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.