

Now, it is likely that John Vranesh will not only be able to get his job back, but a financial award to boot. I think both are justified since his career was essentially ruined by the teachers union, followed by the district's implicit backing of the union. Parvin is wise to leave before this happens. Plus the new superintendent can then blame the old for the district's problems, and the school board can take credit for initiating change.

Here's a question: Will the two teachers at Vranesh's school that received payments from the district - totalling $500,000 - be required to give that money back after Vranesh is cleared?

22 people like this
Posted by Jtjh
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on May 30, 2015 at 6:11 pm

Jtjh is a registered user.

I think there was evidence that things were not going well in the district even before the Jon Vranesh issue - notably, the departure of so many principals in a very short time.

It seems to me that the superintendent was probably very competent, perhaps even good, in the educational aspect of her role, but was ill-prepared for the political needs of the position, especially in this district, where it seems that poitics plays an important part.

Her resignation is obviously the best, and probably the only, solution for the district and for the superintendent. Since Castro Valley is so close to Pleasanton, it is inconceivable that the selection committee were unaware of what has happened, which is a relief. Obviously the Castro Valley committee felt that she would nonetheless be successful in the same post in their district. Perhaps they were right. Perhaps a fresh start, together with her experience here, will have rendered her better prepared to face the demands of the superintendent's role in Castro Valley. I hope so.

I hope, too, that the nightmares in our own district will not stop some truly excellent candidates (from well outside the area) from applying and that those who appoint our own new superintendent will make a better decision this time around.

29 people like this
Posted by caywen
a resident of Del Prado
on May 30, 2015 at 7:03 pm

caywen is a registered user.

As an Asian, I agree with Ptparent. Yes, if Pleasanton's Asian population increases, one would think representation would change to reflect that. But let that be a natural process of a larger number of Asian candidates, not swayed by preference of race.

If there were an Asian candidate, I'd be looking for policies that serve everyone. As soon as I hear that candidate promising to serve Asians particularly well, my vote is going elsewhere. We can't afford that kind of divisiveness in this town, state, or country.

30 people like this
Posted by Commentor
a resident of Pheasant Ridge
on May 30, 2015 at 9:48 pm

Commentor is a registered user.

I don't blame Superintendent Ahmadi from moving on. It's unfortunate that she has had to endure what she did -- just look at all the vicious comments here, grounded in nothing but gossip and bias - their actions are so embarrassing and not reflective at all of those in Pleasanton who truly do care for all children. The divisiveness that people speak of is true, but Supt Ahmadi didn't "cause" it, her resignation is likely the result of it. I hope the new Superintendent is better adept at calling those people out and not caving in to their ignorant, self serving, tactics. So sad.

24 people like this
Posted by hsimpson
a resident of Del Prado
on May 31, 2015 at 8:38 am

hsimpson is a registered user.

As a person I am appalled by Good's comment. As a person of Asian background I am offended by Good's comment. . The one and only criteria for the selection of Superintendent should be our children's wellbeing and growth as well rounded people.

9 people like this
Posted by Commentor
a resident of Pheasant Ridge
on May 31, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Commentor is a registered user.

% of White students enrolled in PUSD has gone done from 62% (2006-07) to 55% (2010-11) to 48% (2014-15).
% of Asian students enrolled in PUSD has gone up from 22% (2006-07) to 28% (2010-11) to 33% (2014-15).
% of Hisp/Latino students enrolled has also gone up from 8% to 9% to 10% those same time periods.
Percent of those reporting as 2 or more races has gone from unreported in 2006-07, 2% (2010-11) to 4% (2014-15)
Fact is, in order to best serve our community - our children's and families' interests - school and city leadership (Board of Trustees, City Government) ought to reflect the diversity of the Pleasanton community. It confounds me why I don't see more people of color in leadership roles in Pleasanton. Pleasanton votes should go to leaders and elected official who can demonstrate their ability to harness the power of diversity - it's here, and it's real!

12 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on May 31, 2015 at 5:14 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

"It confounds me why I don't see more people of color in leadership roles in Pleasanton."

We have a diverse population, but not a diverse group running for election. So first you have to find people willing to run, and, like anyone else, they have to garner the interest of all voters. Certainly, it is possible to elect a more diverse council or school board if we are given the choice.

As for the next superintendent, regardless of ethnicity, the person needs experience in all the key areas of governance: curriculum, personnel, and finance. The bigger problem we face is the timing . . . the best candidates may already have found new positions. The worst thing we can do is rush to a decision.

22 people like this
Posted by PleasantonTaxpayer
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Jun 1, 2015 at 8:50 am

PleasantonTaxpayer is a registered user.

I don't know Ahmadi personally, but from what I've read and observed over the years, culminating in what appears to be a mishandling of the Varnish case, I believe she is unqualified to lead a school district.

Also, it's amusing that in one sentence, "Commentor" decries "vicious comments" then two sentences later, accuses posters with differing viewpoints of "ignorant and self-serving" tactics. Point out and argue the statements with which you disagree instead of resorting to name-calling.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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