Updated: Thu, May 12, 2011, 2:49 pm
Uploaded: Wed, May 11, 2011, 4:07 pm
Board affirms superintendent choice with unanimous vote
Ghysels' compensation represents a cost-savings to the Menlo Park City School District
The Menlo Park City School District board unanimously approved a three-year contract Tuesday night, May 10, that will install Maurice Ghysels as superintendent on July 1 at an annual starting salary of $205,000.
The board and Mr. Ghysels signed the contract at a special public meeting after a closed session, where the board discussed the hiring. There was no public comment before the contract was approved.
Mr. Ghysels will replace Ken Ranella, who has held the position since 2002. Mr. Ranella announced his retirement in January, effective June 30.
Mr. Ghysels' salary and benefits package represents a significant decrease in compensation for the position, according to Mr. Ranella, who in his final year will be paid $245,803 in total compensation. He said under his contract, he pays the costs of his benefits, which amount to around $12,000 annually.
Although he didn't have the exact numbers, Mr. Ranella said that his successor, by agreeing to a base salary of $205,000 and having the district pick up the costs of his benefits separately, will be compensated overall at a lower rate. The board "recalibrated the compensation" for the job in light of the changing economic landscape, he said, adding that "the market has gone down."
Under terms of the contract, the new superintendent will also be paid $5,000 for relocation costs, a monthly allowance of $250 to cover expenses for attending community events and other activities that involve representing the district, and $250 per month for driving his own vehicle to district-related activities within San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
He will receive the same health and welfare benefits received by the district's teachers.
Mr. Ghysels' contract grants him 25 vacation days a year, with a maximum of 10 days carried over to the following year in unused vacation time.
Mr. Ghysels was one of 27 applicants for the position, and one of the six finalists interviewed by the board.
A number of Mr. Ghysels' family members and supporters attended the meeting, including his parents, sister, daughter and son-in-law, and Carmen Mizell, whom he described as "my better half." Mr. Ghysels came under fire in 2009 when he was superintendent of the Mountain View Whisman School District and it was revealed that he and Ms. Mizell, the principal at one of the schools he oversaw, were involved in a romantic relationship. Both were married to other people at the time.
Some members of the school community complained that a conflict of interest existed, particularly in light of Ms. Mizell's transfer in 2008 to a high-performing school, according to an Oct. 26, 2009, article in the Mountain View Voice. Other parents and community members stated their continuing support for both the superintendent and the principal, the Voice reported.
Board President Maria Hilton said early this week that board members "knew about (the relationship with the principal) even prior to interviewing him," and after "doing our due diligence" were satisfied that Mr. Ghysels' conduct in Mountain View shouldn't disqualify him for the Menlo Park position.
During the special meeting, Ms. Hilton noted that after the six finalists for the job were interviewed, board members voted, in a blind-ballot process, to rank the candidates. All board members ranked him No. 1, she said.
All five board members made statements praising their choice for superintendent. Terry Thygesen said she was a member of the board that hired Mr. Ranella, and was dismayed when he announced his retirement earlier this year. But she said that while helping with reference checks on Mr. Ghysels, she had been impressed by "the breadth and depth of support (he) has" within the school community "at all levels."
Posted by peter carpenter,
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2011 at 3:23 am
peter carpenter is a registered user.
Dear Menlo City School District Board,
Pursuant to Section 549601. you are hereby notified that your actions in appointing a new superintendent violated the Brown Act and those actions will need to be declared null and void.
School Board President Maria Hilton announced on May 6 the appointment in an email to district families, saying Mr. Ghysels "possesses an impressive depth of educational and business leadership experience and a demonstrated passion for excellence."
The action leading to this announcement violated the Brown Act in at least two ways.
First, as Mrs. Hilton stated on May 10 that board members had voted, in a blind-ballot process, to rank the candidates.
Second, the Board had reached consensus on this matter without the opportunity for public comment at a properly agendized meeting. On May 10 Mrs. Hilton announced a "welcome reception" for the appointed individual BEFORE its regular meeting on Tuesday, May 10. The reception will be from 6 to 7 p.m. in the district office at 181 Encinal Ave. in Menlo Park. The agenda for the 10 May meeting, after the "welcome reception" included a Closed session item titled:
''The Board will meet in Closed Session regarding Public Employee Appointment (Superintendent) as per Government Code 54957"
and an Open Session item titled :
"a. Ratification of Contract with Dr. Maurice Ghysels for Position of Superintendent, Beginning July 1, 2011 "
Cure and Correct Demand:
1 - The Menlo Park City School Board made a preliminary decision regarding the appointment of a new superintendent by secret ballot in violation of Section 54953c which states (c) No legislative body shall take action by secret ballot, whether preliminary or final.
2 - The Board reached consensus on this appointment without public input thereby denying the public's right to comment before the Board's decision was made.
3 - The Board then announced this appointment well before a regularly scheduled meeting at which the public would have been give the opportunity to comment before the legislative body voted to take action, also thereby denying the public's right to comment before the Board's decision was made.
4 - The Board then also announced that a welcoming reception for this appointee appointment would be before a regularly scheduled meeting at which the public would have been give the opportunity to comment before the legislative body voted to make this appointment, also thereby denying the public's right to comment before the Board's decision was made.
Therefore, the Board is respectfully requested to nullify this entire appointment procedure and to begin it search ab initio. When doing the new search and making the appointment the Board is urged not to use either secret ballots or closed sessions (even in those narrow instances when such session might be legally permitted) in order to ensure the public's confidence in and participation in the new appointment process.
I am also copying this Cure and Correct Demand Letter to the San Mateo District Attorney so that he may determine if civil or criminal action should be taken.
54960.1. (a) The district attorney or any interested person may
commence an action by mandamus or injunction for the purpose of
obtaining a judicial determination that an action taken by a
legislative body of a local agency in violation of Section 54953,
54954.2, 54954.5, 54954.6, 54956, or 54956.5 is null and void under
this section. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent
a legislative body from curing or correcting an action challenged
pursuant to this section.
(b) Prior to any action being commenced pursuant to subdivision
(a), the district attorney or interested person shall make a demand
of the legislative body to cure or correct the action alleged to have
been taken in violation of Section 54953, 54954.2, 54954.5, 54954.6,
54956, or 54956.5. The demand shall be in writing and clearly
describe the challenged action of the legislative body and nature of
the alleged violation.
(c) (1) The written demand shall be made within 90 days from the
date the action was taken unless the action was taken in an open
session but in violation of Section 54954.2, in which case the
written demand shall be made within 30 days from the date the action
(2) Within 30 days of receipt of the demand, the legislative body
shall cure or correct the challenged action and inform the demanding
party in writing of its actions to cure or correct or inform the
demanding party in writing of its decision not to cure or correct the
(3) If the legislative body takes no action within the 30-day
period, the inaction shall be deemed a decision not to cure or
correct the challenged action, and the 15-day period to commence the
action described in subdivision (a) shall commence to run the day
after the 30-day period to cure or correct expires.
(4) Within 15 days of receipt of the written notice of the
legislative body's decision to cure or correct, or not to cure or
correct, or within 15 days of the expiration of the 30-day period to
cure or correct, whichever is earlier, the demanding party shall be
required to commence the action pursuant to subdivision (a) or
thereafter be barred from commencing the action.
(d) An action taken that is alleged to have been taken in
violation of Section 54953, 54954.2, 54954.5, 54954.6, 54956, or
54956.5 shall not be determined to be null and void if any of the
following conditions exist:
(1) The action taken was in substantial compliance with Sections
54953, 54954.2, 54954.5, 54954.6, 54956, and 54956.5.
(2) The action taken was in connection with the sale or issuance
of notes, bonds, or other evidences of indebtedness or any contract,
instrument, or agreement thereto.
(3) The action taken gave rise to a contractual obligation,
including a contract let by competitive bid other than compensation
for services in the form of salary or fees for professional services,
upon which a party has, in good faith and without notice of a
challenge to the validity of the action, detrimentally relied.
(4) The action taken was in connection with the collection of any
(5) Any person, city, city and county, county, district, or any
agency or subdivision of the state alleging noncompliance with
subdivision (a) of Section 54954.2, Section 54956, or Section
54956.5, because of any defect, error, irregularity, or omission in
the notice given pursuant to those provisions, had actual notice of
the item of business at least 72 hours prior to the meeting at which
the action was taken, if the meeting was noticed pursuant to Section
54954.2, or 24 hours prior to the meeting at which the action was
taken if the meeting was noticed pursuant to Section 54956, or prior
to the meeting at which the action was taken if the meeting is held
pursuant to Section 54956.5.
(e) During any action seeking a judicial determination pursuant to
subdivision (a) if the court determines, pursuant to a showing by
the legislative body that an action alleged to have been taken in
violation of Section 54953, 54954.2, 54954.5, 54954.6, 54956, or
54956.5 has been cured or corrected by a subsequent action of the
legislative body, the action filed pursuant to subdivision (a) shall
be dismissed with prejudice.
(f) The fact that a legislative body takes a subsequent action to
cure or correct an action taken pursuant to this section shall not be
construed or admissible as evidence of a violation of this chapter.
54960.5. A court may award court costs and reasonable attorney fees
to the plaintiff in an action brought pursuant to Section 54960 or
54960.1 where it is found that a legislative body of the local agency
has violated this chapter. The costs and fees shall be paid by the
local agency and shall not become a personal liability of any public
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