Document details decision in Pleasanton school case against former principal

Panel: Jon Vranesh was 'properly dismissed'

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.

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49 people like this
Posted by Done
a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Aug 20, 2015 at 8:16 pm

Boom...there it is. I"m so glad that he was removed and sorry that it took this long. Now, let's hear all of the blind followers go on about how it was a conspiracy, the teachers lied, etc... The proof is in the details and the number of teachers testifying. You have been conned by this man if you still believe him.

40 people like this
Posted by Damon
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Aug 20, 2015 at 8:55 pm

So far I've only scanned through the ruling linked to by this article, but it's obvious that this ruling is a very damning judgment against Vranesh. The ruling paints a picture of a man who is extremely hostile, threatening, and sexist to those around him and who completely poisoned the atmosphere of the school. Add to that the "accidental" deletion of a school laptop's hard drive by means of a full erasure of its contents in a way which a computer expert testified could not possibly have been done accidentally. To those of you who have been supporting Vranesh: You have been fooled. Vranesh has tricked you into supporting him and tearing PUSD apart. Read the ruling for yourself.

72 people like this
Posted by Lynne
a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Aug 20, 2015 at 9:42 pm

I read this a little differently.

The district admitted he had been given glowing performance reviews. He was continually promoted, starting from a teacher all the way to a principal, because of his performance. The Assistant Superintendent he reported to said he did a good job. The parents that worked with him loved him, myself included.

So are we to believe this man has been some monster hiding in a closet and with this rage, hate and disdain for women for all these years in all of these settings and none of us ever detected it? I've known him for over a decade, seen him in action in a couple of these positions and there's just no way he fooled all of us for all of these years in all these different roles.

Do I think he is perfect, no, I don't. But who among us is? The ruling states that district policy dictates that is someone believes they are being sexually harassed report it to the principal, which in this case was not possible since the principal was the alleged OP. Therefore it should have been reported to the Assistant Superintendent per PUSD policy (the same policies they are stating he violated). Interestingly enough, those that complained didn't follow this policy. They instead went to the union which to me supports their intention to make this the political issue Jon feels it is.

I predict this is not over. The district itself, including his direct managers, have documented evidence that he's a great educator and even principal. They promoted him over and over for a reason. He went over a decade with a sterling record. It's not possible that someone, anyone, can hide all this rage and hate from everyone for so long. I happen to be a single mother with two daughters and I can say with certainty that he did not in any way treat us differently as an all female clan. In fact he went far beyond what he had to when my daughter was being teased about her physique by male students. He took very swift action to protect her and imposed the highest penalty available to him. This man protected my daughter from sexual harassment. I will forever be grateful to him and will never believe that this person that protected my daughter then went and victimized other women.

By the way, I hope future proceedings, because they will happen, included input from the hundreds of parents that volunteer and are at the schools every single day and see the good, bad and ugly that goes on. Not one single parent complained about him or accused him of any of this misconduct despite that fact that our campuses are crawling with parents all day every day.

50 people like this
Posted by interesting logic
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 20, 2015 at 10:07 pm

The panel took the word of the teachers on face value. In fact, it was written that some of these same teacher witnesses also said that JV was a good principal and this made their testimony credible. I call that a CONTRADICTION and would consider that to undermine the witness's credibility. I don't get the logic on that.
Also, honestly if someone was going around saying stuff like that, that guy would have been gone long ago. It's all just too extreme to believe.

32 people like this
Posted by Damon
a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Aug 20, 2015 at 10:08 pm

@Lynne :"So are we to believe this man has been some monster hiding in a closet and with this rage, hate and disdain for women for all these years in all of these settings and none of us ever detected it?"

Weren't many people saying the same sort of thing about Bill Cosby not so long ago?

70 people like this
Posted by Interesting
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2015 at 10:25 pm

So Ann O'Neal was not credible but had the most factual testimony? Her testimony included the fact that the offending terms, Perp and Vic were actually terms used in the program/software/forms the districts uses to track disciplinary actions. She also testified doors can not be locked from the inside.

Mary Snell proved she did not retaliate against a teacher over a playground injury to because she had proof the teacher had seen her email and responded in a positive manner.

So this testimony was considered not credible? How? There was no "he said she said". Those facts are true and shouldn't be disregarded.

58 people like this
Posted by Biased gossip
a resident of Country Fair
on Aug 20, 2015 at 10:26 pm

Sounds to me like a union ouster of a principal in classic Union style that is a near match to the accusations made agaimst Alisal Union SD principal Jesus Lupe to me. A work of fiction. Reads like a completely biased regurgitation of unfounded gossip with disgusting innuendo about nails on tires thrown in.

44 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 20, 2015 at 11:01 pm

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

Sounds like four people deserve to have been fired. Not one and $245k ea to the others

62 people like this
Posted by ND
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2015 at 11:23 pm

ND is a registered user.

Dear Damon:

I have watched you throw around the Bill Crosby rape reference for several days now and can no longer stay silent.

I am a victim of rape. I do not consider myself a survivor because this one incident forever altered my life. As a women, who also happens to be successful in a heavily male dominated profession, you can bet I have been called every female derogatory name you can think of including all that Jon Vranesh is accused of saying. It's unfortunate, but as most women will tell you, it's just part of life that women deal with every day.

Given I have experienced both being horribly raped many years ago and have certainly been called mean names, I can tell you that there is no comparison. Being raped kills part of your soul. It changes who you are, the type of partner/lover you are, the kind of parent you are, the level of trust you can extend to others, causes you to fear being alone, in the dark and so many other things that I can't begin to articulate. Someone calling me a vulgar female name in no way compares to what happens when you are raped.

I'd like to give you an example. If your female boss one day called you the "P" word (male reproductive organ) and then the next day you were horribly attacked by a man larger than yourself that sodomized you, do you think you would care about the mean name you were called? Do you think both incidents would have the same impact on you?

I want you think about what happens when you are actually raped. It changes your life, even in the some of the smallest ways. Imagine a middle aged woman like myself having to tell her teenage children that as a teenager myself my purity and part of my soul were stolen from me by a man that overpowered me and assaulted me. Do you think hearing this impacted them too? I can tell you it did. Or imagine years after this happens that you finally can consider dating again, but of course in your heart you know you have to tell the love interest what happened because they will see there are intimacy challenges. Do you think these conversations would have to happen if some guy I worked for called me a mean name?

Rape is an awful, horrible, life changing event that never goes away. When women report it, it's often to men like you that think it's on the same level as if someone called me the them word. Do you not see the issue here? Do you realize the hurt and harm your irresponsible references are causing.

I wish you no harm, but I am asking that you stop the reference. It's hurtful to those victims out there that have to hear that others so easily toss around references of being violated like this as if it were being called a bad name.

50 people like this
Posted by Lmao
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2015 at 12:02 am

Lmao is a registered user.

I am a Pleasanton resident. I also have children in Pleasanton schools. I have been following this story from the beginning. What is posted here, is almost laughable. Hence my name..(lmao)...I'm not sure though, should I be fearful that I'm surrounded by such fools, or should I be happy that there are so many oblivious people in my town?? JV, is a classic case Narcissist, and quite the Master Manipulator. I am not one who is easily Manipulated, (never have been, wonderful gift from my late father) and CLEARLY the STRONG, AMAZING, WONDERFUL , faculty who stood up, isn't either. THANK GOODNESS...and putting all their FEARS, SELF, FAMILIES WELL BEING, POSSIBLE JOBS, putting ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING on the line...for what??? For YOUR CHILDREN PEOPLE!!!!!! Wake up...they didn't do it for their health, or well being, or even the $$$ as some smug SOB may say...cuz P A's a penance compared to what they deserve after hearing the BS they did!! . Protecting your kids, themselves and other future teachers from hearing the filth..yes filth coming from a grown mans mouth..and how DARE some of you NOT support the VERY teachers who TEACH your children!!!.. UGH....AND in closing, just remember , all of you out KNOW how hard it is to get quote on quote...(released) from a position?? He is GUILTY!!!!

15 people like this
Posted by PleasantonTaxpayer
a resident of Highland Oaks
on Aug 21, 2015 at 8:54 am

PleasantonTaxpayer is a registered user.

From the article " ... knowingly destroyed district emails and conducted himself in a "dishonest" manner."

He ought to run for president as a Democrat.

43 people like this
Posted by Commentor
a resident of Pheasant Ridge
on Aug 21, 2015 at 9:00 am

Commentor is a registered user.

From the OAH web page "The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) is a quasi-judicial tribunal that hears administrative disputes"
The OAH focuses on ADMINISTRATIVE issues (if the correct procedures and paperwork was completed). They are not concerned about CIVIL RIGHTS or CRIMINAL MATTERS or other matters that most people expect real judges/courts to rule on. And yes, school districts and teachers somehow usually prevail in OAH matters, because the OAH is inherently biased because towards state govt entities, teachers unions, not our children. I would like to see this matter brought to a real court that does not favor teachers unions.

6 people like this
Posted by Steven
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 21, 2015 at 12:59 pm

Steven is a registered user.

After reading the ruling, I do believe Vranesh is crude and likely an unlikable jerk. The district had every right to fire him. However, the overuse of the term "sexual harassment" is really unneeded. If he made fun of the physical attributes of male employees, or discussed intimate topics with them, it's crude and certainly harassment, but wouldn't be called sexual harassment. The term is overused and both diminishes and minimizes the gravity of actual sexual harassment. By actual sexual harassment, I mean the offensive or threatening behavior of a person who regularly makes sexual comments or touches someone in a sexual way. I didn't see anything in the ruling that detailed any sexual comments made directly to someone or any touching in a sexual way. Why can't we just leave it at harassment, threats and creating a hostile workplace and fire him?

20 people like this
Posted by Anna
a resident of Happy Valley
on Aug 25, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Anna is a registered user.

I want to thank the women teachers who had the courage to report this man. I'm sorry that they are being treated as if they have done something wrong. Just because he didn't abuse all of the women teachers doesn't mean he didn't abuse certain ones. It is the same way in abusive families. Sometimes only one child is abused. Sometimes only one child isn't abused. Abusers are often selective. Just because his supervisor never saw a problem and gave him good evaluations doesn't mean that these things weren't happening.

9 people like this
Posted by Steven
a resident of Stoneridge
on Aug 25, 2015 at 6:12 pm

Steven is a registered user.

California is an "at will" state. That means that you can be fired at will, at any time, for any reason. The only exceptions are generally in matters of discrimination or contracts completed as part of collective bargaining agreements.

So what we have witnessed is the result of the protections afforded most public employees. No one can be quietly replaced. This entire, expensive, litigious debacle is because Jon Vranesh is protected by the Association of California School Administrators.

When you hear that it's impossible to fire poor performing teachers, think of Jon.

Like this comment
Posted by Jeff Bowser
a resident of West of Foothill
on Aug 26, 2015 at 2:08 pm

Jeff Bowser is a registered user.

Remember he was a teacher when the Statement of Charges was filed and would be represented by California Teachers Association. However, he chose to have his own council.

7 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 26, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Jeff, Are you saying Vranesh wasn't serving as an Itinerant Principal when the Statement of Charges was filed? Just trying to understand when he was moved from that position and assigned to a classroom.

20 people like this
Posted by CarPark
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Aug 26, 2015 at 8:43 pm

CarPark is a registered user.

Jeff, How would you have this information? Are you violating the Brown Act by discussing something that went on in a closed session? Or are you authorized to speak on behalf of the APT or CTA?

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

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