News

High school superintendent Mary Streshly announces resignation amid calls for district to fire her

More than a month after Sequoia Union High School District's teachers union and 22 principals and top administrators called for her firing, Superintendent Mary Streshly is resigning, district officials announced Friday.

In a statement, the Sequoia Union board of trustees said that Streshly is leaving “in order to fulfill critical care responsibilities with her family."

Sequoia Union High School District Superintendent Mary Streshly, on August 24, 2017. Photo by Ana Sofia Amieva-Wang.

“The board and Dr. Streshly believe this transition is in their respective best interests as well as the best interest of our educational community,” said Board President Allen Weiner in the statement.

Assistant Superintendent Crystal Leach will fill in as interim superintendent until the board hires a replacement for Streshly, the district said.

The announcement comes amid criticism of Streshly's tenure from the Sequoia District Teachers Association (SDTA), which announced a no-confidence vote against Streshly Aug. 3 and asked for her removal. A group of district administrators sent a letter to the board calling for her ouster on July 31. Both groups accused Streshly of mishandling the district's COVID-19 response and said she has a history of ineffectual leadership.

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Speaking about her time with the district, Streshly said, “I believe we met the moment by remaining focused on students and parents. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the staff, board, and community for supporting our programs, services, and student-centered initiatives during my superintendency.”

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

In its statement the district said that during her tenure Streshly "focused on equity and inclusion by dramatically reducing student suspensions and expulsions." She also "established a strategic goal of governing with an equity lens and implemented a successful plan to resume instruction this August despite the COVID-19 pandemic," the district said.

“We are sad to be losing our leader and friend, but thankful for all she has done and the many accomplishments during her tenure with the district," Weiner said in the statement. "Dr. Streshly has served ably in establishing high standards and leading by example for the district and our community. In every interaction, I have appreciated Mary’s hard work and valued her collaborative working style."

Criticism of Streshly

After the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted school life in March and the district grappled with implementing distance learning, district staff and faculty presented a united front against the superintendent over the summer as Streshly's three-year contract came up for renewal. In response, the Sequoia Union High School District school held a succession of closed-door meetings to evaluate Streshly. On Aug. 19, the board announced it would conduct an “independent information gathering process.”

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"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," said the letter signed by administrators. "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."

The teachers union levied a list of 19 grievances against Streshly. In a resolution of no confidence passed by the SDTA’s Representative Council, the union said Streshly 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.”

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 principals and vice principals at the district's four comprehensive high schools and East Palo Alto Academy. Menlo-Atherton High School principal Simone Rick-Kennel and Woodside High School principal Diane Burbank, as well as Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Hansen, were among the signers.

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

Teachers union president Edith Salvatore said, "While SDTA is pleased that Superintendent Streshly's situation has been resolved, this is a bittersweet victory for SDTA. There is no cause for celebration when someone is unsuccessful in their position and has to leave that position prematurely. We wish Dr. Streshly well in her future endeavors."

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High school superintendent Mary Streshly announces resignation amid calls for district to fire her

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Fri, Sep 18, 2020, 6:39 pm

More than a month after Sequoia Union High School District's teachers union and 22 principals and top administrators called for her firing, Superintendent Mary Streshly is resigning, district officials announced Friday.

In a statement, the Sequoia Union board of trustees said that Streshly is leaving “in order to fulfill critical care responsibilities with her family."

“The board and Dr. Streshly believe this transition is in their respective best interests as well as the best interest of our educational community,” said Board President Allen Weiner in the statement.

Assistant Superintendent Crystal Leach will fill in as interim superintendent until the board hires a replacement for Streshly, the district said.

The announcement comes amid criticism of Streshly's tenure from the Sequoia District Teachers Association (SDTA), which announced a no-confidence vote against Streshly Aug. 3 and asked for her removal. A group of district administrators sent a letter to the board calling for her ouster on July 31. Both groups accused Streshly of mishandling the district's COVID-19 response and said she has a history of ineffectual leadership.

Speaking about her time with the district, Streshly said, “I believe we met the moment by remaining focused on students and parents. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the staff, board, and community for supporting our programs, services, and student-centered initiatives during my superintendency.”

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

In its statement the district said that during her tenure Streshly "focused on equity and inclusion by dramatically reducing student suspensions and expulsions." She also "established a strategic goal of governing with an equity lens and implemented a successful plan to resume instruction this August despite the COVID-19 pandemic," the district said.

“We are sad to be losing our leader and friend, but thankful for all she has done and the many accomplishments during her tenure with the district," Weiner said in the statement. "Dr. Streshly has served ably in establishing high standards and leading by example for the district and our community. In every interaction, I have appreciated Mary’s hard work and valued her collaborative working style."

After the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted school life in March and the district grappled with implementing distance learning, district staff and faculty presented a united front against the superintendent over the summer as Streshly's three-year contract came up for renewal. In response, the Sequoia Union High School District school held a succession of closed-door meetings to evaluate Streshly. On Aug. 19, the board announced it would conduct an “independent information gathering process.”

"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," said the letter signed by administrators. "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."

The teachers union levied a list of 19 grievances against Streshly. In a resolution of no confidence passed by the SDTA’s Representative Council, the union said Streshly 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.”

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 principals and vice principals at the district's four comprehensive high schools and East Palo Alto Academy. Menlo-Atherton High School principal Simone Rick-Kennel and Woodside High School principal Diane Burbank, as well as Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Hansen, were among the signers.

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

Teachers union president Edith Salvatore said, "While SDTA is pleased that Superintendent Streshly's situation has been resolved, this is a bittersweet victory for SDTA. There is no cause for celebration when someone is unsuccessful in their position and has to leave that position prematurely. We wish Dr. Streshly well in her future endeavors."

Comments

Maria Rutenburg
Registered user
Woodside High School
on Sep 18, 2020 at 10:16 pm
Maria Rutenburg , Woodside High School
Registered user
on Sep 18, 2020 at 10:16 pm
16 people like this

This is what you get if you dare to stand up against the union, do not buy into the official "racism" narrative and help open alternative schools.


Concerned Educator
Registered user
Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 19, 2020 at 10:59 am
Concerned Educator, Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
Registered user
on Sep 19, 2020 at 10:59 am
30 people like this

Mary’s almost singular focus on pleasing the five elected trustees worked in her favor until strong leadership was required in the face of an unexpected challenge (Covid). She was unable to make a significant decision, fearing that it might backfire on her politically, so she dithered and dodged and waited for things to play out.
She left her principals and school sites to fend for themselves while she met behind closed doors for days at a time with a dysfunctional executive cabinet. Communication was convoluted and untimely; it was the principals who had to come together and chart the path forward. Critical areas —like distribution of technology devices, hotspots and parameters around distant learning—were initially bungled, mostly be her inept technology director.
Little support was given to the District’s four large high schools, where 90% of it’s students are enrolled. All four of those principals (and 11 vice principals) advocated for the superintendent’s removal, an unprecedented show of solidarity. It took two letters from this group—the second one a scathing indictment against the Board and their unwillingness to part ways with her—before things were finally set in motion to end her tenure.
This is not just a ‘Union thing.’
The last superintendent didn’t faun over board members or create new management positions with fancy names or hire PR specialists to burnish his image, perhaps to his detriment. He was a hard-working technocrat who supported his schools and principals and had the best interest of students at heart. That might be a good model for the next superintendent.


Angry Parent
Registered user
Menlo-Atherton High School
on Sep 20, 2020 at 11:33 am
Angry Parent, Menlo-Atherton High School
Registered user
on Sep 20, 2020 at 11:33 am
18 people like this

This is so heartbreaking. Dr. Streshly was supportive of the parent community and was a voice for us.

The biggest problem that us parents have known about for years is that the principals and the union are in complete control of the school district. We all know the board of trustees works for them.

Our principals each make $150,000+ and feel that they are the only opinions that matter.

The union and principals may have won this fight to push out Dr. Streshly but they have also awakened us parents as we now know that the union and principals are protecting their their agenda at the expense of our kids.

This board had an opportunity to lead but didn't because President Weiner and his fellow board take orders from the union and the principals.

Sad part is that their agenda needs to be stopped. This district is broken and will never change until internal house is cleaned. Sequoia High School, Carlmont are examples of schools that get to hide in the glow of our region's prosperity but if you actually look at the scores, they under perform every single year.

If you are are reform minded superintendent Sequoia is not the place to be.






Matthew F
Registered user
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 21, 2020 at 7:11 am
Matthew F, Woodside: Emerald Hills
Registered user
on Sep 21, 2020 at 7:11 am
36 people like this

I am very familiar with this situation. Though "Angry Parent" and the first comment above are anti-teacher, anti-union, and anti-site leader, they truly do not know what has transpired in SUHSD. The bottom line is the board of trustees hired a person who did not have the capacity to fulfill the job duties; instead she insulated herself with her unqualified cronies and only focused on pleasing the board.

The four comprehensive high school principals are excellent educators and leaders; they have no problem accepting directives and taking on new initiatives as long as there is a clear vision, continuity, and solid communication to staff, in order for the direction to align with the district's strategic vision. Under Streshly's "leadership", they were provided zero direction and support.

Ms. Salvatore's comment "There is no cause for celebration when someone is unsuccessful in their position and has to leave that position prematurely" is spot-on. This is both a setback and a new beginning for this district. I sure hope the board has learned their lesson and finds a person who is not only qualified, but takes on this very important position for the right reasons - ultimately this is about what is best for students and the community. Time to put politics aside and do what's right.

"Good leadership requires you to surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without the fear of retaliation." - Doris Kearns Goodwin


Angry Parent
Registered user
Menlo-Atherton High School
on Sep 21, 2020 at 11:18 am
Angry Parent, Menlo-Atherton High School
Registered user
on Sep 21, 2020 at 11:18 am
10 people like this

I read Dr. Streshly's letter to the union. It was clear that Dr. Streshly was being attacked because she stood up for us parents.
I am not against anyone. My problem is that the principals and union are clearly working together to maintain status quo. That is the biggest threat to our district. Tell me how Sequoia HS is better? Carlmont? These two are the best examples of principals who talk the talk but do not walk the walk.
In the same week that Dr. Streshly announced she wanted to do more to support us and the same week she stood up for Carlmont parents by taking a stance on an an employee matter that never went anywhere under their principal's leadership she gets pushed out?
If you think I am alone you clearly are not paying notice to us parents. We want a superintendent willing to push out some of these fat cat principals who want to protect their salary over our kids.


Matthew F
Registered user
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 21, 2020 at 11:26 am
Matthew F, Woodside: Emerald Hills
Registered user
on Sep 21, 2020 at 11:26 am
25 people like this

Angry Parent - this is not the forum to debate this issue. However, please remember that it was Streshly who recommended to the board for SUHSD to go Credit/No Credit during Spring 2020 - this was against the wishes of many, many staff members, as they knew it could easily water down curriculum and expectations. They were right. And then what did Streshly do? She publicly criticized and put down a teaching staff for HER decision.

And the Carlmont situation? Really? She never got involved until it hit the press - then she suddenly cared about it, in an effort to save her job.

I suggest getting your facts in order prior to criticizing educators who have dedicated their lives to students and public service. Sequoia and Carlmont's principals are not only excellent educators and leaders, they are also fantastic human beings.


M-A Parent
Registered user
Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 21, 2020 at 2:25 pm
M-A Parent, Atherton: West Atherton
Registered user
on Sep 21, 2020 at 2:25 pm
16 people like this

Dr. Streshly who recommended to the board for SUHSD to go pass/no pass following the recommendation of the majority of SUHSD teachers and all four principals—go read the minutes of the April 15 Board of Trustees meeting. They are on the district website.


Angry Parent
Registered user
Menlo-Atherton High School
on Sep 21, 2020 at 3:41 pm
Angry Parent, Menlo-Atherton High School
Registered user
on Sep 21, 2020 at 3:41 pm
10 people like this

"M-A Parent" Your point is inaccurate and proves my point. Dr. Streshly shared with us parents that union wanted pass/no pass. Nice try in trying to change conversation. Your example of "following recommendation of SUHSD teachers and all four principals" is the problem. What have these principals done where their opinion is more important than us parents? "M-A Parent" and "Matthew F." you are speaking up for your friends and you probably work for district. "Matthew F." you brought up facts. Teach me. Is Sequoia High the best school in San Mateo County? Is Carlmont? I can keep doing this all day. If they are then I will stop because I am factually mistaken but we know they are not. That's the problem for us as parents. Principals make over $200,000 a year to fail. When they fail its our kids that suffer while they still get paid. We need to be partners not an inconvenience. We demand a new culture! Parents first! I am done engaging in this forum. You will see us at board meetings.


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