News

High school board seeks outside help to decide whether to fire superintendent who's lost confidence of teachers, principals

SUHSD board more than five weeks into debate over whether to renew Mary Streshly's contract

Sequoia Union High School District Superintendent Mary Streshly speaks at a virtual school board meeting Aug. 5. Courtesy Sequoia Union High School District.

Teachers and principals in the Sequoia Union High School District have called for Superintendent Mary Streshly to be fired. But the members of the school board, after five closed-session meetings totaling nearly seven hours, have yet to make up their mind.

The only announcement thus far: The school board appears to be calling for outside help.

Almost a month ago, two letters landed on the school board’s desk: On July 31, administrators from five high schools in the district sent a letter calling for Streshly to be fired. On Aug. 3, the teachers union, Sequoia Union District Teachers Association (SDTA), did the same.

“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 in the letter.

In response, a succession of closed-session meetings came. In a regular meeting Aug. 5, a special meeting Aug. 11 and the most recent meeting on Aug. 19, the board privately discussed Streshly, all under the agenda item “superintendent’s evaluation.”

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Almanac Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

By the end of the Aug. 19 closed-session meeting, board president Allen Weiner emerged with only this to say: The board is taking teachers' and principals' concerns about the superintendent seriously, and it will be starting an “independent information gathering process.”

What exactly will that be? Weiner didn’t say, citing confidentiality in personnel matters.

Without confirming any details about the information gathering process, Weiner said that the district would typically pay for outside consultants from the district's general fund.

Streshly’s contract has come up for renewal, and the board first began discussing the superintendent’s job performance at two closed-session meetings June 24 and July 27. Both the contingent of administrators and SDTA have called for the board to not renew her contract.

Accusations against Streshly

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

As for Streshly herself, she faces a long list of strong accusations against her short tenure, which began in 2017. Both the high school principals and SDTA have accused Streshly of mishandling the district’s COVID-19 response, and having a history of lackluster leadership before that.

From the principals’ July 31 letter: "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."

Meanwhile, the SDTA levied a list of 19 grievances against Streshly. In a resolution of no-confidence in Streshly passed by the SDTA’s Representative Council, the union said she has “consistently turned a blind eye to the issues of racial tensions” in the district. They also said she “mishandled the opening and development of the TIDE alternative school,” referring to complaints made about TIDE Academy in April.

After passing the no-confidence resolution at the SDTA's Representative Council, the group said, the resolution received 200 staff 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.

Twenty-two district administrators signed the letter against Streshly, including Menlo-Atherton High School principal Simone Rick-Kennel and Woodside High School principal Diane Burbank, as well as assistant superintendent Bonnie Hansen.

In defense of Streshly

While Sequoia Union High School District staff have pilloried the embattled superintendent, a collection of recent emails suggests that many parents support her.

After the SDTA released its letter of no confidence critical of Streshly, she responded back directly to SDTA president Edith Salvatore. Streshly then forwarded what she wrote to parents district-wide.

In response, at least 24 supportive emails were written to Streshly from district parents.

“All the parents that I have talked to truly believe in you, and what you stand for! The SDTA is being childish, self-serving and flat wrong in their way of thinking,” wrote Mark Gallelo.

“As a parent of a graduate and a rising senior at Sequoia, and as a school attorney (with F3), I want to let you know that I have always been impressed with what you have accomplished at SUHSD. Your communication with and support of students and parents is exemplary,” wrote Laurie Reynolds.

Paige Winikoff, who chaired the Menlo-Atherton Education Foundation campaign in 2019, said, “You have my full confidence. Thank you for your patient, tireless efforts to coordinate efforts to best serve our district.”

Parent Patrick Wheeler, whose child is a junior at Carlmont High School, praised Streshly's navigation of the rocky COVID-19 landscape. "You have my wholehearted support. I am grateful to you and your entire team for all the hard work that has gone into devising what seems to be a thorough, realistic, well-balanced plan, which includes contingencies to adapt to the situation as it develops," he said.

One final data point: Allison Silvestri, the principal of the recently opened alternative school TIDE Academy, did not sign the administrators' letter against Streshly.

Streshly became Sequoia Union High School District superintendent in July of 2017, signing on with a salary of $240,500 per year.

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow AlmanacNews.com and The Almanac on Twitter @almanacnews, Facebook and on Instagram @almanacnews for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

High school board seeks outside help to decide whether to fire superintendent who's lost confidence of teachers, principals

SUHSD board more than five weeks into debate over whether to renew Mary Streshly's contract

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Mon, Aug 24, 2020, 11:39 am

Teachers and principals in the Sequoia Union High School District have called for Superintendent Mary Streshly to be fired. But the members of the school board, after five closed-session meetings totaling nearly seven hours, have yet to make up their mind.

The only announcement thus far: The school board appears to be calling for outside help.

Almost a month ago, two letters landed on the school board’s desk: On July 31, administrators from five high schools in the district sent a letter calling for Streshly to be fired. On Aug. 3, the teachers union, Sequoia Union District Teachers Association (SDTA), did the same.

“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 in the letter.

In response, a succession of closed-session meetings came. In a regular meeting Aug. 5, a special meeting Aug. 11 and the most recent meeting on Aug. 19, the board privately discussed Streshly, all under the agenda item “superintendent’s evaluation.”

By the end of the Aug. 19 closed-session meeting, board president Allen Weiner emerged with only this to say: The board is taking teachers' and principals' concerns about the superintendent seriously, and it will be starting an “independent information gathering process.”

What exactly will that be? Weiner didn’t say, citing confidentiality in personnel matters.

Without confirming any details about the information gathering process, Weiner said that the district would typically pay for outside consultants from the district's general fund.

Streshly’s contract has come up for renewal, and the board first began discussing the superintendent’s job performance at two closed-session meetings June 24 and July 27. Both the contingent of administrators and SDTA have called for the board to not renew her contract.

Accusations against Streshly

As for Streshly herself, she faces a long list of strong accusations against her short tenure, which began in 2017. Both the high school principals and SDTA have accused Streshly of mishandling the district’s COVID-19 response, and having a history of lackluster leadership before that.

From the principals’ July 31 letter: "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."

Meanwhile, the SDTA levied a list of 19 grievances against Streshly. In a resolution of no-confidence in Streshly passed by the SDTA’s Representative Council, the union said she has “consistently turned a blind eye to the issues of racial tensions” in the district. They also said she “mishandled the opening and development of the TIDE alternative school,” referring to complaints made about TIDE Academy in April.

After passing the no-confidence resolution at the SDTA's Representative Council, the group said, the resolution received 200 staff 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.

Twenty-two district administrators signed the letter against Streshly, including Menlo-Atherton High School principal Simone Rick-Kennel and Woodside High School principal Diane Burbank, as well as assistant superintendent Bonnie Hansen.

In defense of Streshly

While Sequoia Union High School District staff have pilloried the embattled superintendent, a collection of recent emails suggests that many parents support her.

After the SDTA released its letter of no confidence critical of Streshly, she responded back directly to SDTA president Edith Salvatore. Streshly then forwarded what she wrote to parents district-wide.

In response, at least 24 supportive emails were written to Streshly from district parents.

“All the parents that I have talked to truly believe in you, and what you stand for! The SDTA is being childish, self-serving and flat wrong in their way of thinking,” wrote Mark Gallelo.

“As a parent of a graduate and a rising senior at Sequoia, and as a school attorney (with F3), I want to let you know that I have always been impressed with what you have accomplished at SUHSD. Your communication with and support of students and parents is exemplary,” wrote Laurie Reynolds.

Paige Winikoff, who chaired the Menlo-Atherton Education Foundation campaign in 2019, said, “You have my full confidence. Thank you for your patient, tireless efforts to coordinate efforts to best serve our district.”

Parent Patrick Wheeler, whose child is a junior at Carlmont High School, praised Streshly's navigation of the rocky COVID-19 landscape. "You have my wholehearted support. I am grateful to you and your entire team for all the hard work that has gone into devising what seems to be a thorough, realistic, well-balanced plan, which includes contingencies to adapt to the situation as it develops," he said.

One final data point: Allison Silvestri, the principal of the recently opened alternative school TIDE Academy, did not sign the administrators' letter against Streshly.

Streshly became Sequoia Union High School District superintendent in July of 2017, signing on with a salary of $240,500 per year.

Comments

J C
Registered user
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Aug 24, 2020 at 12:09 pm
J C, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2020 at 12:09 pm
29 people like this

Only in a publicly elected institution would such incompetence be tolerated for so long, and not acted on. If there's even so much division on a person's performance, why would you not fire her immediately, given the thousands of students at stake?
You wouldn't actively choose to hire someone who demonstrated a bit of incompetence in such an important job. Why do we keep someone around who is failing weekly? Every day continuing in the job is equivalent to choosing to hire her again and again, instead of some other better candidate.


Community member
Registered user
another community
on Aug 24, 2020 at 12:20 pm
Community member, another community
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2020 at 12:20 pm
30 people like this

Really???? Outside help to decide to keep this superintendent or not? How much more public dollars will this board waste on the superintendent? If 22 administrators signed a letter of no confidence along with the teachers I would say the writing is on the wall. Good thing we have a board council vote this Nov. New blood = new eyes?


Steve_J
Registered user
another community
on Aug 24, 2020 at 2:59 pm
Steve_J, another community
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2020 at 2:59 pm
30 people like this

Must be time for a new school board as well.


Bob Pierce
Registered user
Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Aug 24, 2020 at 3:36 pm
Bob Pierce, Portola Valley: Brookside Park
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2020 at 3:36 pm
27 people like this

If a coalition of classroom teachers and administrators agree on the incompetence of a superior it is not only a rare occasion but one that should be honored. Or, conversely, you can fire everyone and keep the superintendent. Your move.


Brian
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 24, 2020 at 8:00 pm
Brian, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2020 at 8:00 pm
29 people like this

I agree with Steve. If the board can't do their job there needs to be a new board. I worked in a company once where a manager was just unable to fire an employee that was plain incompetent. Everyone knew the employee could not do his job including the manager but they just could not bring themselves to terminate that person as a result morale in the entire company (small Company) suffered until the decision was made for them by a superior. Well the superior here is the voters and it is time to step in.


sjtaffee
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 25, 2020 at 7:50 pm
sjtaffee, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Aug 25, 2020 at 7:50 pm
19 people like this

I don't get it. Surely if she has lost the confidence of both the principals and the teachers she in a no-win situation. Even if she was the greatest administrator ever it would be near impossible to win their confidence.

Something else is going on here. I see a vote of no confidence in the School Board on the horizon.


Matthew F
Registered user
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 26, 2020 at 4:02 pm
Matthew F, Woodside: Emerald Hills
Registered user
on Aug 26, 2020 at 4:02 pm
18 people like this

It is virtually impossible for a district as great as SUHSD to move forward under these types of conditions. While it is nice that some parents have advocated for the sitting superintendent, the reality of the situation is that the 300+ teachers and 22 administrators (who have combined for thousands of years of service to this community!) have to work with this nightmare every day. This is not acceptable. It's even worse that a Board of Trustees is more concerned about an upcoming election so they have an outside person do their job for them - another waste of taxpayer funds. Add this waste to the large number of positions Streshly added for her friends. Where is the oversight? Cut the cord now. Do what is best for KIDS.


C B
Registered user
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 29, 2020 at 9:47 am
C B, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
Registered user
on Aug 29, 2020 at 9:47 am
5 people like this

Quite interesting that the board has to have a closed session and cannot comment on personnel matters but Streshly can send an email to parents directly addressing a conflict she is having with her staff. At the time we received that email, the staff letters had not been made public which makes for extremely unprofessional behavior, dragging parents into her drama. Wheeler's quote about her "team" is clearly uniformed- the staff letters show she is not a team player. 24 parent emails? There are 10,000 students in the district, how many parents is that? The board appears to be waiting for elections so they can pass on the problem, in the meantime staff and students suffer with a leadership vacuum in a time of chaos. Is Reynolds referring to her accomplishments of almost doubling the District administrative staff in the most highly paid positions? That money should be spent on the students and their safety.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.