Complaint against Ravenswood superintendent alleges discrimination

Reassigned principal claims Hernandez-Goff has created 'hostile' workplace

The sudden mid-year removal of a principal credited with turning around a long-struggling elementary school in the Ravenswood City School District has triggered a discrimination complaint against Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff, whom the principal alleges is retaliating against him.

Todd Gaviglio, a longtime Ravenswood educator who was appointed principal of Belle Haven Elementary School in 2015, was reassigned to a district office position last week days after filing the complaint.

In a message notifying staff and parents about his removal, Hernandez-Goff said vaguely that Gaviglio was being reassigned to work on "important instructional projects" at the district's curriculum and instruction department, a decision she made "after careful consideration of both the school needs at Belle Haven and the demands" of the department. She appointed Maria Sevilla, who had been filling in for Gaviglio while he was on parental leave, as principal for the remainder of the school year.

Gaviglio — a former school board member who successfully ran on a reform slate in the early 2000s — believes that the superintendent's reasons for his removal are unfounded and retaliatory, a response to what he describes as his whistleblowing.

In a statement provided to the Weekly by the district's public relations firm, Hernandez-Goff said that Gaviglio was moved to the district to help with a "routine" federal program audit. The Federal Program Monitoring is described on the California Department of Education's website as an "overall determination of whether the local educational agency (LEA) is meeting statutory program and fiscal requirements for categorical programs," including proper use of Title I funds. Gaviglio received training in August on the compliance review, which will affect all sites but "focus heavily" on Belle Haven and Costaño Elementary School, Hernandez-Goff said.

"Because of his newly acquired background, and his intimate knowledge of Belle Haven, he was selected for special assignment to support the district on these efforts," she said.

The district did not make Hernandez-Goff available for an interview for this story, despite multiple requests.

Gaviglio said that the superintendent never discussed with him the possibility of changing roles to federal compliance monitoring.

Gaviglio is part of a growing chorus of community members calling on the school board not to renew Hernandez-Goff's contract when it expires in June. In addition to his complaint of discrimination, he's accused Hernandez-Goff of the misuse of funds, nepotism, the divulgence of confidential information and the falsification of compliance during an inspection.

He has filed a separate complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights and is now pursuing legal action to fight "discriminatory persecution" he alleges he and other staff have experienced under Hernandez-Goff.

Gaviglio said he was informed of his removal as Belle Haven principal on Wednesday, March 14, when Hernandez-Goff notified him during a meeting with Gina Sudaria, the district's director of human resources, that he was being reassigned back to a classroom teaching position for the remainder of the school year. Just five days later, on Monday, March 19, Gaviglio was again called to the district office, where Sudaria gave him a letter from Hernandez-Goff notifying him of his reassignment instead to the district office.

One reason provided for his removal as school principal was a written reprimand, issued on March 12, for his handling of an unauthorized pull of a fire-alarm at Belle Haven in September.

During the incident investigation, Gaviglio warned about two dozen students that police and fire department personnel could identify the culprit, including by looking for fingerprints, Hernandez-Goff wrote in the reprimand. The vice principal and two classified staff then began a fake "fingerprinting" of the students, the reprimand states.

Gaviglio described the activity as a harmless "bluff," an explanation she strongly condemned.

"You completely failed to exercise appropriate and ethical leadership of other staff members and students in this situation, and you failed to identify and use appropriate behavior management and intervention techniques with the students," she wrote. "At any point in this situation, you could have recognized how wrong-headed your scare tactics and the 'fingerprinting' exercise were, stopped, and regrouped with a strategy consistent with district goals and values."

At the March 14 meeting, Hernandez-Goff also faulted Gaviglio for problems with Belle Haven's compliance with a court-ordered special-education mandate, known as the Ravenswood Self-Improvement Plan (RSIP). Gaviglio contends Belle Haven had a lower number of negative "findings" than other schools and was working with "limited staff" to meet the court-ordered requirements for a high population of special-needs students.

She also accused him of speaking ill about the district and criticized the fact that a parent and student complained that two Belle Haven employees had been transferred, according to notes Gavigio took and emailed to himself.

But Gaviglio questions the delayed timing of the reprimand. He said that he and Belle Haven's vice principal were assured by Hernandez-Goff at the time of the fire-alarm incident that "everything was OK regarding this incident."

Gaviglio said the reasons the superintendent gave for his reassignment are flimsy at best, "hobbled together, way after the fact, to justify her decision to release me from my position for other actual motives, which are not legal."

Instead, Gaviglio said, Hernandez-Goff discriminates against administrators with babies, including by making "derogatory statements" and engaging in "practices to negatively impact their employment status," he alleged in his complaint.

"This includes bullying, denying promotions, removing people from their current jobs, and making people feel bad about having children," Gaviglio wrote.

Gaviglio, who recently adopted a baby, said Hernandez-Goff called him into her office in February before he was set to take parental leave. She asked if, since he now had a child, he would resign, suggesting that it would help the district with personnel cuts the district was making due to a budget deficit, Gaviglio said.

Gaviglio said he asserted that retaining him wouldn't create an "excess" of school administrators because another principal was set to move to the district office and that school's vice principal could replace her. The superintendent responded that the vice principal "could not be the principal because she had a baby," Gaviglio said in his complaint.

"Leaving the meeting, I felt that she was discriminatory against administrators with babies," he wrote in contemporaneous notes he emailed to himself.

His complaint offers four other examples of administrators with babies against whom he felt Hernandez-Goff had discriminated. One of those administrators, who has since left the district and asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, told the Weekly that the superintendent had suggested to her that "you're first a mother and then a principal" and that "you can't do both" jobs. The former administrator said she was notified while she was on maternity leave that she was being reassigned for the next school year.

"Overall, her discriminatory practices have created a hostile workplace where people are afraid of retaliation and bullying," Gaviglio wrote. "Ravenswood employees need an assurance that this discrimination will stop."

Hernandez-Goff's reprimand letter and Gaviglio's counter-complaint this month weren't the first times the two have made accusations against one another. Gaviglio alleges that he emailed Hernandez-Goff about the misuse of Title I funds for student achievement on Oct. 26 and Jan. 24 but that she replied to neither email. As a consequence, he emailed a list of concerns about Hernandez-Goff to San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools Anne Brown on March 9, a list that included charges of "corruption and illegal activities." Brown and her office are currently monitoring the district as it navigates a fiscal crisis.

Last year, Hernandez-Goff identified concerns she had about Gaviglio's performance in a detailed memorandum. It cites several incidences as examples. She states that Gaviglio failed to maintain confidentiality by inappropriately sharing a parent's email to the superintendent and Gaviglio with the president of the teachers union, who teaches at Belle Haven. Gaviglio said he forwarded the message after receiving a text message from the union president, who was meeting with Hernandez-Goff, stating that the superintendent could not locate the letter.

The memorandum also criticizes Gaviglio's handling of a problem involving parents and a teacher at Belle Haven, including not conducting a "fair and thorough investigation" and "failing to follow her (Hernandez-Goff's) directives" in the incident.

Gaviglio wrote a response to the superintendent's memorandum at the time he received it but decided against providing it to the district for fear of retaliation.

After receiving the memorandum again this month as a reason for his transfer, he submitted his response to the district to be included in his personnel file.

The March 19 letter reassigning Gaviglio directed him to report to the district office the following morning and to "refrain from any communications with staff, parents and students regarding your change in location as principal."

At last week's board meeting, parents, staff and others spoke in support of Gaviglio and urged the board to reverse the superintendent's decision.

Bronwyn Alexander, a teacher on special assignment at Belle Haven, credited Gaviglio with raising student achievement levels and stemming the formerly high rate of teacher turnover.

The percentage of Belle Haven students meeting state standards in mathematics and English language arts, though still low, has steadily gone up since the 2014-15 school year. Belle Haven also went from having the lowest attendance rate in 2014 to the third-highest in the district this year. Gaviglio started a now-popular "parent university" program to engage parents on topics from homework and the transition to middle school to healthy eating and sleeping habits. About 200 parents attended a session earlier this month.

"To remove a dedicated principal who has accomplished all of those things is illogical," echoed fourth-grade teacher Lauren Macorwitz. "If he is removed permanently our students, teachers and community will suffer."

Alexander said that a group parents plan to protest Gaviglio's removal next week by keeping their children at home until he is reinstated.

In a short meeting with Belle Haven staff last Wednesday, Hernandez-Goff bristled at their questions about the sudden change in leadership, according to a transcription of an audio recording provided by a teacher and corroborated by others who attended the meeting.

"I'm not here to answer questions," she told the teachers. "I'm here to tell you what I'm doing, and that's my prerogative as the superintendent."

After further questions, she told the teachers bluntly: "This is not a democracy. This is your job. And I get to make those decisions."

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39 people like this
Posted by Kevin
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Mar 30, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Kevin is a registered user.

As an adult who tutors at Belle Haven twice a week, I find these political machinations in the Hernandez-Goff administration to be sad, sad, sad for the kids. Todd was very popular, energetic and a strongly positive influence at Belle Haven. The improvements speak for themselves. The district is worse off with him in an isolated staff position.

26 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 30, 2018 at 12:22 pm

From those last two quotes it sounds like the supe considers her teachers to be children.

39 people like this
Posted by Ravenswood Teacher
a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2018 at 12:46 pm

Thank you for showing just how incompetent Gloria Hernandez Goff really is at this job. Ravenswood was on its way towards a better future. She single handily has ruined it. It’s time to clean house. Tragically I am not willing to post my name because I am in fear of some kind of retaliation. I hope more people come forward with their negative experiences with GHG.

37 people like this
Posted by Heather Hopkins
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 30, 2018 at 1:20 pm

I'm not a Ravenswood parent or community member, but I do support (fiscally and through volunteerism) several organizations that partner with the district. Over the last couple of years, I've heard nothing but frustration and concern from community members about district leadership. I hope the community is able to come together to make the best decision possible for the students of Ravenswood. They deserve it!

25 people like this
Posted by Carey Richardson
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Mar 30, 2018 at 1:55 pm

I am a Menlo Park resident and support Ravenswood School District through volunteering and financial donations. I have been saddened and disturbed by the lack of transparency and leadership by the superintendent. I have witnessed the dedication and hard work Todd and the teachers at Belle Haven commit to their school. With bare minimum resources, they have made huge progress and truly care about the children in the Ravenswood community. I hope the community can organize and make the positive changes in leadership they deserve!

24 people like this
Posted by Why wait?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 30, 2018 at 4:07 pm

Why wait? If things really are as bad as it sounds, why isn't the Board acting to replace her right away? Then she could be placed on "special assignment" until her contract runs out.

23 people like this
Posted by School Board Member
a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2018 at 6:39 pm

Sorry, Mr. Gaviglio that you were treated like this after you help Belle Heaven to improve in all areas.
I feel for you. You are going through what went 3 years ago when I worked there as a special education teacher. I raised concerns about special education services students were not given as it stated in the IEP's, about an employee leaving marks on kids when disciplining them in two occasions, touching students privates, and I was sent home with payment because they could not fire me. It is very shocking when you are trying your very best for the student, and someone does not like when you raise concerns and as a result, they retaliate against you and because of their power they find ways to fire you, move you around or send you home as if you had done something really, really bad, and the employees who are doing wrong get to stay and even get a promotion for lying to protect the administrators who did nothing about the issues. This is called corruption, and it needs to stop. This is one of the biggest reasons I decided to run for School Board Member, I knew things were bad then, and they continue to be the same, but now people are talking and are no longer afraid to speak up. Some of them still are, and it is very understandable.
Something is wrong here. I do hope that Ms. Hernandez reconsidered her decision and she places back Mr. Gaviglio where he belongs (Belle Heaven). This needs to be done before any regression occurs on students academic skills and before other good teachers leave the district. Teachers tend to leave when they see that their job can be taken away anytime without a valid reason.
Please attend school board meetings and let your voice be heard.

15 people like this
Posted by Keep Them Home
a resident of Belle Haven Elementary
on Mar 30, 2018 at 8:48 pm

Keeping the students at home will work because Gloria does not care about students, but about money. I believe that keeping students at home, not for a day, but until she sends back Mr. Gaviglio to Belle Haven and letting the office know that they are not sick, but it is because they want the principal back, will make her think twice. She will lose money for every student absent when they are not sick. Whoever had that idea is a genius. Hope Gloria takes time to think what is she getting into and changes her mind about moving the principal somewhere else just to humiliate him and to punish him for speaking up. Gloria shall be fired right now she is so corrupted. "Someone once said at a meeting: who needs a Chapo Guzman, when we have our superintendent Gloria Hernandez". I think that person was right. The district is acting more like a mafia.

9 people like this
Posted by Shame on Board Members
a resident of another community
on Mar 31, 2018 at 3:18 pm

How did most of the board members let Gloria go this far? How can they not see the corruption that is going on right under their noses? They are corrupted too. They are part of the whole problem. They do not want to admit that Gloria has failed to do the job she is getting paid to do. Time for them to go out along with Gloria. Shame on them too. Finally, there is somebody who risking everything by coming to the press and exposing the truth. Now everyone knows the truth, not just the terrorized employees who suffer in silence because they do not want to end with no job. know the truth. Again the CDC is getting closed because Board member Sharifa Wilson made a big no, no when she was the director of the CDC and had to be fired after licensing came and investigated the case. Sharifa, Glenda Savage, Gloria Hernandez, and Ana Pulido are upset because Glenda had to resign or retire unexpectedly. Karma does exist, when Glenda worked at CDC she forced one of the best teachers at CDC to retire when she had not even planned for it. By the way, Glenda was hired because Sharifa Willson asked Gloria to give her the job, and Gloria did give it to her, knowing that she did not have the credentials or knowledge to do the job, and this is why she made such a big mistake that cost her job. It is not fair that the board members voted yes to close the CDC just to retaliate those who operated with the investigation or file the complaint with licensing. After Glenda retired Gloria never intended to find her a replacement because she already had the plan to close down the CDC. What goes around comes around. One day Gloria will be treated the same way she is treating her employees. She only gives promotions to those kissed her a.. even if they do not have the proper credentials or experience to do the job.

11 people like this
Posted by Stop the Corruption
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Apr 1, 2018 at 8:58 am

Stop the Corruption is a registered user.

School Board Members do not renew her contract, you cannot ignore this article. It shows the poor job the superintendent is doing. Renewing it will be wrong and will cost the district a lot of money to get rid of her later when you realize that the community was right. Our kids deserve much better, we are a poor district, but do not have to have this corrupted woman guiding our district. Time to clean house. We need fresh new and competent administrators. Gloria shall take all those administrators she brought to our district from Twin Rivers School District (Lorena from Curriculum &, Maria Sevilla, etc.).
Another one who shall go is Mr. Maurice who does not follow up with parents complaints, and Steven Eichman who has shown so many times at the board meeting how incompetent he is at keeping the budget.

2 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2018 at 10:36 am

Shame On Board Mwmbers - what exactly did Glenda do wrong at the CDC which triggered an inspection/investigation? Does she have a childcare background?

Like this comment
Posted by Steve_J
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2018 at 1:10 pm

Steve_J is a registered user.

@Hmmm: Yes the children are her teachers and staff. The attitude that she will get what she wants her way!!! Why hasn't the San Mateo Civil Grand Jury or Criminal Grand Jury investigate.

11 people like this
Posted by Lynne Bramlett
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 4, 2018 at 6:25 pm

Lynne Bramlett is a registered user.

I've met Todd Gaviglio, at a public meeting in Belle Haven, and he impressed me with his dedication to students in Belle Haven. Since then, I've heard nothing but praise for him when his name comes up. He should be commended for his results at Belle Haven Elementary instead of Hernandez-Goff's transparent attempt to silence him. For whistleblower of his caliber to come forward, what he's reporting is likely just the tip of the iceberg of what needs investigating. It's time for the School Board to investigate without worrying about how Hernandez-Goff might respond. Stay strong, hire good lawyers and stand up to her bullying! In parallel, parents, teachers and supporters -- this is the time for you to push the issue of having Belle Haven Elementary become part of the Menlo Park School District. Try to remove the school from her control! Henandez-Goff's quotes in the last two paragraphs are shocking. Her autocratic leadership style alone shows her unsuitability as the overall school leader.

4 people like this
Posted by Steve_J
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2018 at 2:35 pm

Steve_J is a registered user.

Why can't she be placed on immediate leave ad not renew her contract??

Like this comment
Posted by ABCs of Belle Haven Teachers
a resident of Belle Haven Elementary
on May 20, 2018 at 3:37 pm

Dear School Board Member,

You said, "Something is wrong here. I do hope that Ms. Hernandez reconsidered her decision and she places back Mr. Gaviglio where he belongs (Belle Heaven). This needs to be done before any regression occurs on students academic skills and before other good teachers leave the district."

Unfortunately, we have already lost some of our most...


...teachers as a result of the instability within the district leadership.

The Belle Haven community is calling out for help Web Link

The last major change on this front occurred in the 1980s with the rezoning of specific neighborhoods in Menlo Park, creating an island around Willow Oaks school. Much has changed in the Valley since the 80s, but human nature carries on in predictable patterns. The rich, privileged and powerful protect their wealth and status by sharing opportunities with family and close associates who typically resemble themselves.

Gaviglio could spearhead the school and continue the work he started at Belle Haven three years ago - only this time working within a system free of corruption. Yes, the changes may potentially lead to a lose in state/federal dollars for these students, but there's enough money and compassion in this area to cover the cost of meals for these kids and maybe even a few teaching assistants and custodians (that would be a luxury). Besides, fund raising is one of Gaviglio's talents. He works with teachers to identify specific needs and seeks funding to meet those needs. There's never been a question about money entrusted to him, unlike Gloria Hernandez. This is a season of change in Menlo Park. For better or worse, Belle Haven is part of Menlo Park - the school, the library and the people.

Gaviglio has a track record of turning around schools just like Belle Haven. He was removed because he blew the whistle on a corrupt superintendent.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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