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OAH: Pleasanton Unified's decision to fire Jon Vranesh was justified

Legal challenge between district, former principal ends on district's side

An administrative dispute judge has ruled that the Pleasanton Unified School District's decision to terminate former Walnut Grove Elementary principal Jon Vranesh was valid.

Pleasanton Unified has been entrenched in a legal battle with former Walnut Grove Elementary principal Jon Vranesh over the district's intent to dismiss him from the district amid allegations of inappropriate conduct.

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 the allegations. The Office of Administrative Hearings, which is a quasi-legal tribunal that resolves administrative disputes, decided the district's allegations were credible and its decision to terminate Vranesh was valid, schools spokeswoman Nicole Steward said in an email statement Wednesday evening.

"The District is hopeful that this decision brings an end to this matter. Our employees should be confident the District respects and supports their right to work in a safe and non-threatening and hostile free environment," she said. "The District appreciates the support of the community, including its support of those who had the courage to come forward."

Vranesh's attorney Paul Kondrick rebutted the 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 in a statement Wednesday evening. "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."

The ruling by the Office of Administrative Hearings will become available to read by the public in 30 days. Steward said until that time the information is "confidential and embargoed."

Vranesh was removed as principal of Walnut Grove and placed on administrative leave in 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.

In July 2014, two Walnut Grove employees, Lynn Cronin and Marissa Swanson, received settlements of $245,000 each after filing claims alleging Vranesh sexually harassmented them and created a hostile work environment. A third unidentified settlement was also paid in the case for an undisclosed amount.

Vranesh alleged the allegations were unfounded and the district was retaliating against him after he raised complaints regarding health and safety issues several times in 2013.

During the three-week administrative hearing, Vranesh was asking for "economic and non-economic damages according to proof, reinstatement to his position with back pay, and punitive damages against the individual defendants … according to proof."

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 that 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.

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