Pleasanton school board appoints new Harvest Park principal

Robin Munsell to start Monday

The Pleasanton school board appointed Robin Munsell the new Harvest Park Middle School principal Tuesday night, less than a week after the school head unexpectedly announced his resignation.

The trustees approved Munsell's appointment in closed session of its regular meeting by a 4-0 vote with board Vice President Mark Miller absent.

Munsell will start Monday. She has spent the last four years as the assistant principal of Gale Ranch Middle School in San Ramon. Prior to that she worked as an English teacher at Castro Valley High School for seven years.

Munsell was a top finalist among the interviewees for the Harvest Park vacancy in June, but ultimately Ethan Cheever was selected for the job according to district spokesman Patrick Gannon.

As an introduction before Munsell spoke, Pleasanton Unified School District Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Dianne Howell read aloud comments that references had made about Munsell.

“'One of the best I've ever seen in terms of instruction and leadership,' 'hard worker,' 'dedicated,' 'respected by teachers' – I could go on and on,” Howell said.

Munsell's introduction was met with loud applause. She told the board and the audience that she was excited to start Monday.

“I'm beyond excited to step into this role,” Munsell said. “I know there have been a lot of leadership changes, and I want everyone to know that I'm committed to the Harvest Park students, staff and community.”

After her introduction, Munsell said that she's “heard amazing things” about Harvest Park Middle School and is excited to bring what she's learned in San Ramon to Pleasanton. She added that her initial approach will be to build relationships and learn more about the school.

“I'm passionate about supporting all students in their learning and teachers in their practice,” Munsell said.

Asked about the recent turnovers in the Harvest Park principal position, Munsell said she has a track record of only leaving schools to get a promotion and has worked at two schools in her career.

“I always commit 120% to the school and community I'm working in,” Munsell said. “I'm not going anywhere – I'm here to stay.”

Munsell is Harvest Park's sixth principal in a little over a year.

In summer 2015 former principal Ken Rocha was promoted to director of education for the district's elementary and middle schools. Jill Butler was selected as interim principal for the school year, but due to some district-level resignations that led to administrative vacancies, she was then appointed Pleasanton Middle School's principal. Steve Maher and Amy Theberge took over as interim co-principals last November and served through the end of the school year.

Outgoing principal Cheever was appointed in June and started July 1. Prior to taking the job in Pleasanton, he was the principal of Parkside Intermediate School in San Bruno.

In an email to the school community last Wednesday Cheever said he had accepted a new position closer to home, a decision he said he made because the demands of his job have been harder on his family than was anticipated. His resignation is effective Friday.

Gannon said last week that Cheever alone made the decision to leave and that the district did not know of any other reasons behind his departure. He did not know where Cheever was headed next and Cheever has not returned a request for comment.

After Cheever informed the district of his decision, officials considered appointing an interim principal or bringing in a retiree for a period of time but decided to go back to the group of top candidates from June. Shortly after Cheever announced his resignation via email, Rubino said he would recommend Munsell as his replacement to the board.

On Tuesday evening, Board of Trustees President Jamie Yee Hintzke said it plans to have a discussion on the district's hiring processes at a future board meeting.

School board candidate and retired Hart Middle School principal Steve Maher, the only person who spoke about this matter during the public comment period, said he was pleased to hear that discussion would be taking place.

“The current hiring process has negatively affected our students, staff, parents and community at-large,” Maher said as several audience members wearing Harvest Park attire stood up in support.

Munsell's appointment Tuesday followed two meetings at Harvest Park Monday night where district officials discussed the change with school parents who had been invited via email. The email was not sent to the media or the public at large.

About 60 people attended in total, along with Rubino, Howell, Gannon and Alisal Elementary School Principal Karen Johnson who is a Harvest Park parent and former colleague of Munsell.

Rubino said that parents listened well and had good questions about Cheever's resignation and the district's hiring processes.

“I think parents left feeling very informed and in a much better state than when they entered and had a lot of questions and concerns,” Rubino said. “We're going to be making it a very high priority to ensure a stability in our school administration.”

In other business

* The board heard and briefly discussed an update on the district's planned adoption of new English-Language Arts and English language development textbooks. Over $6 million has been set aside for these new instructional materials, as the district last adopted English-Language Arts textbooks in the late 1990s and early 2000s according to a board memo.

The district plans to order these new materials in the spring for implementation next fall. It is piloting some materials in the meantime.

“This is a pretty significant adoption for us as a district,” school board member Chris Grant said. “I look forward to hearing in a year or two from now how this all works out.”

* The school board also signed off on a memorandum of understanding between Pleasanton Unified School District and the Santa Clara County Office of Education. The agreement authorizes the district to pay up to $48,000 this school year for activities related to training and implementation of the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports approach.

* The board also approved a resolution in recognition of the Week of the Administrator, which is Oct. 8-15, and recognized seven PUSD students for demonstrating responsibility.

* The next Pleasanton school board meeting falls on a Monday – Oct. 10 – due to Yom Kippur.

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


12 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Jensen Tract
on Sep 28, 2016 at 8:34 am

No regard for the process or the law. The school board and the district are going to do what ever they want. My guess Rubio will be gone within 3 years if this is how he runs the district. Holding meetings after the fact is not a great model. What ever happened to Kids Come First?

5 people like this
Posted by Bobbyboo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2016 at 9:17 am

Bobbyboo is a registered user.

Great. Hopefully she'll stay & not be detected by anything or anyone & help the school move forward. Good luck & welcome to HP. The kids & staff I'm sure will look forward to new beginnings & a fresh start. Good luck to Mr Cheever on what ever he decided to do too. Shame it didn't work out. Enjoy your family.

Like this comment
Posted by Bobbyboo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 28, 2016 at 9:20 am

Bobbyboo is a registered user.

Sorry it auto corrected!!! Was to say * detered. Not detected

11 people like this
Posted by Kelly
a resident of Country Fair
on Sep 28, 2016 at 9:35 am

Bill, at some point and I don't know exactly when but Pleasanton Unified became the laughing stock of the region. You don't see Fialho the city manager, EBRPD, Zone 7 or even the BART general manager tweeting adolescent-fantasy Phantom Menace / Rogue One / Star Wars photos of themselves, see tweets of the administration bobble-head bopping to some rap song with "kinda' horny" words at some off-site, and generally make utter fools of themselves.

Don't vote yes for the absurd bond measure the school board is floating where the tax paying public still has to pay off over $40 million for the last one.

As for the Weekly, the media, and the general public not being informed about what is going on, the management must be far too busy purchasing light sabers, buying Chewbacca masks, planning retreats, making Snapchat music videos, posting to Instagram, and other important activities that squander money and time that could be used to inform the public.

Also, Rubino possibly didn't get instructions from Obi-wan Kenobi to notify the Weekly and press about to last minute Monday night meetings. Obviously there are more pressing matters for the Rebel Alliance.

15 people like this
Posted by Are You Kidding?
a resident of Birdland
on Sep 28, 2016 at 10:04 am

Have any parents actually met this Jack Parsons? He has absolutely no personality, no leadership ability, and is a PE Teacher. This is a power play by the teachers and staff at Harvest Park. They want someone they can control. The school has not had a stellar principal since Jim Hansen. He was a leader. Pleasanton School Board, get us a Principal outside the district and allow them the power to return Harvest Park to former glory. Do not let the inmates run the asylum.

3 people like this
Posted by Kelly
a resident of Country Fair
on Sep 28, 2016 at 10:26 am

I don't think the teachers and staff spent time at Harvest Park creating this delusional promo piece Web Link and hacked into Rubino's Twitter account to send it out to the students, parents, and the community.

26 people like this
Posted by Patriot
a resident of Birdland
on Sep 28, 2016 at 10:47 am

Sounds like an excellent choice for HP principal! Time to stop acting crazy and support her and all that will make our schools the envy of all others !

2 people like this
Posted by Parcel tax
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 28, 2016 at 2:16 pm

It's no wonder with the idiotic actions of school district employees as well as the bloated bureaucracy that this town has time and time rejected each and every parcel tax. Every other city in the area has passed one.

It's apparent that with the turmoil and continued nonsense this will continue to be the case. I do miss Bill James. I don't recall him running around town in Darth Vader costumes.

9 people like this
Posted by Ring ring
a resident of Pheasant Ridge
on Sep 29, 2016 at 9:34 am

Ring ring is a registered user.

Good luck to the new HP Principal. All the innuendo's about school "bureaucrats" need to stop. Looks like they were attending CueRockStar camp for WORK! The mission of Cue Rock Star is "CUE inspires innovative learners by fostering community, personalizing learning, infusing technology, developing leadership, and advocating educational opportunities for all. "

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

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Talking sports and life with Tommy Dyer
By Tim Hunt | 1 comment | 1,437 views