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Parents demand Menlo Park reinstate gymnastics teacher

Original post made on Feb 26, 2013

City employees are often reminded that they work for the public -- usually when the public wants the employee terminated. But in the case of a fired gymnastics teacher, the public wants her back at work. ==B Related story:== [Web Link ==I Menlo Park deletes emails posted about gymnastics teacher==].

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013, 8:20 AM

Comments (86)

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Posted by Marcia Bever
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 26, 2013 at 9:27 am

I think the Almanac needs to update Michelle's employment period -- she's taught for the city for much longer than 5 yrs.

This whole episode just stinks - no real reason for firing and now at least one other really good teacher has left in protest. This certainly smells like some sort of personal vendetta against a teacher who spoke up about the quality of instruction at the gym.

In this scenario -- Michelle could have just as easily been fired for NOT asking the parent to leave the floor, as another parent watching could have lodged a complaint.

Michelle didn't make the rules, but gets fired for getting parents to follow them? In what universe does this make sense?

I believe it's the current administration who needs to be asked to leave the floor - and I'm hoping someone at the city will get to the bottom of this and actually take action to that end.


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Posted by CL
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 26, 2013 at 9:29 am

Although our family's involvement with the MP gymnastics program has been relatively limited, I find this story deeply disturbing. When my son was in gymnastics (taught by a bored-looking dude who was obviously going through the motions), I looked longingly at a class led by a vibrant, bouncing young woman whose smile lit up the room. She was clearly a born teacher and I made a mental note to get H into her class at some point. It never happened; a year later, her life was cut tragically short. Other friends who were more involved in the program stuck with it because of Michelle. Clearly the magnetic quality and passion for teaching that I saw in Cate were a family trait.

The city has invested a lot in the physical space for gymnastics, but the heart and soul of a program are the teachers--administrators are a dime a dozen. Menlo Park should fill the sterling new facility with the best, most committed teachers. What the hell are you people thinking? Boot the inept administrator who fired a dedicated staff member over one parental complaint. I'm sure any number of parents would be willing to volunteer to step up and help over the administrative hurdles.


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Posted by Adam Kerr
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 26, 2013 at 10:19 am

My wife and I were both shocked to read this article today. Michelle taught both our kids and we found her to be a superb gymnastics instructor who connected in a very special and unique way with our kids. We also found her to be extremely professional in all of her interactions with us. The groundswell of parent support for Michelle should be speaking volumes to the City Council and Manager and we will be disappointed and unimpressed with their leadership if they do not move quickly to resolve or clarify what seems to be an unfounded and undeserved termination.


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Posted by Anne Schar
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 26, 2013 at 10:54 am

Like others I was shocked and amazed that the program would terminate such a wonderful, caring, professional teacher. The program is clearly the less without her. My daughter's teacher Chris is also leaving. I have heard rumors that this is in protest to Michelle's termination. Ruth loved Michelle's class when she had her for KinderGym for 2 years and she loves having Chris as a teacher now. We are disappointed in the Menlo Park Gymnastics program. Perhaps the city should be looking at the Gymnastics supervisors rather than the teachers if there is a problem.


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Posted by Maggie
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 26, 2013 at 11:19 am

Typical politics.


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Posted by LDF
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2013 at 12:21 pm

MP Gymnastics has now lost three long-term and well-loved instructors in a matter of weeks.


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2013 at 12:22 pm

The City should have refunded the money to Mr. and Mrs. I can't follow instructions nor can I stay away from me child during lessons.

And NO apology.


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Posted by Lisa Grossman
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 26, 2013 at 12:36 pm

This is the most absurd story I've heard. Anyone who knows Michelle knows that she is warm, caring and entirely appropriate all the time. She is doing her life's work and carrying on her daughter's work. Someone with a heart like that is what is needed when interracting and teaching little kids, not some of the robot-like teachers I remember at Burgess when my kids were little.


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Posted by Las Lomitas District parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 26, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Agree with Mr. Stogner. Unbelievable that a single parent complaint -- and one that was clearly unreasonable under gym policy -- could lead to termination. [Portion removed.]

Also agree with Ms. Schar and Mr. Kerr that more scrutiny needs to be focused on gym and city management.


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Posted by Lindsey Fisher
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Menlo Park Gymnastics has lost three long-term and well-liked preschool instructors in a matter of weeks. We never got a chance to take class with Teacher Ronney before he left, but two of my children have been in several sessions classes in a row with Teacher Michelle and Teacher Chris. I have nothing but the highest praise for their skills as teachers for toddlers and preschoolers. They are warm, engaging, experienced, and enthusiastic. I am heartbroken that they will no longer be a part of my children's lives. I am holding off signing up for any more classes at MP Gymnastics until I see how this situation shakes out.


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Posted by Melody Pagee
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 26, 2013 at 12:53 pm

I wish that we all had this kind of power. Just push our way through life without any concern for rules or procedures because we chose to ignore them.

What is this poor child going to be like when it enters our school system? Will mommy and daddy be there to fight for the perfect chair by the window, the underserved A on the test, the chance to be always on the winning team? The children cannot grow up because their parents have not.

It would be nice if each of us could write a letter, submit it to the City Council and like magic, we can get rid of each and everyone of our city employees no matter what their qualifications or lack thereof.

If there are rules and procedures, they are meant to be followed. Please City Manager and Park and Rec Department - get it together. Please set the standards higher than this.

I agree with Michael Stogners comment.




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Posted by SW
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 26, 2013 at 1:02 pm

To the Mayor, City Manager and City Council: We want Michelle and Chris back teaching our kids and bringing smiles to their faces. If the supervisor is left in place the environment in the gymnasium will continue to be hostile for the remaining teachers, and parents will remove their kids from classes. The supervisor should be fired.


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Posted by Meredith
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 26, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Well said Melody Pagee and Michael Stogner.

Agree completely!


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Posted by heads will roll
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 26, 2013 at 1:34 pm

[Portion removed. Don't use Town Square to accuse people of crimes.]

Sounds like some unpleasant interpersonal dynamics at our new gym. The solution is not to start firing good employees at the bottom of the food chain. That may seem easy, but it never fixes the problems that emanate from management.


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Posted by justanobserver
a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Michelle, the time is all yours. You apparently have a great following because of who you are as a person and as a teacher. There are many peoples in MP that are involved in the world of financing. I say, connect with who you know and form your own gymnastics business. You already of a customer base and a proven product! Those teachers that have left in protest of your firing can be your staff! No time like the present to move forward and say bye bye to the politics of MP. who in their right mind needs that kind of nonsense! Remember, karma, karma, karma. Treat those like you wish to be treated because if not, pay back is a *****! You don't have to send a thank you note to MP for firing you but they have just opened a wonderful opportunity for you to grasp and run with. don't look back - it is all in front of you waiting for you.


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Posted by A Call to Action
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 26, 2013 at 1:54 pm

The Park and Rec Comission is meeting tomorrow evening at Arrillaga Family Rec Hall at 6:30PM. Come to show your support for our city's gymnastics department and all the teachers we love.

Also, the Facebook group stated in support of Michelle is called "Bring Back Teacher Michelle!" and it is open to the public, serving as a central location for sharing information and ideas about how to remedy this situation so that we can return to the wonderful and enriching classes for our children.


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Posted by interesting
a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2013 at 1:55 pm

[Post removed. Please don't use Town Square for personal attacks.]


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Posted by Shannon
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 26, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Lindsey has been an incredible advocate and organizer throughout this unfortunate incident.

She has suggested several ways to stay involved and make sure our voices are heard and action is taken:

1. Let's continue our support for teacher Michelle at the parks and recreation commission meeting on Wednesday, February 27. As members of the community we have time to speak during two designated "public comment" times.

2. Contact the following people:
City Council: city.council@menlopark.org (public email)
Mayor Pro Tem: Ray Mueller, 650-776-8995, rdmueller@menlopark.org
Human Resources: Gina Donnelly gmdonnelly@menlopark.org, 650-330-6670
Community Services Director: Cherise Brandell, cebrandell@menlopark.org, 650-330-6618
Gymnastics Program Coordinator (Preschool): Karen Mihalek, kamihalek@menlopark.org, 650-330-2215
City Manager: Alex D. McIntyre, 650-330-6610, admcintyre@menlopark.org

3. Join the Facebook page Ms. Brundage mentions in the article:

Web Link


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Posted by Witney McKiernan
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Feb 26, 2013 at 3:27 pm

As more and more details of this story come to light, I lose faith in the leadership of the city of Menlo Park. Sure, the city has no obligation to provide a "reason to terminate an at-will employee," but isn't it in our community's best interest to rise above the minimum legal standards and ensure that all HR matters are supported with ample documentation, particularly for individuals who have served our community for many years? It's obvious that the city's HR staff completed no real investigation into Teacher Michelle's performance, because even a cursory look into her track record of "customer service" would have indicated that she has been providing excellent service to our children for years. It almost seems as though the city went out of its way to avoid collecting any evidence in support of Michelle.

As the parent of one of Michelle's former students, I can attest to her skill level as a teacher and her warmth and caring as a human being. I am not planning to enroll my son in any additional gymnastics classes until this is resolved.


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Posted by More Action Needed
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 26, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I urge anyone concerned about the way the firing of Michelle has been handled to continue to petition our City government for answers and insist that changes be made to management that has demonstrated a lack of judgment, leadership, compassion, empathy, transparency and community service. Not only was the firing of Michelle Sutton unfair and unnecessary, the way in which our City management has allowed this to happen and remained silent on the issue evidence that the changes that need to be made are not to the hard working and dedicated teachers but to the over paid managers making these horrible decisions. Where is the support for the staff and the very successful gymnastics program? What are the motives in this firing and letting other valued teachers go? Are the Community Services Director and City Manager working to keep the program a success or purposely working to see it fail? What are the motives??? We in the community deserve better, and our children want and deserve Michelle back. Do what's right and admit that a horrible mistake has been made in letting her go - and rehire her.. for the good of the City, the Community, and the Gymnastics program.


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Posted by TM
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 26, 2013 at 4:55 pm

One has to wonder what politics are going on behind the scenes here. Our two children have been in the MP Gymnastics program since they were toddlers, and we have been very happy with the service offered by the program. We know Teacher Michelle, and are stunned that such a decision could be reached...it's almost like the program Administrators are trying to ruin the program. The quality of the gymnastics program is easily measurable by the quality of the employees working there. If the Administration is losing people (or in this case, firing people), then it makes us, the customers, question their leadership and commitment to the gymnastics program in Menlo Park...


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Posted by Where is the Leadership?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 26, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I agree with you, T.M. There has been a glaring lack of transparency leadership by our City Manager and Community Services Director. Our community has a right to be included in any decisions that would ultimately effect the long term and continued success and profitable City Gymnastics Program. Are there some back room deals happening that are being kept from the public eye again - yes I'm alluding to what went down when the new pool was built and then gifted in an no bid contract.. Something smells fishy here. Is the plan is to sink the Gymnastics Program on purpose? All I know is the firing Michelle and lack of support for other long time staff (Teacher Chris!!!) raises many questions.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2013 at 7:00 pm

I've copied my comment from the PA Online thread below. I'd like to add that, despite having been an at will employee, Ms. Sutton may have a good case for being fired in retaliation:

"The termination took place against a backdrop of conflict within the gymnastics program. Sutton said that six days prior to being fired, she asked the city's human resources department how to file a complaint of harassment against her supervisor. Staff told her to contact the union liaison at the city; he then directed her to the representative who handled at-will employees, who didn't return her phone calls, she said." I hope that she's talked to an attorney.

What a nasty tempest in a teapot, resulting in real harm. [Portion removed. Please avoid personal attacks.]

FWIW, I've never heard anything but praise for Sutton, amongst my Menlo friends & family w/kids in gymanastics.

This sentence is laughably, pettily telling: The termination took place against a backdrop of conflict within the gymnastics program.

Puhlease! It's gymnastics for children. If the whiners & the management aren't careful, folks are going to start calling Menlo "the new Palo Alto" as some people I know already do.

I'm so glad to read that life has been happier recently for Ms. Sutton. Good luck, Ms. Sutton!


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Posted by Mary
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 26, 2013 at 7:48 pm

I've known Michelle for years. She is very professional and would not behave in a manner unbecoming her position as an instructor. It is unfortunate that people reacted so quickly to such a minor issue. It makes one wonder who is in charge of the hen house.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 26, 2013 at 8:03 pm

How sad that we live in a time and place where one person's complaint can deprive the community of a terrific resource.

The Menlo Park City Council is probably patting themselves on the back for being so responsive.


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Posted by Erin Glanville
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 26, 2013 at 8:28 pm

I agree with "Where is the leadership?" that this situation calls into question the City's Community Services Director's judgment. As “Where" mentions, during the City's RFP process for the pool, an entire part of the process (one that would have enabled public comment to the Council before the development of the contract) was skipped-- but no one was even reprimanded, let alone lost their job.

In this case, the City is trying to protect itself, parents and children by having a policy that spectators should not be on the floor. Unfortunately, had the parent in question been hurt (or their presence led to a child being hurt), it is almost certain that the City would have faced a lawsuit.

Ms. Sutton should be commended for trying to enforce what so many others seem to find inconvenient: the rules.

I urge the City Council to reinstate Ms. Sutton and to investigate why her management chain chose not to support someone trying to do her job according to the policies they (management) have adopted.


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Posted by P.S.
a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Michelle needs to be reinstated as a permanent staff with benefits and union protection. Our teachers are a valuable commodity, and it's a shame that City Management does not seem to understand what our community, the children and the City gymnastics program needs and deserves in order to continue to be successful. Respect our gymnastics teachers, pay them well and treat them with dignity and they will gladly stick around. Treat them like trash and throw them away..well, you reap what you sow. City Council needs to act and clean up this toxic "leadership" in the Community Services Department.


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Posted by Mark K.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 26, 2013 at 10:33 pm

I feel bad for Vice Mayor Mueller. He's just a nice person who makes it a point to be available and listen to everybody, even perfect strangers. The poor guy receives an email complaint, passes it on to City staff as he should, and due to their incompetence, he is now being attacked and dragged into this mess. You have to respect the fact that he's still asking people to email complaints to him instead of dodging the issue. I can only imagine the undeserved abuse he's absorbing. Mueller, you have my respect. Hang in there and good luck.


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Posted by M.E.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 27, 2013 at 6:39 am

The original letter to the City Council calling for the teacher to be fired remained on the City's public web site for about week. As soon as positive email started arriving expressing support for the teacher and praising her, SOMEONE in the City took it upon his or herself to remove the emails praising the teacher. They did not stay up on the City's public email log, and were taken down immediately. We have a right to know who in the City made the decision remove these emails from the public record? what are they trying to hide and if the reasoning is "Personnel" issues, then the original nasty email calling for Michelle Sutton's family by the poorly behaved mother who wouldn't follow the rules was able to stay as public record for a week, that argument is invalid. Well, it's all a bunch of malarkey and while City Council, and Ray Mueller didn't fire Michelle, there needs to be some accountability for the horrid decision. Whether or not she was a "temp" and her superiors didn't think they needed a reason. Wrong. The Community and the Parents demand answers and that our teachers not be treated with callous disregard. I urge Council members - and Ray Mueller since he had the ear of the irate parent who started this whole mess - need to meet with Teacher Michelle and work towards finding a solution that works for the community and the teacher. Bring in a professional mediator if necessary but do not think that this issue or the way the firing was handled will just go away if the Community Services Dept continues to ignore.


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Posted by Kevin Wheaton
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 27, 2013 at 9:44 am

I've been taking my grandson "Jack" to the gym program for two years. When he was fortunate enough to be assigned to Michelle's class, it made his day. Her joy in teaching was very apparent, and her relationship with the kids was a wonder to watch. I was just stunned when I saw that she had been fired for such a silly complaint. I enjoyed being on the floor when Jack was in his earlier classes but accepted having to watch from the observation area when his age made it appropriate. It's part of growing up. Let's get Michelle back!


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Posted by Long Time Menlo Man
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 27, 2013 at 12:19 pm

It's apparent the story was told from one side. It's too bad the city can't tell us the other side.


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Posted by M.E.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 27, 2013 at 12:27 pm

The City told us their side by firing a well respected, well loved and excellent teacher and employee. It was telling when they fired Michelle Sutton after one irate and [portion deleted] parent contacted the Mayor and demanded she be fired. What else do you need to know. The City leadership failed the community in a big way.


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Posted by Long Time Menlo Man
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 27, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I'm sure there are 2 sides to this story. I'd be interested in hearing the city's side - but of course that can't happen because of personnel laws.


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 1:08 pm

[Portion deleted. Please don't speculate about what people think or did.]

David Maigret emails MP demanding an apology to his wife & termination of the teacher? Why is this family so entitled that MP actually does that?

MP should have done exactly what Michael Stogner recommended & the teacher should be re-hired with a bonus for her trauma. [Portion deleted.] If anybody is fired, it should be the MP employee(s) who allowed an inappropriate demand to have such weight that (s)he acted on it.

Or the teacher could have announced that class must halt & cannot resume until all parents are off the mat {portion deleted.]


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Posted by Las Lomitas District parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 27, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Thank you Melody Pagee - you articulated the bigger picture perfectly. We must brace ourselves for the sad fact that these parents and kids are in our community and their entitlement attitudes and snow plow parenting is being enabled.

I hope the issue is resolved to Ms. Sutton's satisfaction.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2013 at 1:40 pm

M.E. - slight correction. She was fired *after* asking how to file a harassment claim, right? Her firing sounds like retaliation, maybe instead of or in addition to doing the bidding of the parent. Did she have whistleblower protection, or does this qualify?


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Posted by Do Something
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 27, 2013 at 2:06 pm

A lot of support, but little action. These people you all complain about are pretty smart, and they are not threatened by these comments here. They know you will all be gone when it is time to vote for them. 100 of you does not defeat them at election. They are however very threatened by a packed room of voters demanding month after month that they will loose their jobs, unless this is resolved. But the real question is if all you supporters are willing to do the work it takes to make this right.


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Posted by Long Time Menlo Man
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 27, 2013 at 2:24 pm

2 cents says she was fired for something else besides "a parent complaint."


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Posted by M.E. again
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 27, 2013 at 2:36 pm

A million dollars says your are wrong.


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Posted by dnnorth
a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2013 at 2:50 pm

If the parent email reflects accurately the conversation with Sutton, then yes, Sutton was rude and unprofessional. Rude because (if) she said "Iḿ done with you " a humiliating personal comment, instead had said "I am sorry we can´t talk now but see me after the class please and I´ll explain the policy to you privately. She could also have halted the class asking all parents to step off the mats.
Certainly, Ms. Sutton has a lot of supporters and it may be a very well deserved support given the length of her services to the city and people´s appreciation, but that does not mean that in this particular occasion she was appropriate. And we know that because the Almanac is only publishing the ¨good¨ letters...Where is the other side of this story?


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Posted by curious
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 27, 2013 at 3:33 pm

I haven't read many of the letters to the city council, but does anyone remember seeing an email from another parent in the room when this incident happened?


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Posted by bring back teacher michelle!
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 27, 2013 at 4:16 pm

there were no other parents in the room because this was NOT a parent participation class.


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Posted by Get Real
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 27, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Long Time Menlo Man: WOW! It is so NOT obvious that you are a city employee desperately trying to CYA now that you see Menlo Park citizens actually rallying behind someone who had provided them excellent service! If you read the article you will see that the reporter had confidential sources who confirmed that Michelle was held in great esteem by her colleagues and they were shocked to hear of her firing. One has resigned in protest. What basis do you have for your scurrilous insinuations? Answer - none!


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 27, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Since this was not a parent-participation class & there were no other parents in the room, this "humiliating personal comment" was relayed by Ms. Boda to Mr. Maigret. Mr M wrote the email, based on 2nd hand information about a conversation he did not overhear, is that right?

MP reacted by firing Ms. Sutton based on an email, which was based on hearsay, right? Did Ms Boda record the supposedly "humiliating personal comment"? How does one determine that she accurately (word-for-word & in precise tone) relayed it to the email writer?

If I ever want to get anyone who works for MP fired, I guess all I have to do is send an email demanding an apology & termination for that person who I say offended me so severely, right? I could even skip the intermediary by sending my own email? Good to know.


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Please watch tonight 6:30PM NBC News reporter Joe Rosato Jr's interviewing Michelle Sutton the Menlo Park Teacher/Coach who was fired


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Posted by heads will roll
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 27, 2013 at 6:08 pm

I don't know these parents but I feel kind of sorry for them. Yes, they behaved in a megamaniacal manner, but a lot of people around here feel similarly entitled. The firing was not their fault. Instead, it reflects problems that emanate from the highest levels of city management.

The one positive takeaway from this incident is that more people, especially parents of young kids, are getting a close-up look at local corruption. Once people are aware, they can work together to effect change.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 27, 2013 at 6:19 pm

heads will roll:

from the parent's email: It is really unfortunate what Michelle has done and she really owes my wife
an apology and should be terminated - In my opinion. It is just a complete
lack of judgement for a payed city employee.


they asked for her termination.


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Posted by heads will roll
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 27, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Nice fantasy, but people who work for the city do not get fired because of resident complaints. If they did, a few would have disappeared long ago (I could name names, but those would be deleted by the ever-vigilant editors.)

I know both Karen and Michelle. Seems to me, from what I've heard, that the parents served as the deus ex machina in this particular drama. Normally, the city could not care less about what residents think.


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Posted by dnnorth
a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2013 at 6:59 pm

I have no idea if the comment by Ms. Sutton was made or not, though
it´s not inconceivable, but we heard no refutation. Downtowner seems to think that anything that´s not recorded didn´t happen. What I see is parents ganging up on a mother (and child by extension) who was in her right to let the city know what had happened to her and her child in Ms. Suttonś class that the mother didn´t like´. I find equally normal that Mr. Maigret as a husband and father decided to send the message.
A professional educator understands the needs of children and Mrs. Sutton could have been a tad more understanding if whatś reported is true. I am sure she is a wonderful person but even wonderful people sometimes do things that can be perceived in a way not intended.


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Posted by Long Time Menlo Man
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 27, 2013 at 7:06 pm

2 sides to every story. I'm waiting for the details to leak out. 9 times out of 10, the first story is not complete.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 27, 2013 at 7:24 pm

heads:

I may be wrong, but I think you are confusing unionized vs non-unionized employees. Yes, it's virtually impossible to get rid of a union employee.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 27, 2013 at 7:28 pm

dnnorth:

what part of it's against the rules for the parent to be there don't you understand? As others have already pointed out, if the teacher had let the parent stay and she had been injured, you can guarantee she would be sueing for her injuries even if they were due to her own disregard for the rules. If no one has to observe the rules, why make them?


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Posted by Roger
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 27, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Why is it that government so often hides behind the statement "We can't discuss personnel issues"? For a long time, they used that excuse as a reason for not disclosing the amount of annual pay of government employees.


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Posted by round file
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 27, 2013 at 7:45 pm

City's side of this (if there was one) should've been in Ms. Sutton's personel file.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 27, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

round file:

you're right, it should have been seen in her personnel file, but apparently there wasn't anything, or next to nothing in it.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2013 at 8:45 pm

Roger - because it's the law, whether it's a gov't agency or not. I'm glad that it's the law, because it does protect employees. Sure, the employer uses it as a dodge, but generally, an employee - or ex - can go public w/their situation, unless they've signed a settlement agreement.


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Posted by Let me get this straight...
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 27, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Menlo Park cannot fire a cop who sees a prostitute during shift hours.

But fires a gym teacher because one citizen complained?

What is wrong with this picture? I've never known any government entity to take a citizen's complaint so seriously.


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Posted by jen
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 28, 2013 at 7:17 am

OK, what I don't get is this: when I googled the complaining parents, I am told they are NOT Menlo Park residents, but were commuting in to our program from Half Moon Bay? Oh, why would someone make the huge trek all the way to Burgess Gymnasium - could it be BECAUSE OF THE TEACHERS AND OUTSTANDING PROGRAM? Ridiculous; this entire situation is ridiculous. [Portion removed.]


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Posted by Where is the Leadership?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 28, 2013 at 8:42 am

The centerpiece of the community service department plan to improve customer service is to now offer 100 percent satisfaction with their recreational programs (gymnastics classes included) or a full refund! Wow. So that means instead of addressing the concerns about the failures of the program and management leading up to Michelle's firing, the Community Services Department will placate unhappy parents by refunding their money. Unbelievable. Our community deserves better and substantial changes - and I'm not talking about firing more teachers in our previously respected City programs.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Feb 28, 2013 at 9:38 am

"Is this a great country, or what?" - Bill Blazejowski ("Night Shift" 1982)


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Posted by Scott McMahon
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 28, 2013 at 12:39 pm

My experience with the Children's Gymnastics Program is that it has not always been particularly good about playing well with others.

I used to play volleyball at noon in a gym shared with the gymnastics program. They had their own separate facility, but every day, our volleyball was interrupted to allow the gymnastics class to parade through our gym to the drinking fountain in the back. For the safety of the kids, we were required to stop play, and 12 to 20 adults cooled their heels for 5 to 10 minutes while the little tykes were paraded through our gym to the fountain in the back, where they lined up and each and every one of them got a drink, one at a time, and then they were paraded back to their classroom. I understand that our game could be dangerous for the kids, and wouldn't want to endanger them by playing while they were in the gym. The problem is why did the gymnastics class insist on this little show every day?

There were other ways to get drinks for the kids. In particular, I asked why they didn't have an igloo cooler in their room, and was told, basically, that the gym program has clout and I shouldn't make any waves.

I'm glad that the program is as wonderful as it is for many kids and their parents, but I was not surprised to hear that a parent got disrespected. Nor am I surprised to hear that someone in the program was fired, given the attitude I saw from that group in the past.


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Posted by Las Lomitas District parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Feb 28, 2013 at 12:49 pm

dnnorth:

I don't feel sorry for these parents at all. The appropriate civilized approach should have been for Ms. Boda to bring up the matter to Ms. Sutton's supervisor at the time it happened. And the gym supervisor's appropriate response should have been to listen and discuss the matter with Ms. Sutton and Ms. Boda. This would have been the perfect opportunity for the gym to confirm the policy but perhaps discuss Ms. Sutton's choice of words or tone as it sounds like the "offense" may have been her tone of voice. Instead the Boda/Maigret family chose to go beyond reasonable and send an email to the city calling for the firing of a woman who was doing her job but perhaps used an impatient tone. I suspect impatience stems from it being reasonable for Ms. Sutton to assume the policy was known by or should have been obvious to Ms. Boda.

Ms. Sutton should have been given the opportunity to apologize for her tone but stand firm with the gym behind her that she was doing her job enforcing a policy designed for safety.


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Posted by DaSteele
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2013 at 1:53 pm

I am acquainted with several of the people directly or peripherally involved in this incident and have been told by credible witnesses that Michelle had difficulty getting Ms. Boda to understand the no-parent participation policy from the start of the sessions, and that Ms. Boda even insisted on "co-teaching" a session when Michelle's co-teacher was absent, despite Michelle explaining the rules and the City's liability. Ms. Boda told Michelle that she was a teacher and therefore would help, period. So it seems that Michelle made several attempts to get the parent to follow the rules and no support from her supervisor. I suspect this is all beside the point, however. Firing a well-liked and long-term employee on the basis of a single complaint hints of retaliation or antagonism that clearly pre-dates this issue. And when another well-liked teacher quits in support of the fired employee one has to begin to suspect that management is mostly at fault.


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2013 at 4:07 pm

@ Jen - Boda/Maigret DO live in MP, on 6th Avenue.


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Posted by Maurice
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 28, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Just a comment on the memo from the City Manager concerning the gymnastics program. Apparently it was distributed last night at the Parks and Rec meeting. What's amazing is that the Community Services Department makes it clear that they do not value the teachers. Not only does the report brag about cutting hourly wages of Saturday gymnastics teachers who run birthday parties - parties that the City is charging a pretty penny - but our City Manager makes a point to say how the management now forbids the Staff to accept tips. So The Community Services director decides to slash pay and nickel and dime City workers making a fraction of what she earns. For shame. Not only that, it appears that the under appreciated teachers are now given no down time between class to catch their breath. Are you kidding me? It's no wonder the Manager and Community Services director didn't give Michelle any due process and just fired her. Clearly they don't respect the City teachers and are ready to toss them out like garbage. Unacceptable. And indefensible. Is this really how we want our Community Services programs run and our teachers being treated?


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Posted by Bystander
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Can anyone provide an explanation to this question: If the complaint by the parent had nothing to do with the termination of teacher Michelle, why would the city remove it from the city website citing the reason as a personnel issue? Does the city routinely remove letters from the website when someone complains about a city employee? Unfortunately it looks to me like the city has hunkered down and is going to stand by the termination and will just weather the storm until the furor dies down. The city won't do anything unless it's brought to it's knees by a complete boycott of the program...meaning the 1,900 participants and 500 people on the waiting list take their $ elsewhere.


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Posted by Maurice
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 1, 2013 at 6:10 am

Boycotting the program will lead to the City just contracting it out - which I suspect they are happy to do and then you can say goodbye to your community program and will have even less say over it when it is run by a private organization. And you can also kiss the profits goodbye. They program is a huge money maker for the City. The issue is that the Community Services Department does not value it's teachers and doesn't understand that the teachers are the ones that make the program. The person running the department clearly has no understanding of the gymnastics program and what the parents want, or else Michelle would have never been fired. Because Michelle is classified as a temporary employee, her boss can fire her at any time for any reason. Now if those in the community really value their teachers and their community gymnastics program not only will they continue to work to reinstate Michelle but make sure that the City Manager and Community Services Director change the way they do business and treat those staff further down in the ranks. Great teachers like Michelle will need Union protection, City benefits and decent pay if you want to retain them and provide them protection from retaliation. The Community Services department needs more transparency and leadership and needs to LISTEN to the parents in the community and their teachers. Instead, they're playing politics and are refusing to address the issues that have led to Teacher Michelle's unfair and unjust dismissal. It's clear that our City leaders are taking the Scott Brown approach to the workers at the City, they are the ones who are vital to the programs success - and keep us coming back to Gymnastics. The new gym is nice, but without Teacher Michelle, it has lost it's sparkle.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 1, 2013 at 7:09 am

Downtowner:

6th is NOT in Menlo Park. It's county with a MP mailing address. The complainers aren't even residents.


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 1, 2013 at 12:58 pm

@ Menlo voter - yes, I know it is SMC with a MenloPark mailing address. My comment was "@ jen"" who said they lived in Half Moon Bay (?)


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Posted by It's Just Not That Difficult
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 1, 2013 at 4:45 pm

I am getting tired of all the complaining and bitching from residents (and non-residents) who really have no idea what they are talking about. It is about 100% certain that this was not the first instance of trouble between Michelle and the Gymnastics program run by the City of Menlo Park. This is a very well-respected program run by extremely competent people. If they have become fed up with Michelle's antics, I think we should believe in their integrity and management experience, rather that second guessing without most of the relevant information.


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Posted by Clear as day
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 1, 2013 at 6:22 pm

No, not that difficult to see what that post above was all about. Michelle will be vindicated and slandering Teacher Michelle will be held accountable.


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Posted by Long Time Menlo Man
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 1, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Read the city manager's email. I knew there was another side to the story and we weren't getting it from the newspaper or here.
TO:ME Again - you owe me a million dollars! Cash please.


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Posted by round file
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 1, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Except there's that darn lack of documentation in her personel file. Easy to sling mud. Backing it up? That's another matter.


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Posted by Wondering
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 1, 2013 at 7:05 pm

And how do we read the city manager's email?


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Posted by lONG tIME mENLO mAN
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 1, 2013 at 10:04 pm

To see email posted by the city manager

City of Menlo Park website

Menlo Park City Council Email Log

Feb 2013 146 messages by thread (Thu Feb 28 2013 - 17:22:43 PST)

Web Link


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2013 at 10:21 pm

That's from the same [portion removed; disrespectful name-calling violates terms of use] who spoke publicly - in a bar, near a reporter - about a union employee - a confidential matter.


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Posted by More Action Needed
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Mar 2, 2013 at 6:57 am

The manager's email does not appear to be penned by him or signed by him, evidence that he was just standing by those responsible for firing Michelle. Big mistake.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2013 at 9:51 am

Okay, let's make it city manager who stupidly talked publicly about a confidential personnel matter in a BAR, near a REPORTER. Has he been punished for this amateur lapse?


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Posted by heads will roll
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2013 at 2:21 pm

The city manager's email on the city website is a bloated bit of boilerplate, a letter obviously designed as a generic response to anything pertaining to gymnastics. There is one paragraph, inserted near the end, that alludes to the current situation. I'd call it CYA 101.

Please note that I never accused anyone of a crime. However, there are at least two members of the city staff who have repeatedly abused the trust of residents and who should no longer have their jobs. If being rude is justification for firing someone, there are others who should go to the front of the line.


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Posted by Mitch Halloran
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2013 at 10:07 am

Just got back to the United States a day or two ago after living abroad for two decades (now permanently repatriated). I was directed to this story by Michelle's mother.

I want to support particularly the comment above that city officials ---from the Council to the Manager and to the supervisory personnel who are at the heart of this insidiousness---know how to weather the heat on this matter if they have to. They are probably old hands at counting on all the handwaving to die down, and for the apathy of the voters to overtake these events. Irrespective of the right or wrong of the matter, there seems to be one certainty of the cynic: the city leaders just wish for it to all go away.

All residents should make an effort to push for full disclosure of the truth on this matter.

It is as many posters have indicated or downright feared: that there are things involved here that have not been fully revealed, and they certainly need to be disclosed.

Confidentiality? (Respect of) privacy? First and foremost, those initiating this matter with a formal complaint to the city have waived their right to any privacy or confidentiality by making this public. Others have gone on record with the media and have similarly waived such "rights." These pretenses to confidentiality and privacy are all about lawyers scurrying to limit liability, because members of the State Bar are interested in anything other than truth and justice. Ethics is not a last priority with officers of the court: it is not even on the list of priorities.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, these matters involve elected and appointed city officials, and because they do, it is the duty and responsibility of residents and voters to get to the bottom of these matters. Eventually the truth will get out: those trying to hide it---and they know who they are---will not come out well. I am sure the person(s) who are in the crux of this incident may actually be convinced they are in the right (although I sometimes wonder, as it is not always the case that people are fully without conscience or scruple). But those trying to engage in a coverup must know that it will be the residents and voters of Menlo Park who will be the final arbiters when they are given both sides of the story. Just remember this eternal verity: people get the government they deserve!


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Mitch, well said

"the city leaders just wish for it to all go away."

I was reminded of this partial quote in an e-mail between 2 of San Mateo County's highest elected officials.

"Hopefully it will be yesterdays news by tomorrow."

Good luck to the residents of Menlo Park.


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Posted by Great quote
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Michael, is your quote between San Mateo leaders the infamous e-mail from Stephen Wagstaffe to Greg Munks? Where Munks had just been found in Las Vegas by the FBI at an underage brothel, and Wagstaffe e-mailed him to show his support for the "people who matter", and assured him this was much ado about nothing?


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Very close, but no not from Steve Wagstaffe, it was from James P. Fox to Sheriff Greg Munks.


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Posted by N.D.
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 6, 2013 at 6:46 pm

FACT: Retaliation is a California labor law violation, when the employer terminates or retaliate against the employee who complained.

Retaliation can mean writing up a staff member for something inconsequential; subjecting them to a hostile work environment, firing them after a complaint has been lodged, or the intention of wearing them down until they quit.

The City may even have a Class Action suit on their hands if they don't get to work NOW to resolve the problems within the Community Services Department.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 6, 2013 at 7:18 pm

ND:

except as best anyone can tell no complaint had been yet lodged. The rumour being that the teacher was "inquiring" about filing a harassment complaint.


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Posted by N.D.
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 29, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Interesting that Community Services Director Cherise Brandell recently announced the City's plans to study outsourcing the Gymnastics Program. Begs the question (that was raised by numerous people above), was the City purposely attempting to ruin the City gymnastics program and creating a hostile work environment so they could justify the need to outsource it? Clearly there are more professional and ethical ways to achieve their goals.


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