News

With a no-confidence vote, high school teachers union calls for removal of superintendent

Sequoia Union High School District's teachers urge board not to renew Mary Streshly's contract ahead of Aug. 5 meeting

Sequoia Union High School District Superintendent Mary Streshly. File photo by Ana Sofia Amieva-Wang

The local public high school teachers union has made a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Mary Streshly, asking the Sequoia Union High School District's board to fire her, the group said in a statement Monday.

The Sequoia District Teachers Association (SDTA), a teachers union representing educators in the Sequoia Union High School District, cited in its statement 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 the vote of no confidence.

“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.

SDTA is promoting the social media hashtag #FireStreshly ahead of a district board meeting set for Wednesday, Aug. 5.

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.

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In its resolution, the union charged that during her three-year tenure, Streshly has “failed to include teachers and other key stakeholders in conversations and decisions that directly impact teaching and learning.”

The SDTA mentioned the district’s decisions concerning reopening schools in the fall — first in a hybrid model in a June 25 announcement letter from Streshly, then later deciding to start classes fully online in a presentation to the school board July 21.

“She did not prioritize student or staff safety” when making those decisions, the group said.

“The superintendent made the recommendation for students to return in a hybrid learning environment in which as many as 50% of students and 100% of staff would be on campus each day … even though the district had provided no data regarding the ability of the sites to house those amounts of students while enforcing minimum physical distancing or what the ventilation/disinfection needs are,” Salvatore said in an email.

Salvatore also alluded to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent decision to require that schools in counties that are on the state’s watchlist be off the list for 14 days before opening. “The move to full distance learning only came when the governor essentially forced the district's hand with his clear declaration that a county with rising COVID numbers could not return students to the classroom,” she wrote.

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“After three years of struggling under (Streshly’s) ineffective leadership, educators urge our Board of Trustees to do what’s best for students, and make a change that will put our district back on the path to success,” Salvatore said in SDTA’s statement.

The union’s resolution details 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 in April.

In response, Streshly provided the following statement through district spokesman Rolando Bonilla:

"COVID-19 has created an environment where district leadership is working hard to balance the union's contractual rights with our absolute duty to provide our parents and students with critical support during this difficult time.

"Although I understand the union's fears, as everyone else in the world shares them, that fear can not prevent us from doing more to support our families during this crisis. Without putting anyone at risk, there are a myriad of options that we can take that will allow for our students to receive a quality education."

School board president Allen Weiner said that the board is aware of the SDTA's concerns about Streshly and would address them in a closed-session meeting, according to rules for discussing personnel matters, which are exempt from the state's open meeting requirements that elected officials conduct the public's business in public.

The board already had a closed session agenda item titled "Superintendent's Evaluation" scheduled for its meeting on Aug. 5. Weiner said that the board will likely take up the matter of the SDTA's communication about the superintendent at that time.

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With a no-confidence vote, high school teachers union calls for removal of superintendent

Sequoia Union High School District's teachers urge board not to renew Mary Streshly's contract ahead of Aug. 5 meeting

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Mon, Aug 3, 2020, 5:57 pm

The local public high school teachers union has made a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Mary Streshly, asking the Sequoia Union High School District's board to fire her, the group said in a statement Monday.

The Sequoia District Teachers Association (SDTA), a teachers union representing educators in the Sequoia Union High School District, cited in its statement 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 the vote of no confidence.

“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.

SDTA is promoting the social media hashtag #FireStreshly ahead of a district board meeting set for Wednesday, Aug. 5.

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.

In its resolution, the union charged that during her three-year tenure, Streshly has “failed to include teachers and other key stakeholders in conversations and decisions that directly impact teaching and learning.”

The SDTA mentioned the district’s decisions concerning reopening schools in the fall — first in a hybrid model in a June 25 announcement letter from Streshly, then later deciding to start classes fully online in a presentation to the school board July 21.

“She did not prioritize student or staff safety” when making those decisions, the group said.

“The superintendent made the recommendation for students to return in a hybrid learning environment in which as many as 50% of students and 100% of staff would be on campus each day … even though the district had provided no data regarding the ability of the sites to house those amounts of students while enforcing minimum physical distancing or what the ventilation/disinfection needs are,” Salvatore said in an email.

Salvatore also alluded to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent decision to require that schools in counties that are on the state’s watchlist be off the list for 14 days before opening. “The move to full distance learning only came when the governor essentially forced the district's hand with his clear declaration that a county with rising COVID numbers could not return students to the classroom,” she wrote.

“After three years of struggling under (Streshly’s) ineffective leadership, educators urge our Board of Trustees to do what’s best for students, and make a change that will put our district back on the path to success,” Salvatore said in SDTA’s statement.

The union’s resolution details 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 in April.

In response, Streshly provided the following statement through district spokesman Rolando Bonilla:

"COVID-19 has created an environment where district leadership is working hard to balance the union's contractual rights with our absolute duty to provide our parents and students with critical support during this difficult time.

"Although I understand the union's fears, as everyone else in the world shares them, that fear can not prevent us from doing more to support our families during this crisis. Without putting anyone at risk, there are a myriad of options that we can take that will allow for our students to receive a quality education."

School board president Allen Weiner said that the board is aware of the SDTA's concerns about Streshly and would address them in a closed-session meeting, according to rules for discussing personnel matters, which are exempt from the state's open meeting requirements that elected officials conduct the public's business in public.

The board already had a closed session agenda item titled "Superintendent's Evaluation" scheduled for its meeting on Aug. 5. Weiner said that the board will likely take up the matter of the SDTA's communication about the superintendent at that time.

Comments

Concerned Educator
Registered user
Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Aug 3, 2020 at 6:12 pm
Concerned Educator, Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
Registered user
on Aug 3, 2020 at 6:12 pm
36 people like this

Mary Streshly has struggled to articulate a clear vision for the Sequoia District and has provided mediocre leadership during her tenure. The pandemic has highlighted and drawn attention to her inability to communicate, to empathize, to be decisive, and to understand the kind of leadership that is needed during a crisis of this magnitude.
It is not only the teacher’s union and the District’s teaching staff that has lost confidence in her ability to open school and manage the crisis. There is open revolt among other employee groups and a much larger crisis developing.
It is becoming apparent that she cannot continue as District superintendent and that it is more a matter of when and how she goes, rather than if.


ReginaR
Registered user
Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 4, 2020 at 12:58 pm
ReginaR, Atherton: West Atherton
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 12:58 pm
14 people like this

I knew she was an absolute disaster when they decided against issuing grades for the Spring Semester. Our students should have been given grades, especially when other large, diverse districts in the state, with even greater challenges, such as San Diego Unified, were able to issue letter grades to their students. Not only was it demoralizing, it put our kids at a unique disadvantage when applying go to colleges. She has to go, along with Carrie DuBois and the rest of the SUHSD Board! Awful, awful, awful.


margomca
Registered user
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 4, 2020 at 1:28 pm
margomca, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 1:28 pm
18 people like this

I am a retired MA math teacher, now doing remote tutoring. Last spring, prior to the decision to give no grades, I had 16 hard working students. As soon as that decision was made I had 3!!! Clearly, grades are a motivating factor. But now those same students are to begin the next year of math. How many will be ready???? How many were given good remote teaching, for which the teachers had no experience and no equipment? That decision was very poor and has cost the students greatly. Can't imagine what she was thinking of, but I'm guessing it was "What's the easiest way out of this?" The district or the state needs to ensure that EVERY student has access to internet and a computer or tablet. That's the real decision and this superintendent doesn't understand the real needs. What has been done over the summer to solve the real problems????


Parent
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 4, 2020 at 1:42 pm
Parent, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 1:42 pm
18 people like this

If the teachers union is against her, she must be doing things right!!! The teacher's union is all about themselves and never about the best interests of the students. Renew Streshly's contract and give her a raise!!
High school students lives matter! Defund the teacher's union!


Francesco
Registered user
Woodside School
on Aug 4, 2020 at 3:31 pm
Francesco, Woodside School
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 3:31 pm
30 people like this

I am sure I am missing something.
I work in a hospital, we take care of the patients, we don’t do it online. People work in grocery store, they go every day. There are safe way to go back to work. How the teachers are different from any other essential worker? School is essential and teacher should be essential workers. Why they have a choice? The only choice is how, safely? Yes, safely. There are plenty of creative ways to bring the kids back to school. Just please do your job and leave the superintendent alone. She did her best in this crazy situation. Find a safe way to do the job you get pay for: in person instruction. Like in person Surgeons, nurses, grocery store people...nobody complains like you do. We DO IT, why can’t you all?


DeirdreSM
Registered user
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 4, 2020 at 5:25 pm
DeirdreSM, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 5:25 pm
14 people like this

Francesco, I think you miss the risks involved in a room full of children even without COVID-19. Working in a hospital, you're taking care of patients (mostly) one at a time, which is a really different risk than a room full of potential (and, per the science, actual) viral vectors.

The other thing is literal brain damage. Please look at an article in The Lancet titled "Cerebral Micro-Structural Changes in COVID-19 Patients – An MRI-based 3-month Follow-up Study" and tell me that's what you want for kids, especially given the percentage of kids who've gotten it in other areas. And then there are the structural heart changes causing severe cardiac disease in 1 in 8 patients observed in a fairly wide study in the European Heart Journal titled "Global evaluation of echocardiography in patients with COVID-19."

Also, I think you are underestimating the risk to grocery workers. You can look up the NY Times article on the one and only Mono County death so far. That was the guy who delivered my shut-in blind father's groceries.

A couple days ago, my father called me telling me that the owners of the delivery service had, despite being super careful for months on end, yet still managed to contract covid and are quarantined.

You forget that people who work in hospitals work under carefully controlled circumstances that teachers don't and can't. I'd suggest more empathy for their safety.


margomca
Registered user
Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 4, 2020 at 8:05 pm
margomca, Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
Registered user
on Aug 4, 2020 at 8:05 pm
16 people like this

In response to the Willows parent who seems to have such a low opinion of teachers, I would respectfully say that good teachers work VERY HARD, often taking papers home to mark, doing preps at home, calling parents. It seems that you have not experienced that kind of dedicated teacher, but I assure you there are many. Teachers perform the parenting that you may be unable to offer your child. I always saw myself as "in loco parentis" and made sure I modeled and spoke of the values I think any family would espouse. I'm sorry you've not seen the positive side of what teachers offer, but in my 25 years in the classroom as well as those many years as a student, I knew so many wonderful, dedicated, caring people. I am very grateful for them and tried to emulate them. Please take another look and rethink what teachers do. They raise your children when they are in the hands of teachers.


Pepper
Registered user
Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 5, 2020 at 6:45 am
Pepper, Menlo Park: The Willows
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 6:45 am
9 people like this

The comments suggesting the superintendent be dismissed due to the recommendation not to issue letter grades is absurd. So many neighboring districts chose to do the same thing, or odd offshoots (universal As, etc.) that were that the criteria a good dozen districts nearby would be looking for new leaders.

Streshly's recommendation the district open with hybrid instruction as feasible and allowed is also not at all surprising or unique. (As she said at the time, they were not the only school in the Bay Area, or even San Mateo County, with the same proposal, and it was guided by County and State policies.) The teacher's union is upset that so many parents felt last spring that distance learning was a disaster... and that too is how parents felt nationwide. Illinois, New York... there are frustrated parents everywhere. These are unprecedented times and all leaders were doing the best they could. The vote of no confidence seems a tad over dramatic.


Michael M
Registered user
Woodside: other
on Aug 5, 2020 at 12:00 pm
Michael M, Woodside: other
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 12:00 pm
14 people like this

As an employee in the district I would like to clarify a few things.
1) Dr. Streshly has lost support among teachers, administrators and other staff. Teachers were urged to put this forward because she will not be able to retaliate as easily against them.
2) Teachers and administrators are dismayed by the total lack of planning around reopening. SUHSD created a task force and Dr. Streshly shut it dow in June rather than let it continue to work over the summer to plan for either reopening in person or online. Palo Alto, San Mateo Union, and many other local districts planned for both things. Dr. Streshly was so hyper focused on bringing students back into the classroom that she discontinued a task force that could have planned for both options. And now a a couple weeks until students arrive everyone is scrambling.
3. Dr. Streshly wasted many hundreds of thousands of dollars in how she tried to open TIDE. A full staff of teachers, principal and Director were hired a year early in order to prepare for the opening of the school. In the few months before it opened the principal was demoted, the Director left for another job and most of the teachers resigned. SDTA warned this could become a colossal waste of money but Streshly ignored the advice and wasted probably close to 1 million dollars of taxpayer money.
4. Streshly was forced out of her last district. She has hired many of her friends who have insulated her but the reality is that she needs to be forced out of SUHSD as well. She is a nice person but is unable to communicate and plan ahead in a way that benefits anyone but her.


David B
Registered user
Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Aug 5, 2020 at 2:35 pm
David B, Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 2:35 pm
7 people like this

Without taking sides on the main issue, it's worth noting this paragraph in a letter that Ms. Streshly wrote to the union last week:

"I write to you because, as you know, but the public does not, our district cannot implement any plans without your cooperation. The time has come, given the gravity of the moment and all the uncertainties of how this pandemic will play out, to find a path forward, truly partner and allow for our district to work collaboratively during this crisis."

I suspect the union's "it's not in the contract" veto ability has had significant behind-the-scenes influence over all the District's decisions and actions. I suppose my wish is that the union was more open about their positions, and their power.


ConcernedParent
Registered user
Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Aug 5, 2020 at 3:20 pm
ConcernedParent, Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 3:20 pm
7 people like this

I suspect the idea of dismissing Mary Streshly is one of the rare things on which most parents in the District would agree with Edith Salvatore. For those who have watched and listened to SUHSD Board meetings over the past 5 months, the incompetence of Streshly and the behavior of Salvatore have been shocking. I have great respect, admiration, and appreciation for teachers, but little for teacher unions, especially when they are trying to be unnecessarily disruptive or disagreeable. And Ms. Salvatore has been disruptive. Having said that, the SDTA is correct on this issue. Streshly was clearly in over her head during the past 5 months, and likely just not as exposed before that. Nothing in her resume suggested she was really ready for the SUHSD job when she was hired, and nothing she has done as superintendent suggests she is up to the job.

The real problem is that not only did this current SUHSD Board hire her, but they have extended her contract twice so that it now runs through June 2022. And as recently as June 25, there is a recorded Board meeting of most Board members being glowingly supportive of her work, and Trustee Thomsen talking about the great collection of leadership he was witnessing at the District. Those comments defied logic to anyone who had sat through recent Board meetings and staff presentations.


A Teacher's Perspective
Registered user
another community
on Aug 5, 2020 at 8:40 pm
A Teacher's Perspective, another community
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 8:40 pm
39 people like this

The teacher's union and school principals do not see eye-to-eye on much. However, both are in agreement that the superintendent's skills are lacking. This is not a recent development as she has received constructive feedback from both bodies prior to COVID. Our current crisis, though, has exacerbated her shortcomings. As Michael stated above, "teachers were urged to put this forward because she will not be able to retaliate as easily against them." Know that disparate groups who are forced to work with the superintendent feel similarly regarding her competence.


editoratlarge
Registered user
another community
on Aug 5, 2020 at 11:36 pm
editoratlarge, another community
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2020 at 11:36 pm
7 people like this

Many districts in this area went for pass-fail. What a ridiculous argument. I agree with Francesco above. Teachers are critical workers and therefore need to show up. Time to get down off the cross like many of us essential workers with no powerful union. No sympathy.


James Madison
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 6, 2020 at 12:14 pm
James Madison, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Aug 6, 2020 at 12:14 pm
2 people like this

Neither teachers or staff nor students should be expected to participate in face-to-face instruction (a) in the absence of County Health Department OK and (b) without effective protection against both bringing COVID-19 infection onto campus and acquiring it there. On the other hand, on-line instruction requires assurances that teachers can deliver and students can and will receive the desired learning. Major challenges either way. Instead of wasting energy on a Superintendent fight, the Board of Trustees should obtain expert advice on which approach is the more feasible. Having decided on the approach, the Board needs to determine whether the incumbent can deliver and establish criteria for holding her accountable. In the absence of confidence that she can deliver or upon failing to satisfy accountability criteria, she should be replaced by someone the Board believes can perform.


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