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."
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.”
"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."