Editorial: Superintendent's actions roil school district Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, The Almanac Online, on Mar 20, 2013 at 2:33 pm
For a superintendent who is reputed to be fond of applying the latest business techniques to improve the performance of local school districts, Maurice Ghysels seems to have missed the seminar on human relations.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 12:00 AM
Posted by MPCSD Employee, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2013 at 2:33 pm
An excellent editorial that opens up some tough questions about this superintendent.
What an embarrassment.
Having reviewed the articles and the comments, both recently and going back to when he was hired, I am most troubled by the fact that Ghysels had strong personal connections to the firm the district chose and paid to hire him, and without public comment. And this firm is then subsequently provided even more district money for searches that turn up more of Ghysels cronies from past jobs suggesting that the hiring of a search firm was more an effort to funnel money to his friends. I am also troubled by the fact that he replaced his secretary with that of his significant other's from the Mountain View school district. This would be the same significant other that cost him his job in Mountain View. This again wreaks of cronyism in a public sector job market. The question that begs to be asked is whether or not these individuals were truly the best choices for the job.
For Ghysels it's about guarantees. It’s not about hiring the best qualified. He wants people he can guarantee will be loyal to him and his half-baked corporate ideas and fantasies that place him at the head of a large corporation. He has gone on the record that he wants to emulate Google as a corporate model (of course he does). Does this mean every one over the age of 40 is out of a job (except him of course!), because if you travel to Google headquarters and spend some time there, you will quickly notice there are very few employees over the age of 35. Sorry, I’d much rather have a balance of youth and years of experience and honesty and integrity in the people in charge of educating my children.
That Ghysels is a bully, there is no doubt. I've experienced and witnessed it in action. And of course I've done my best to not become a victim of it. Indeed, that is my sole concern and approach to my job in the district. In this economy, for me and other employees, that has now become our number one concern ahead of everything else. This is not by choice, but what the school board has left us with as a work environment. So the editorial is right on target on that point. People that work with him, tell him what he wants to hear, not what he needs to know to be an effective leader and to keep the schools first rate. I fear the damage to the district is already done and things will remain less than optimal as long as Ghysels is retained. We now have a situation in which many employees will put forward passive resistance to Ghysels and the board so loyal to their choice. It happened in Mountain View and it’s happening here again. Let’s pause to remember that in Mountain View, the teacher’s union went on the record to say that their membership could not stand behind Ghysels as a leader given his actions there.
As the editorial points out, a true leader develops a team, values the people in it and works to make them better. Clearly Ghysels had no basis for firing people with good records other that for the fact that he just did not like them or because they would not respond to his personality. The fact that he makes no effort to document poor performance over a period of time would also suggest a mean-spirited, vindictive, perhaps even jealous personality at work. Maybe he just can't stand people more competent and intelligent than him or people with deep roots in the district that he perceives will undermine his personal agenda.
What's funny about all this is that only Maurice Ghysels is capable of putting this type of cloud above his head. No matter how objective you try to be in reading these articles and comments, you cannot help but conclude in the end that there must be a basis of truth in them. Well, there is. What’s sad is that Ghysels has developed such a consistent pattern of unprofessional behavior that the district is poised to jeopardized the years of hard work that went into making the district great long before Ghsyels stumbled into the scene. Ironically, even if he does go, he will no doubt leave behind many seething vendettas to be played between those who cowardly towed his line and those who acted in the interest of the children and what's right and wrong.
And thank you for giving credit where credit is due. Mr Ranella and his staff alone were responsible for the district's excellent reputation and the rebuilding of facilities.
Posted by Educator, a resident of the Woodside: Woodside Heights neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2013 at 3:30 pm Educator is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
*a true leader develops a team*
Isn't that what the superintendent is doing? Developing a team that can provide a cohesive higher level of teaching, learning, and support for all the districts's students?
Instead of fighting, try supporting your school board members and superintendent, and you might find that they have some really good reasons for change. Education in this state is a disaster and the only way to move teaching and learning forward is to make really difficult decisions.
Posted by MPCSD Employee, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2013 at 5:31 pm
If you want to parse the phrase, fine. He had a team in place. He could have developed it more thoughtfully as an effective leader. If things were not working out, he could have documented it. Instead he has created a huge division in the district. His methods to date in this district and in past ones, is to come in and fire competent and professional people without a solid reason, and then to fill the positions with cronies from a network of old boys running a consulting firm. His job before this one, as chief of schools at the Santa Clara County office of Education has been filled with the wife of one of the partners (Larry Aceves) of the consulting firm, Leadership Associates that recommended him to the board of MPCSD at the cost of $21,000 to the district. If that doesn't seem a little too cozy to you and doesn't smack of cronyism, then I have a bridge to sell you. And then Leadership Associates gets another $10,000 from the district to hire one of Ghysels' crony principals from Mountain View! Really, $10,000 funneled to Leadership Associates while he picks some one he already had in mind?
Oh, but guess what, this second website no longer works. Now why would Leadership Associates website all of a sudden be down? Thankfully, with Google you can still search using the terms "leadership associates" and "menlo park" and "aceves" and Google will product snippets of the trail of crony connections.
But you can believe what you want to believe and pretend that Ghysels is the solution for saving public education in California. Wow, is all I can say. Ghysels and his ilk are creating havoc and causing a drain on school budgets and nothing more. As an Educator you owe it to yourself to do some research.
Posted by Another Employee, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2013 at 9:40 pm
MPCSD Employee-Thanks for your excellent contributions to this Editorial. Maybe Ghysels thought we wouldn't notice that the new people coming in were from his former district, Mountain View. Maybe he thought we wouldn't figure out that his new assistant used to be his girlfriends assistant. Maybe he thought we weren't as smart as we are.
Posted by MPCSD Teacher, a resident of another community, on Mar 20, 2013 at 10:01 pm
"Instead of fighting, try supporting your school board members and superintendent, and you might find that they have some really good reasons for change. Education in this state is a disaster and the only way to move teaching and learning forward is to make really difficult decisions."
Education in California may be a disaster, but it's not a disaster in Menlo Park. As a teacher who has worked in the district for several years, it is offensive to say that this district was a disaster and even more offensive to say that Maurice Ghysel's leadership style is doing anything to make it better. He is truly creating a disastrous situation where there is little trust in the leadership.
It sounds like you are suggesting that we all have blind faith in the board members and superintendent. I ask you....what reason do we have to trust? Mr. Ghysels has no idea what good education even looks like. He jumps into classrooms, always on his phone. He can't even be bothered to learn what is going on and just jumps to conclusions that it is all broken and only he holds the answers.
This lack of trust was never more evident than at the "all-hands" meeting last week (yes, another corporatism). After the disastrous board meeting only days beforehand, I would have expected him to come out with an amazing speech; a speech that would renew our faith in him as our leader. What did we get? An ill-prepared and lame 5 minute presentation. You could have heard a pin drop at the end of it. And, yet, he stood there waiting for the whole room to jump up in applause. It was pathetic.
I think my favorite part of his speech was when he was talking about "the menlo park way". What does he know about the menlo park way? The "menlo park way" that I know about is one where employees are treated as professional and the focus is on the students. Mr. Ghysel's "way" is nothing like this.
Posted by MPCSD Teacher, a resident of another community, on Mar 20, 2013 at 10:37 pm
Just curious....what is so great about MountainView? Have they won any major awards for being the greatest school district ever? Maybe I've missed it, but I can't seem to find any. What I did find was the MountainView Whisman had an API of 855 last year. That is a full 83 points lower than Menlo Park at 938!
So why do we need to bring all of these people over from Mountain View? And get rid of the people who were already on the "team" that has made this success happen?
I tend to agree with my colleague who wrote above. It's not about job performance. It's about "guarantees". He is so ill equipped to do his job that he needs to surround himself with people who won't challenge his ideas or are smarter than he is. Sadly, from the looks of it, Allison Liner as chief learning officer is following his cue.
Posted by vertex, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 1:40 am
Great job, Almanac. We now must get County Counsel or the Grand Jury to immediately investigate this Superintendent and the entire board. I must also add that I have a deeper respect for Ken now, he knew how to guide this school board to promote the district, not devastate.
Judging by the continuing board stonewalling, in the couple above comments, they STILL have not noted their error. Instead attack the evidence just like they attacked their own stellar employees.
Posted by Wake Up, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 8:45 am
Ok, lets focus on some facts:
1. Ghysels is friends with the one of the partners in a firm that has handled the hiring of himself and some others in the district, not necessarily suspicious, but then you have to consider that so far almost everyone they have hired are directly related to Ghysels - this definitely bears some sort of investigation.
2. Ghysels is hiring and firing people in the upper levels of the district office, also not necessarily suspicuous, new leadership would equate to some change. But you then have to consider that he is letting people go without warning, replacing them with people that he knows that are found through a firm he has ties with, and then of course there is the high volume of replacements which would be understandable in a low performing district, but MPCSD is a very high performing district. What leader would want to make such massive changes with a system that by all accounts was working very well? Again, this needs to be investigated.
3. Ghysels has been accused of bullying his employees, granted by a disgruntled employee he has fired, but still any complaints of bullying should be investigated. I would think that Ghysels would want this, if for no other reason then to clear his name. Instead he merely stays quiet on the subject, no even so much as a denial.
So regardless of of your position of Ghysels, you have to admit that some thing smells off here, and needs to be checked out.
[Portion removed. Please don't speculate about possible unethical or illegal conduct.]
I, like vertex, am calling for a full investigation of these allegations!
Posted by Yet another MPCSD Employee, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 10:24 am
Uhh, he has been accused of bullying by many current employees as well. A good number of us have witnessed it first hand. I witnessed, on more than one occasion, him reducing Ms. Metzler to tears with his bullying, and if you knew Ms. Metzler, you'd know that is not an easy task.
One thing that was very telling about the presentation at the all hand meeting last week. As various teachers were shown during the presentation, there were rounds of applause. When Ghysels picture was shown, it was dead silent. In a district where the superintendent is doing a good job, don't you think the employees would applaud him like they did their other colleagues? At least a few would, if he was doing a good job.
Posted by district parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 10:33 am
I have been in the district for years and know everyone on the school board. I was so concerned about this appointment that I had a long conversation with my closest friend on the board who blew off my concerns and said that you couldn't trust the media, that he had checked out perfectly with everyone other than a few malcontents. I hoped it would be so.
It is upsetting to me to hear that our teachers and staff are treated so badly by Ghysels. Is there anything we can do to help? My sense is that the board is going to back down from their support of him barring major scandal.
Posted by vertex, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 10:45 am
Yes, Mandilk showed publicly all victims of Maurice with the photos. As if intimidation, humiliation, and his organized firing games of excellent staff were not enough, just everyday working along Maurice is revolting. He can't remember what was just mentioned during the meeting regarding whatever, can not focus upon anything longer than a nano second, constantly takes leave from the meeting, and does odd stuff like vomiting all over the place in the bathroom, not cleaning up, leaving Ephrain the mess and trying to sort out the disaster.
Many ditsy board members at least have a suspicion of Maurice as I recall Laura mention TWICE that she does not trust Maurice when we were at the meeting to mine the district policy manual for upgrades.
I don't know if Mandilk was there but I heard it and so did several others.
Mandilk is excellent. She has courage. But the rest of the staff are running scared and for good reason. No one except Mandilk as the backbone that they PRETENDED to have when Ken ran the district. Ken was able to work with anyone that had skills. Maurice could care LESS about skills but he certainly loves those that we give him constant positive strokes no matter what foolish perk he comes burps.
I could go on and on but the above gives you a little taste of the problems created by Maurice and the board. They have destroyed the district and the effects will not be easily noticed by the outside for a few more months.
But they will surface. And I won't have to say, 'I told you so.'
Posted by Wake Up, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 10:54 am
He has been accused of bullying many, I know. I was trying to keep the facts as laid out in the article. But yes, considering the comments here and on the other articles there is more than enough evidence to justify some sort of investigation.
To district parent - You can voice your concerns to the board, the more parents that complain about him, the more likely they are to listen, the staff are too easily dismissed as simply not liking the change. There needs to be a mass public outcry before the board will own up to their mistake.
Posted by vertex, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 11:07 am
Wake Up, yes. I think if the board kept hearing at least 5 parents requesting they pay off Maurice and get real leadership at every board meeting the message will slowly percolate into something within the reasonable part of their brain.
This group of board is very hard headed, yet easily swayed by the right people. I think you talked to the old male board member that rides his bike all over town.
Larry does his work both ways. He measures the board and shapes the client. So, he told Maurice to pretend to ride his bike all over town and to talk it up to the board.
He did, and Maurice rode his bike for one or two days then parked it in his office untouched for months.
When the stakes of power is high, no small detail is left untouched.
The point is that at some level, EVERYONE has been deceived.
Now EVERYONE has to clean up this disastrous mistake. On the other hand, what we had will not ever be possible as the gang of four, in the office, have publicly showed that parents can NOT trust them.
Posted by Bob, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 11:58 am
Shame on the school board -- they knew he was a bad apple and hired him anyway. I remember lots of comments before he was hired and the board went ahead and hired him anyway. Doesn't give me great confidence that they listened to their constituents then. I wonder if they are listening now........
Posted by Have some faith, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 1:00 pm
I am a parent volunteer who has worked with Maurice, the School Board, and many members of his staff. From what I see, he is doing a great job! He has brought a lot of energy and passion to our District. I am all for treating people with respect and do not want to see anyone unfairly let go. However, there are valid reasons for each of these people being let go. To explain all of the reasons in public would be to hurt their reputations. Instead the District is taking the high road and not dragging each person through the mud. Yes, each person had been with the District for many years and had done some good things. Also, many of them had stacked up piles of complaints and were not performing in a way that meets the expectations of our high performing District. Parents always complain about the fact that you can't get rid of poor performing teachers because of teacher's unions. Well, Maurice is trying to respond to parents and get the best leadership team he can. I know that some parents LOVE Olivia and the services her department has provided for their children. However, I have never heard more complaints about any staff person than her. There is a whole group of parents who felt shut out and poorly served in Special Education. Maurice heard from many of them as soon as he came into this position. Olivia has turned this around to make him look like the bully and that is not the case. I wish people who don't know the whole story would stop painting him as a non-caring bully. That could not be any further from the truth. He and the Board are working extremely hard trying to provide all kids in our District with the best possible education and team of leaders to provide it. Please have some faith in them!
Posted by Observer, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 1:16 pm
And what about his clear links to Leadership Associates and the funneling of money to them? Are you going to ignore that? He hires his girlfriend's secretary away from Mountain View, the same place that fired him for a conflict of interest with the same girlfriend who was a principal in Mountain View and his supposed subordinate? Why is this man always putting his foot in it and attracting bad press no matter where he goes? Seriously. You can fool some people some of the time, but not all people all of the time.
If you look at his background, you will find that here is a guy whose best qualification is that he knows how to pad a resume. See the link below. His 25 years experience in public education, and four years at Citibank, doesn't quite add up all that he claims to be. He claims he is the author of numerous articles in various published journals. Can you find any of them? It's all smoke and mirrors.
And all the while, he still offers consulting services while on MPCSD's dime.
Posted by concerned citizen and educator, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 1:50 pm
To have some faith:
I agree with you that complaints should be listened to. But I completely disagree with his approach. If a parent voices a concern over an employee, the ethical thing to do is to bring this complaint to the employee and resolve the situation. If it cannot be resolved, then you can place something in the employee's file. A good manager would discern whether it is an isolated incident, or a pattern. A good leader would also weight a complaint against the the good, potentially great, work that is being done. That is transparency. Clearly something that Maurice talks about often, but doesn't actually practice.
Olivia's points are valid as these issues should have been discussed with her rather than being blindsided by being let go. From the sounds of it, nothing is in her personnel file so he is firing people based on some people's opinions. That is crazy! He needs to do his due diligence and research the complaints. Parents may complain about something, but they also may not understand special education laws and what a district is able to provide a student. I also work in an affluent school district I know that parents often ask the world of their school district thinking they need to provide whatever they want. I would question any school district that caved to every parent request! It would bankrupt the public education system!
No one is perfect and I'm sure you can find any parent who could complain about any employee in the district if you looked hard enough. It sounds like Maurice is doing just that. He's looking for "backup" to get rid of people that he doesn't like or that don't agree with him as justification of his innocence. If this is how the district is being run, then shouldn't he be fired by the amount of complaints that have been posted on the Almanac in recent weeks?
Posted by Some Guy, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 3:46 pm
What are the valid reasons for getting rid of Jo Mitchell?
I remember one district meeting shortly before Jo left, you could see seething, burning hatred for Maurice in her eyes. Something I had NEVER seen before or since. She was always the most pleasant and positive person in that office. So what good reason did he have to run her out? How about Mike Melton? Sure, he may not have been the most personable guy, but he ran a tight ship and got Hillview marked as a distinguished school. What valid reason did they have for running him off?
I would think it obvious that Maurice isn't about working with people, or team building (really, he couldn't work with Ms. Mandilk, help her improve, had to fire her?), he's about stacking the leadership with yes people.
Posted by Protection or Progression, a resident of the Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 4:25 pm
It has taken Ghysels two years to clean out some of the most mediocre or worse performers in the district. That's what he was hired to do -- bring in best practices and invite the staff to participate in implementing them or be left behind. How is it "mean" to raise the bar and expect employees to support improvements?
Letting Ms. Mandilk set the tone of her reassignment as an indictment of the current superintendent is unbelievable. Why would anyone take the word of a bitter, devisive employee trying desperately to hold onto her full pension against the wishes of most parents? Her claim that Robin Reding was home with a nervous condition because of Dr. Ghysels was directly denied by Ms. Reding. So much for her credibility. And if Mike Melton knew he was being held up as an example of someone who was ruthlessly fired I'm sure he'd be horrified.
This district has a reputation of being a cozy, clubby place to work and Ghysels was asked to shake things up. His decisions weren't made without working respectfully to help underperforming people meet goals and objectives. It's ridiculous to think he is replacing good people on a whim. How long should a superintendent hand-hold and babysit and draw things out? Another 5 years? There is plenty of documentation about all the folks who were replaced, but personnel records are confidential.
Even Ken Ranella, in his last year with the district, mused publicly about whether those test scores were high because we had the best schools or because we had bright students from bright families. It was a good question, and if you examine the data you will have your answer. The test scores in Menlo Park are just fine for typical white and Asian kids, but for many sub-groups such as kids with learning disabilities, kids of color, etc. they are not so pretty.
So do we want to be a district that provides a good education for select students but not for all students? That's nothing to brag about, and no reason to cling to old paradigms.
Posted by No Wonder, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 4:45 pm
Linda Darling Hammond -- scholar, author, policy adviser and professor at the Stanford School of Education who is the head of the Stanford School Redesign Initiative -- is one of Maurice Ghysels' biggest fans. When she heard Dr. Ghysels had been appointed the new superintendent of MPCSD, her comment was "Menlo Park is very lucky". All I read here are a bunch of entitled teachers from MP and MV spitting venom about how he shook up their comfortable worlds. Competant professionals aren't afraid of change and don't waste time on conspiracy theories to try to take the focus off what's important. Shame on all these crybabies. Instead of focusing on the small handful of people who have been replaced, look at the ones who have been promoted and hired, and look at the progressive changes in moving things forward based on actual data instead of staff popularity.
Posted by Progress?, a resident of another community, on Mar 21, 2013 at 5:05 pm
Progress? What progress has been made? Jo Mitchell was ousted and replaced by Allison Liner. The position was given to her without even an interview because she was so outstanding that there couldn't possibly by someone better suited for the job. I'd like to offer some points to the contrary.
The outcry last spring was that we were "so behind" on preparing for the Common Core. I ask, under Allison's leadership, what have we done?
1. She oversaw the selection of a new writing program last spring that was implemented this fall. The program is as far away from the expectations of the Common Core as it could be. In fact, we were told at the in-service that students need to "write for writing's sake" and that writing time could NOT be integrated into science and social studies. The common core calls for writing for authentic purposes and mandates writing across the curriculum. Good choice? I don't think so.
2. It's now the end of March and we have yet to have any training as teachers in the district on the common core. There was all sorts of planning to provide professional development for PARENTS so that they are aware of what's to come with the common core. Yet nothing for the teaching staff that will actually be teaching this new curriculum. We have just been informed that we will receive a "brief overview" of the common core standards on a staff development day in April. Every district around us has already begun this process and teachers are busy creating lessons and learning about this transition. Not us! Good choice? I don't think so.
3. Going against outcries from the teachers regarding the hiring of learning leaders, Maurice and Allison did it anyway. One didn't make half way through the year and the other one is no where to be seen. Good choice?
4. And then they decide to "eliminate" the instructional technology coordinator position. She was the only person from the team who was actually working with teachers and every time I've heard her present at staff meetings or board meetings was incredibly articulate and was seen as a strong leader throughout the district. We now hear that they want to shift the focus to data. Again, is anybody reading the common core standards? The age of accountability and NCLB is over. Students learning 21st century skills and being prepared for the workplace is where we need to focus and we've just lost the one person who was leading that charge. Good choice?
Maurice and Allison are both more concerned with their public image with the parents than with doing any sort of meaningful work that actually benefits students. Maybe if they weren't so busy shaking up the administrative team, they could actually focus on getting the work done that actually needs to get done.
Posted by Triona, a resident of the Menlo Park: University Heights neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 7:05 pm
My children are grown and gone however I still feel a strong connection to the school district first because I am an educator myself in another city and second because I am a property owner and know that my land value is very much tied to the school district.
I was appalled when the board hired Mr. Ghysels. I had heard of him many times over the past decade and always in a highly negative light.
His methods are those of a bully not a team builder, of one who seeks yes men and not intelligent discourse.
A school district needs to respect and work with their teachers. The teachers are the ones who actually educate the children. Ghysels was a terrible choice for Menlo Park and I fear the choice is blowing up our much valued schools.
Posted by Apex, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 7:28 pm
Totally disgusting that we have a few board members on here STILL covering for their LOSER, Ghysels. 'cushy' district! OUTRAGEOUS!!!! This district demands the most knowledgeable admin in the country. Why? Because the parents are excellent! I am not exaggerating, but there is only ONE way Olivia does the most excellent job, and is working at least 80 to 100 hours per week!
Very difficult to describe all the mandated legal stuff special ed must adhere and work constantly with special ed staff and with special ed parents THEN working with greedy parents that want thousand of dollars above and beyond the excellent and effective programs that were designed for them during IEPs with the staff of teachers and school psyches. The above fails to describe what the director must do, AND most are complete failures at the job! Yet, Mandilk is one of the very few successful directors because she learned HOW to do it, and that takes YEARS.
Cushy? You have NO IDEA!!!!!!!!!!!!! And I bet she lives paycheck to paycheck BECAUSE WE LIVE IN AN OVERPRICED HOUSING AREA! Unreal how the Maurice and the Board can treat her and the rest of the victimized staff of talented people.
Posted by We Want A+ Leadership, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 9:27 pm
The question here is not whether Ghysels has the right to dismiss employees. The question is, Why are our Board members supporting Ghysels, a bully boss who uses intimidation against those who are not part of his inner circle? A number of employees have shared their concerns about the superintendent’s management style with members of the Board, to no avail.
The Board expects and requires employees to quickly and effectively investigate and intervene when student bullying is alleged. Employees need to have the same protections against harassment, humiliation and verbal abuse. Many Boards recognize this and include employees in their district anti-bullying policies.
Abusive bosses not only cause misery for the employees they target, but they also poison the work environment for the victims' co-workers. Both the targeted victims and the co-workers of the victims of abusive bosses experience long-term negative effects. Seeing or being aware of a co-worker being bullied by a boss is called vicarious supervisory abuse. When vicarious abusive supervision is present, employees realize that the organization is allowing this negative treatment to exist, even if they are not experiencing it directly. That is why so many district employees are feeling afraid and helpless.
Our Board members need to recognize the widespread negative impact of an abusive boss and take action to stop it immediately. We need a superintendent who has earned an A+ in leadership---not one who has earned an F.
Posted by Victim of Olivia, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2013 at 9:45 pm
My child and I were both victims of Olivia. She doesn't understand how awful she's made it for struggling students. She speaks in a sweet voice but her words are deceptive and hurtful. She forces people into accepting sub-standard help for their children or spending thousands to hire lawyers. I'm not the only one -- there is a whole group in Menlo Park called AIM4MP who have the same experience and have been trying to help each other as well as speak out about the problems in special ed. I am very glad to see her go and wish she had gone a long time ago. Maybe she puts on a good face to other teachers but she's done a lot of damage.
Posted by MPCSD Employee, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Mar 22, 2013 at 5:37 am
Victim of Olivia:
Not so fast. The assumption running through the threads is that by Ghysels getting rid of Olivia that somehow special education parents will benefit. And that Olivia was somehow acting as a lone wolf and not following the guidance of the superintendent. Actually, in Mountain View when Ghysels was in charge, Special Education was seriously cut back with the message to reduce costs by tightening up the level of services provided with a great push to outsource personnel and services to reduce costs and remove the district from the equation. Don't believe me? Check out the link on the topic from when Ghsyels was in charge in Mountain View.
Posted by Meridian, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Mar 22, 2013 at 8:02 am
[Portion removed; don't attack other posters.]
MPCSD, right above, correct. First Maurice must place some ignorant tool as 'director' of Special Ed, then he will dismantle whatever to show change, and whitewash all changes as 'progress.' End result will be forcing the parents to go backwards to a point 10 years ago when special ed kids were farmed out to county schools, FAR FROM HOME, costing the District FAR MORE and providing FAR LESS child services. As it stands currently, if IEP team agrees, children are mainstreamed in general ed at every opportunity. Much more here, but don't want to belabor.
Maurice does NOT want skilled personnel, but poor quality people that will SUPPORT his every action and provide positive strokes for his constant kooky nonsense.
How does Maurice detect skilled individuals? Easy, and rather sinister. He knows that he is both ignorant and stupid and fully understands that skilled individuals will quickly see his cascade of intellectual inertia.
Here's Maurice's technique for absolutely determining whether or not an individual is excellent, therefore a personal threat to his survival: he asks them to 'correct' him when he does wrong! The first time he is corrected on an issue, Maurice's suspicion that this individual is a real threat and a potential whistle blower of past, present and future inanities!
I have watched Maurice use this tool often. The only admin that is safe around Maurice are the tools of stupidity. They can actually act everyday normal while everyone of any understanding MUST LAY LOW and act out their true color of cowardice.
Let's face it, very few courageous people go into education. But I can tell you from watching Olivia that she is not only excellent but comes with backbone.
We all must support Mandilk and shut down the organized insanity of cards stacked against her. All we really have left is our own integrity.
Posted by district parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Mar 22, 2013 at 9:09 am
There are two separate issues here that are getting conflated.
First, are there incompetent staffers/teachers who probably should be replaced? Well, possibly yes. I don't know Olivia, but I know MP special ed had a bad reputation under her reign, and I have friends who had bad experiences with her. That said, special ed director is probably the worst job in the district because no matter what you do, people are going to be mad at you -- either for spending too much money or not providing enough services.
Second, is Ghysels a good sup? Even if he's making a few good decisions (and we can wait to see whether the next sped person is better or worse than Olivia) the overall consensus seems to be no, he is a terrible manager, pitting staffers against one another and creating a culture of fear and disharmony. And if he is indeed replacing old people (45 years+) with 30-year-olds, he may be begging for a lawsuit.
Shortly after my first child started school here in Menlo Park, there was a new principal at his school. That principal managed to clean house, but did it in such a sensitive way that I didn't even get a whiff of hard feelings. Coming in and stomping on a lot of people is not going to lead to anything positive.
Posted by Meridian, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, on Mar 22, 2013 at 9:41 am
Almanac, you have a tool poster on the thread that is ATTACKING Olivia! Mandilk is being removed WITHOUT CAUSE, yet the poster attacks personally and professionally, with zero points. Look at the above post. Complete fabrication. If any cause existed for Olivia's termination, Maurice would have mined it to the fullest extent LONG AGO to get what he wants: crony in Olivia's position for personal gain.
Trust me. Maurice eyeballed all layers of the school environment trying to uncover SOMETHING of cause that he could use against O. Mandilk.
He failed and then he tried the 'program change' card, and that is a complete failure as he's now understanding.
Further, with Maurice's anti-moral and anti-education perceptions, he most likely is trying to find CAUSE even as I write this to terminate Olivia TODAY!
So, Almanac, I point out the insanity of a posted, and have a portion deleted, yet the attacking poster of CONSTANT DECEPTION is allowed to spew her web of confusion. Trace the mental pathway here!
Posted by district parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Mar 22, 2013 at 11:44 am
Parent feedback on Olivia was mixed. Some parents praised her and others thought she was horrible. And many of the people who cheered her departure also don't like Ghysels. It's not as if parents were separated into Team Olivia and Team Maurice.
I don't know if parental complaints ordinarily get included in staff personnel files. Do we know what the district policy is? I would guess that complaints are documented only when action is taken, which -- barring a lawsuit or threat thereof -- is basically never.
Posted by Former educator, a resident of the Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks neighborhood, on Mar 22, 2013 at 1:49 pm
If MPCSD (4 schools) was combined with Los Lomitas (2 schools), Portola Valley (2 schools), and Woodside (1 school)into one district and one superintendent, millions of dollars would be saved. Select the most qualified superintendent out of those districts to be the new superintendent. It appears parents and present employees are not at all happy with the present MPCSD superintendent.
Years ago, the concept of one school district (by combining the 4 districts mentioned above) was put on the ballot. The time has come again for this to be considered, and the most qualified superintendent chosen.
Posted by Victim of Olivia, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Mar 22, 2013 at 3:01 pm
Please let me respond to MPCSD Employee. Olivia made our lives very difficult and unhappy before Ghysels ever got hired. I spoke with Ken Ranella about it but he's the one who hired her so he protected her. I'm not the only one whose child was hurt and who complained over the years, some openly and some just among other special ed parents because they were afraid she'd go after them. A friend who has a special ed student in Las Lomitas had warned me they were relieved to be rid of her when she started to work full time in Menlo Park and that they were surprised she hadn't been fired. I agree that she certainly has a backbone when it comes to denying necessary help to students who are suffering and failing in school, and ignoring professional diagnoses and recommendations. Sorry, but you can't blame Ghysels that. She will not be missed by any parents I know.
Posted by MPCSD Employee, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Mar 22, 2013 at 5:00 pm
Victim of Olivia:
Sadly, I don't think Maurice Ghysels will emerge to be your hero for special education in MPCSD. And I am truly sorry to say that. It will take a little more time for you to realize this, but this is a man who brands and sells himself as a skilled leader of leaders, a leadership guru, and little else. In fact he seems to spend more time talking about leadership than actually practicing it. His favorite phrase is "perception is everything" and "political savvy" is what will make his successful, which translates in my mind that substance and knowledge account for little, particularly in regard to special education. Ghysel's guru is Joel R. deLuca, the author of the book "Political Savvy", required reading of all administrators working under Ghysels. If you want to know what the future of special education is in MPCSD, then you might pick up and read this work. Ghysels is going to manage special education in the district from a political angle and nothing more. Again, read the book if you want to know more.
If you take the time to explore many of this links provided in posts above you will realize this. And realize that Ghysels is supposed to be an expert in elementary education beyond just being a leader, even though he has no experience teaching elementary school-aged children. In that regard, he is seriously lacking. You can't preach about something you've never done. And he certainly has no experience with teaching special education. But he does have a solid record of axing special education staffing and programs in Mountain View. I guess you don't feel that deserves a response. But I do understand your frustration, because I am all for providing for the best special educations programs possible.
Posted by Wake Up, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Mar 22, 2013 at 6:08 pm
@Victim - You may or may not have a point about Olivia, I have no idea. But this article is mostly about the person who made that decision, and questioning his leadership with Olivia as one example.
Even a blind man may hit the bullseye from time to time when playing darts, but ultimately that blind person is a terrible dart player and potentially a safety hazard to EVERYONE around the dart board.
Posted by Local Me, a resident of the Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks neighborhood, on Mar 22, 2013 at 10:13 pm
@Apex and @Meridian,
As a parent, but a bit of bystander since I've never seen Maurice nor Olivia directly in action, I have to tell you that your arguments are way too emotional to be believable. Maurice definitely has his blemishes, and cronyism, but a fair number of his changes seem to be reasonnable. And anybody whom says Olivia didn't have parent detractors would be flat out lying - I know of at least 3. I think we all need to watch the important metrics for our district carefully, and make our decisions based on that. Not based on emotional reactions to change.
Posted by Menlo Park Dad, a resident of the Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2013 at 7:36 am
My family lived in the Las Lomitas School District when Ms. Mandilk became the director, and my preschool child was receiving special education services. At that time, Las Lomitas and Menlo Park shared a director, and the districts had gone through 2 directors while my child was in preschool. During her first week on the job, Ms. Mandilk called and invited us to meet with her to discuss our incoming kindergarten child’s needs and our hopes for his educational program. She listened to our concerns and talked to us about her plans for improving the special education program in the district, including advocating for inclusion and the development of an occupational therapy program in Las Lomitas. The principal at Las Lomitas Elementary at that time was not supportive of inclusion, or students with disabilities, so Ms. Mandilk worked with him on an ongoing basis to ensure that the rights of students and parents were upheld.
When we learned that Las Lomitas and Menlo Park each decided to hire a full-time director, and Ms. Mandilk had chosen to work for Menlo Park full-time, all of the parents of inclusion students were disappointed and very concerned about the future of special education in Las Lomitas. The new director in Las Lomitas insisted that my child could only be served in a separate special education class and would not allow my child to be included in a general education classroom. We made the decision to move to Menlo Park knowing that Ms. Mandilk was a supporter of parents and was an advocate for children. When we moved, we met with Ms. Mandilk, and my child was immediately placed in a general education classroom with appropriate supports to ensure his success.
Menlo Park’s special education program has an excellent reputation. I know a number of other families who have moved to the MPCSD to ensure that their child receives high quality special education services. Ms. Mandilk has always worked with us in an attentive, respectful and responsive manner. We value the fact that she has built a strong special education program that has continually evolved to meet the needs of students with disabilities.
Posted by We Want A+ Leadership, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2013 at 8:49 am
Staff and community members began questioning Dr. Ghysels’ character and leadership style over a year ago. The “Music Man” Ghysels continues to strum his guitar and sing. His next musical performance should be “There’s Trouble---Right Here in River City!” at the Foundation Auction in April. We’d all sing along to that one.
Below are a few posts from the Almanac, back to December 2011.
Posted by Carl, a resident of the Atherton: Lloyden Park neighborhood, on Dec 29, 2011 at 7:19 am
Maurice Ghysels, the ultimate toxic leader. That's a choice that will come back to haunt.
There have recently been several posts on other threads regarding the management style of Maurice Ghysels. As noted by Carl, a "toxic leader" is defined as a person who demonstrates, "a condescending/glib attitude, poor self-control, physical and/or psychological bullying, discriminatory attitudes, aggressive narcissism, glibness/superficial charm, a grandiose sense of self-worth, a lack of empathy, and a failure to accept responsibility for own actions."
Toxic leaders first charm but then manipulate, mistreat, undermine and ultimately leave their followers worse off than they found them. The School Board needs to take a close, honest look at the superintendent by seeking input from parents and staff.
Posted by Very Afraid, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2012 at 5:23 pm
Please ask around many are afraid to come forward, we encourage you to do so. Watching good long term educators and others treated with such disrespect is unbelievable. We all are watching in fear that we are next to suffer his rath if we even think about disagreeing with his Leadership.
Posted by Elaine, a resident of another community, on Feb 17, 2012 at 10:38 am
It's deja-vu of his time in Mountain View. Only now it would appear he has learned to keep himself out of the press. I hate to say it, but we told you so...
Posted by Seth, a resident of the Portola Valley: other neighborhood, on Feb 20, 2012 at 8:17 pm
When I hear Maurice Ghysles' name come up I just cringe with amazement of how such a [word removed -- please avoid name-calling] can fool so many people. He does put on a good show.
Posted by Parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Feb 23, 2012 at 4:36 pm
After interacting with this superintendent on several occasions I have walked away with a sense that he will say whatever it is you want to hear, only with his spin attached to it. He loves to spout ideas about leadership and corporate management, but I sense it's only a regurgitation of the latest fad. Not impressed, particularly given the money being spent on him. I also am a bit perplexed how he was hired after leaving Mountain View under such a cloud. I question his judgement overall.
Posted by Liz, a resident of another community, on Mar 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm
Hey Menlo Park:
What was your superintendent doing attending our Mountain View School District fund raiser last Saturday night? Really weird if you ask me. Talk about a lack of class. He waltzes in like he still in charge. Boy did he get the gossip going again like old times. And here I thought we were rid of him. Toxic leader for sure.
Posted by Appalled, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Mar 26, 2012 at 10:40 pm
I had heard great things about Mr. Ghysles when he first arrived. Since then, I have lost much respect for the man who leads this district. What is worse is that I am losing confidence in the School Board, who I understand chose him without any input from our community or the staff.
What has happened to our great district leadership?
The past couple years has seen a loss in good administrators; I just hope better decisions are to come before we lose the talented teachers Menlo Park is known for.
Posted by input, a resident of the Menlo Park: Felton Gables neighborhood, on Mar 27, 2012 at 10:24 am
The school board had input, but they ignored it. They uniformly insisted that all the negative info about Ghysels was just unfounded gossip and that all his references checked out brilliantly. How much redder did those flags need to be?
Posted by Smart Gal, a resident of the Woodside: Emerald Hills neighborhood, on Apr 1, 2012 at 2:33 pm
We have friends who work for the District and the stories we hear are very sad. It sounds to my husband and I like this guy is causing so much disruption in the administration that he is tearing the district apart. So sad the board should get this guy in line ASAP before he ruins a great organization.
Posted by Mom in Menlo, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Mar 23, 2013 at 7:55 pm
To the prior poster, but miraculously in Menlo Park kidsdata.org reports that the number of kids in the district with special needs declined from a peak of 266 in 2008 to 2015 in 2012... a reduction of approx 20% at a time of record enrollment growth.
The MPCSD does not have a parent on the county SELPA parent adviry committee, at last look there was no district wide social pragmatically program, and no BCBA behavior support outside of a consultant for ndividual cases etc. Hopefully, the selection committee will look at issues like this and develop a program that is accessible and represents changing real demographics.
Posted by Oh for heaven's sake, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:23 pm
I'm sorry, but I don't find this editorial to be particularly professional. Olivia was reviled as special ed director. She was very well-known for locking parents out, for preventing them from helping their children, etc. Furthermore, MP's number of special needs kids fell from the state norm of 15% down to 8% in recent years -- apparently because well-heeled parents of special needs kids just left. (If you can afford to move your child somewhere better, why on earth would you stay and fight?)
So one person sends some very political emails out while they are being fired. This is not a unique situation. In fact, in the corporate world, they turn your email off before they lay you off, for this very reason. In today's educational world, you need careful management to fire anybody, and I highly suspect that the person who said that personnel records are sealed put their finger on it.
Bottom line: Nothing bad has happened to MP schools since Ghysels came on board. Talk is around the local Menlo Park mom's lists that a bunch of disgruntled people from Ghysels former district are writing huge emails on this topic -- and that Olivia herself is posting, using an assumed name.
The level of hysteria around this whole "ooh, a very-disliked employee is being fired and wrote a flame on her way out" is ... hard to understand. If you really want a story, why don't you talk with the parents who took their kids out of the MPUSD and are paying 30K+ per year because MPUSD didn't follow the law in implementing their IEP or 504? And then realize this: By not following the law, MPUSD was leaving themselves very open to being sued.
In the real world, we learn to not foment hysteria based upon one blogger's rant. How about the Almanac not foment hysteria based upon the report from one disgruntled, on their way to being fired, employee? That's what "research" is for. Give us a look at the bigger picture. Give us a look at the numbers. Give us a look at anything other than this one woman's obviously political maneuverings. After all, if we want overly emotional reporting, we can always read about the Atherton Town Council!
A local newspaper, no matter how small, really shouldn't be run like a blog. For shame, Almanac.
Posted by Teacher, a resident of the Menlo Park: other neighborhood, on Mar 26, 2013 at 5:52 am
And you certainly ignored all the history, baggage and scandal that poor Ghysels brought over from Mountain View. Do you think people and Menlo Park live in caves? And the clear cronyism in the links above? Do you think that has anything to do with it? And what emails are you talking about? The fired employee spoke at the board meeting, as it his or her right, during the time allotted for public comments.
Posted by Another MP teacher, a resident of another community, on Mar 27, 2013 at 6:21 pm
To oh for heavens sake:
No, the people on here are current teachers/employees in Menlo park. We were told to ignore what we read about ghysels experiences in mountain view and to give him a chance. We have given him a chance and have seen his same toxic behavior here in Menlo park.
It's sad that the word of one person is being taken over people who have worked in the district for a long time. The community does not see how he egotistically takes ownership for the successful school distrrict that we have. It has taken years to build and not a result of his tenure in the last year. He walks around like he owns the place and he has no idea what is actually going on. We cringe when we see him come on our campus because we know he's only there to do some glad handing. So the fact that he is cleaning house and bringing in his own people is very disturbing.
Please try to curb the "parking lot" gossip when all of the facts are not known to you.