After receiving letters from local teachers and school administrators calling for the removal of Superintendent Mary Streshly, the Sequoia Union High School District board is still weighing her future.
Streshly's contract is up for renewal, and the board is expected to continue its private deliberations at a future date after having met in two closed sessions to discuss her evaluation, one at its regular meeting Aug. 5 and another in a special meeting Aug. 11.
A letter from the Sequoia District Teachers Association (SDTA) was publicly released two days before the Aug. 5 meeting, announcing a vote of no confidence in Streshly and listing a number of specific complaints.
The succinct letter sent to the board by tenured administrators called for her immediate termination and had 22 signatures representing most of the high schools in the district and included Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Hansen.
"Dr. Streshly's inability to make decisions, communicate plans, or articulate a coherent vision has resulted in frustration and exhaustion at all levels of certificated management. These ongoing issues are not new, but have been exacerbated by the pandemic crisis such that our ability to meet the needs of students, families, and staff is jeopardized," the letter said.
The Almanac made repeated requests for a copy of the letter from administrators, which was dated July 31, but the district did not provide it until Aug. 11.
The tenured administrators who signed included the principals and vice principals of Menlo-Atherton, Carlmont, Sequoia and Woodside high schools and East Palo Alto Academy. Notably, it was not signed by the principal of TIDE Academy, a friend of Streshly's.
The board is taking the issues raised in the union's resolution seriously, said board president Allen Weiner after the Aug. 11 meeting. "The board took no action during today's closed session, but will continue its work on this matter."
The board had not yet scheduled its next meeting on the subject.
In its Aug. 3 statement, the SDTA cited what it saw as Streshly's "lack of experience, poor communication, and absence of clear vision which have led to confusion and sown division throughout the district," as leading to a vote of no confidence from the union. After passing a resolution at the SDTA's Representative Council, the group said, the resolution received 200 signatures in under 24 hours. The final number of signatures was 300, representing roughly 60% of the active membership of the union, the group said.
"It has become clear that the board made a mistake in hiring someone with no prior experience managing a large and diverse school district like Sequoia Union," said SDTA president Edith Salvatore.
The union's resolution detailed 19 grievances against Streshly, including accusations that she has "consistently turned a blind eye to the issues of racial tensions" in the district, and that she "mishandled the opening and development of the TIDE alternative school," referring to complaints made about TIDE Academy, which opened last year.
The SDTA specifically cited concerns over the district's recent seesaw decisions over whether to reopen schools in the fall. The union said that Streshly "did not prioritize student or staff safety" when making those decisions.
In a letter addressed to Salvatore, Streshly addressed the union's charge about safety, saying that as a former teacher, "I would never do anything that would put our students, teachers, and staff at risk ... The fundamental truth is that the entire world is concerned about the current crisis. However, as concerned as we may be, that concern does not mean that we completely shut down and not provide our parents and students with critical support by all means we have at hand."
Public communications to the board provided to The Almanac included a roundup of supportive emails from district parents who responded to Streshly after she emailed her letter to Salvatore to district families on Aug. 4.