Parents push for principal's return | November 15, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - November 15, 2013

Parents push for principal's return

Board, district remain mum on replacement

by Glenn Wohltmann

An email from School Board President Jeff Bowser did little to dissuade a group of advocates from attending Tuesday night's board meeting to lobby in favor of restoring Walnut Grove Elementary Principal Jon Vranesh to his post.

"There are no items on our upcoming agenda related for actions for or against Mr. Vranesh. As a confidential personnel matter I will not allow the public to discuss nor address the board on this topic at the board meeting. Normally I would encourage people to speak out at a board meeting, but not in this case," Bowser said in his email to Walnut Grove parents.

"This will only lead to their sense of frustration and unfairness. Please reach back out to your group and explain the circumstances that 1) this is a confidential personnel matter; 2) the District cannot and will not discuss the matter in public; 3) the Board is asking the public to let due process work through the cycle."

Bowser apologized for the email at the meeting.

"I do want to let folks know I made an error in my recent email," he said. "The public can comment on any matter within the board's jurisdiction."

It's unknown how many parents did not attend the meeting due to Bowser's email, but about 20 people did show up to ask that Vranesh be reinstated. Those who spoke were limited to a minute each instead of the three minutes usually allotted.

It's also unknown what led to Vranesh's departure and an interim principal being named at Walnut Grove. Vranesh offered a statement to the Pleasanton Weekly in a voicemail Monday morning.

"I put the Pleasanton Unified School District on notice months ago regarding situations that negatively affect staff safety, working conditions and a conducive environment for instruction and student learning," Vranesh said. "Rather than taking effective action to eliminate those conditions, they put me on administrative leave."

Vranesh added that the home number used last week by the Pleasanton Weekly in its attempt to reach him was incorrect.

In reply to questions from the Pleasanton Weekly, school Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi responded:

"It is true that Mr. Vranesh has been placed on administrative leave. The reasons for this leave, however, are not those listed by Mr. Vranesh in his statement. We have explained the reasons for this personnel action to both Mr. Vranesh and his attorney. The rules covering employee privacy do not allow us to comment on them publicly at this time.

"Our district can, however, comment on the typical administrative leave process. In situations where employees are placed on leave, a thorough investigation is conducted. Information shared during the investigation may be limited. This is done both to maintain the integrity of the investigative process and to respect the privacy rights of all parties involved. The District's goal in this and all such cases is to achieve a fair and appropriate outcome.

"We understand that our inability to provide detailed information about this matter has created concern on the part of some parents. We ask for the public's continued patience while we work to resolve this matter. Please know that we are all here to support our students and provide the best learning environment for them."

Peggy Carpenter, head of the Pleasanton Association of Teachers, did not mention Vranesh by name at the school board meeting, but alluded to him while speaking to the board.

"There are people here who want to exercise their right of free speech, but there are other rights," Carpenter said. "We have to respect that."

The Pleasanton Weekly has not been able to confirm speculations that a complaint by teachers led to Vranesh being placed on leave. A call to Carpenter's office at APT headquarters was not returned.

Parents and friends made it clear to the board that they want Vranesh reinstated.

"He was an excellent principal. I have to say he did a lot more than previous principals," said Andrea Wells, the parent of a former Walnut Grove student. "I want to say we want him back."

The handling of the issue was also criticized by those at the meeting.

"The lack of information and emotion was shameful," said parent Erin Lyons. "It was almost like you expected us to smile and nod."

Tracie Vollgraf, mother of four at the school, said the Walnut Grove parent community is "very upset" about the district's handling of the matter and asked for an explanation of what is involved in the due process procedure.

"What Mr. Vranesh is guilty of is change," she said.

Other supporters included longtime friends, such as one woman who watched him grow up.

Joann Pennisi said it would be a "travesty" if Vranesh were not brought back.

"I think it's mental cruelty, what you're doing to him," said Marilyn Wright, the parent of former Walnut Grove students.

Under the provisions of the Brown Act, the board was not allowed to respond to the comments.

Vranesh was not at the school board meeting.


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