News

Ravenswood community speaks out against renewing superintendent's contract

Gloria Hernandez-Goff faces growing opposition

More than 20 community members march against the renewal of Ravenswood school district Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff's contract on March 22, 2018. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Ravenswood City School District Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff's contract is expiring in three months, and opposition is mounting in the community against keeping her in the district.

More than 20 parents, teachers, staff, students and community members marched from St. Francis of Assisi Church on Bay Road to the district office on Thursday afternoon to urge the board against renewing her contract. The board was scheduled to go into a closed session to evaluate Hernandez-Goff's performance.

Tensions have escalated in recent weeks, inflamed in part by budget cuts and the closure of the district's preschool center. Allegations have swirled accusing Hernandez-Goff of financial mismanagement, corruption and retaliation. An online petition calling for her removal has gathered close to 300 signatures.

Protesters carried signs on Thursday with messages in both Spanish and English such as "Stop the corruption," "We want change" and "We want transparency." They criticized the superintendent's handling of an ongoing budget deficit and alleged she's created what many described as a fearful, even punitive culture for employees. Two teachers who entered the district office on Thursday carrying protest signs said to each other that they were concerned about retaliation for speaking out.

Jesusita Rivera, a longtime Costaño Elementary School teacher and graduate of the district, participated in the protest. She questioned Hernandez-Goff's leadership in the financial crisis and the hiring of her son, who is currently employed as a data quality support technician in the district office with a salary of $86,696. She said teachers feel increasingly unsupported and "dispensable," particularly after they took a vote of no confidence in the superintendent last spring, with no impact.

"There's no leadership," Rivera said.

When Hernandez-Goff was hired in 2013, she was charged with turning around a historically underperforming district. She has referred to the time before her arrival as the "dark years" and her tenure as the "new Ravenswood."

But parent Hector Espinoza said that parents are not seeing the results they hoped she would bring to the district.

"The responsibility belongs to one person: the superintendent," he said in Spanish. "She is the one who has to make this change but she hasn't. We're not going to wait."

East Palo Alto Mayor Ruben Abrica has made no qualms about publicly calling for Hernandez-Goff's removal, blasting her several weeks ago for a "culture of corruption, intimidation and coverup." He walked with the protesters on Thursday and handed out photocopies of newspaper articles about the teachers' vote of no confidence and recent budget cuts at the school board meeting.

Abrica, himself a former school board member, said that he participated in the march to support parents and staff in their First Amendment right to free speech.

"People are protected, whoever they are, from expressing their opinion without being afraid that they're going to be retaliated against," he said.

On Thursday, Hernandez-Goff defended her record, firing back at what she said are unfounded personal attacks.

"I have accepted the fact that education and being a leader in this community is a contact sport," she told a standing-room only audience at the board meeting. "We all know the strategy and I was warned of it when I started working here: attack, defame, (launch) a whisper campaign until the superintendent or whoever you don't want is run out of town."

She cited a food-distribution program and the installation of washer and dryer machines at schools (which some teachers said are going unused) as examples of her efforts to tackle not only systemic educational issues in Ravenswood but also poverty and hunger. Hernandez-Goff suggested that people who are critical of her "have made it their mission to attempt to destroy these programs in an effort to hurt me."

Several food-distribution staff members and volunteers spoke in support of Hernandez-Goff. Employee Roberto Cuellar told the board he was concerned to see "a whole bunch of gossip coming to you without much truth."

Hernandez-Goff urged the community to focus on the positive rather than the negative.

"At the end of the day we aren't going to be measured by how many attacks we launch against each other, as that is all meaningless and waste of time," she said.

Several speakers pointed to the sudden reassignment of a popular principal this week as further evidence of dysfunction in the district. Hernandez-Goff notified staff and families yesterday that Belle Haven Elementary School Principal Todd Gaviglio was transferred to the district's Curriculum and Instruction Office, effective Tuesday.

"This decision was made after careful consideration of both the school needs at Belle Haven and the demands currently before the C & I Department," Hernandez-Goff wrote in a letter to staff and parents. "Based upon a review of several important factors, I decided that moving Mr. Gaviglio was the best option to meet the district's immediate needs and to support the district's achievement of our goals for our students."

Gaviglio has been credited with making significant strides at Belle Haven on persistent issues that plague the entire district: attendance, suspension rates, test scores, parent engagement and teacher retention. The school had the worst attendance rates when he arrived in 2015; it now has the third best. Daily attendance drives revenue for the locally funded district and is a major focus of the district in addressing its fiscal crisis.

"To remove a dedicated principal who has accomplished all of those things is illogical," said Belle Haven teacher Lauren Majchrowicz. "If he is removed permanently our students, teachers and community will suffer."

She asked the board to reverse his reassignment.

Belle Haven teacher Bronwyn Alexander urged the board to carefully evaluate the superintendent.

"I am worried that five years from now, this district will not exist because of the management at this point," she said.

Since the protest was not agendized, board members did not formally respond to community members' concerns. Board President Ana Maria Pulido said simply that "discussion was held" on the superintendent's evaluation during closed session.

Trustee Marcelino Lopez criticized Abrica's role in the debate, however, asking the city to "work together" with the school district moving forward.

After last year's vote of no confidence, trustee Sharifa Wilson said she was confident in Hernandez-Goff's ability as a leader, while trustee Marielena Gaona-Mendoza called for the superintendent to resign.

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Comments

46 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2018 at 12:06 pm

Hernandez-Goff inherited a surplus of $8,000,000 and in 4 years she has squandered over $11,000,000 on what? Not curriculum, not retaining teachers. She has spent that money on pushing her own agenda including installing washer and dryers at several schools that can't operate because she did it without the proper permits. She has had the ear of this particular board for far too long; and thankfully, the tides are turning. If this school board renews her contract, it will be a slap in the face to this community and to the teachers and other school employees. Hernandez-Goff is claiming these protests as "personal attacks," but don't buy into that political double-talk. These people are protesting because of her profoundly terrible leadership and mismanagement of funds. It's time for her to "accept change" and move on from this community.


43 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2018 at 12:09 pm

Thanks you community members for putting this walk together and standing up for our kids. We need new superintendents and new board members who listen to the community and do something about it, not just sit and ignore the speakers. Gloria needs to go, but watch them how they will renew the contract. If they do, they shall be ashamed of themselves. do no just protect the superintendent


27 people like this
Posted by Belle Heaven Parent
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 23, 2018 at 7:15 pm

First of All, Thanks to Palo Alto Weekly for covering our depressing news. Many unjust things happens in our Ravenswood School District (Menlo Park and East Palo Alto), but no reporters get interested in our forgotten area. It is sad to hear and read that there is only board member who has spoken up in favor of our students, teachers and employees, and she gets attacked every time she speaks. They have let the superintendent get away with corruption, and for that reason, now they are as guilty as her. The closing of the CDC should have never happened, but because the domestic partner of Sharifa Wilson (board member) gave the wrong child to the wrong parent and was found at fault during the investigation. She had to be fired, but to let her go with dignity, she all of a sudden resign/retire. Closing the CDC is a way for Sharifa and her partner to say "in your face". Sharifa should be recall. We cannot afford to have her as a board member no more. She is so disrespectful to teachers. I was a member of the audience yesterday and I observed her making faces and moving her lips saying who knows what every time the audience clapped or said something against Ms. Hernandez. [Portion removed.]
One more thing, what is that attorney doing sitting down on the right of the Superintendent advising her right thereon the spot? Is she so afraid of the things she has done that she cannot talk without her being there? This has been happening for about a year, and if I am correct there have been also times when there are other attorneys sitting down as audience. I do not think they do this for free. What a way to spend our tax dollars. Money in attorneys fees shall bu cut to 0. With all this mistakes Gloria is doing there are going to be a lot of suits from employees against the district, and with this financial situation we are not going to be able to survive as a district.


23 people like this
Posted by District Employee
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2018 at 9:19 pm

I fully support the removal of Goff and her Cronies, It is true money is being used to install washing machines in our schools that go unused and the food distributuon program (twice a month) that has nothing to do with students day to day learning.

Apperently she is doubling down in the face of recent questions/protests from staff, parents and the community. She subtly squashes any legitimate questions raised by concerend Teachers-that she deeems innapropriate by informing school Principals to "Control your Teachers"...

Unfortunenatly the way East P.A. politics is set up Its the same old cast of characters on the School Board, 2 of whom were accused of serious wrong doings, and it is almost impossible to boot them out as alot of Ravenswood parents are unable to vote or protest due to their Immigration status.


22 people like this
Posted by Kudos
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2018 at 10:05 pm

Kudos for Marielena Gaona-Mendoza for being the only one who seemed to know what she is doing and called for the resigning of the superintendent, but since it was just one to the 5 noting really happened. What is going on with the rest of the board do they not have enough brains to see what is going on, are pretending to be denim, or just too tired to be there for so many years?


26 people like this
Posted by Godfrey
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 23, 2018 at 10:18 pm

Absolutely in support of the removal of Gloria Hernandez but not only her also Mr. Marcelino López , Sharifa Wilson, Charlie Knight and Miss Pullido and so many more board member. The corruption is so obvious that it got out of their hands now. All these people managing the school district of a whole community without even knowing how to actually work with teachers hand to hand. Is this the kind of support you give to all the hard working teachers? Taking their jobs away? Making double their salary or more without even getting involved in a child education? Without even knowing what the community needs......Sad too sad.
Shame on you Mrs Hernandez! and shame on all your corrupt colleagues who have covered your wrong doings all this time.
It is time to change for the welfare of our community but overall for the best of our children.
PLEASE GET OUT!


13 people like this
Posted by A Teacher
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2018 at 10:54 pm

Where was Ronda White during this and other board meeting? did she get a big favor from the super and that is why she in no longer representing the teachers? I hope not. [Portion removed.]


22 people like this
Posted by Voter
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 24, 2018 at 7:58 am

We need need board members who know about government and how it functions properly. Too many years of corruption on that board. They clearly do not have our best interest. They have let the Sup do whatever she pleases and more. We must vote in new board members. Sad that our town is in the news for this. Our families are suffering due to bad management.


22 people like this
Posted by CDC Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2018 at 12:23 pm

CDC Parent is a registered user.

Board members need to [portion removed] order Gloria to place Bell heaven principal back at Bell heaven. Maria Sevilla (Gloria’s relative) shall go back to river twin unified school district in Sacramento. she shall find another job as far as posible from her relative Gloria Hernandez. Time to stop the mepotism. No more curruption.


16 people like this
Posted by a teacher
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2018 at 9:02 am

Do you have any idea how hard Ronda works for us? She was home with 2 sick kids!


8 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2018 at 12:11 pm

Time to have another Union Rep. I cannot believe she did not follow on the Letter of no Confidence. She could had gone to the next level, but she stayed quiet instead. I also think that she had a favor from the superintendent, this is why she backed up. Teachers need a better leader. This one is been awfully quiet. Teachers could have gone to protest, strike and so on. Teachers are paying union fees for nothing.


8 people like this
Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2018 at 7:38 pm

This fight is beyond pathetic! Now you are blaming Ms. White?! She did everything she possibly could for all of us. Who is the next target? I can see you are moving down the line. Ravenswood has some amazing, dedicated teachers, but it also has [bad] ones. Our district historically has low test scores, for decades. Get real! Some teachers spend more time complaining and punishing the students than teaching.The only ones suffering through all of this crap are students.


9 people like this
Posted by Public education advocate
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2018 at 6:56 am

Interesting to note the simultaneous coincidence of articles concerning Title IX and the discontent toward the District Superintendent. It is also interesting to note the inter-relationship of both to the issues of governance and organizational structure. Having been directly involved with both governance and organizational structure in public education's instructional delivery, it is fair to note how many other jurisdictions have long held that the discontent toward the District Superintendent and the Board centers around decentralized decision making which places more emphasis on the professionals in the classroom and each school building. More can be said, but at a later time.


20 people like this
Posted by Jesusita Rivera
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2018 at 8:21 am

For those of you, such as "a Teacher" who would venture to make such an outlandish comment asking where is Ronda White in all this? I don't talk to people who make such comments and choose to remain anonymous. [Portion removed.] Put your name to it so she can address you herself. I am a teacher in Ravenswood and I also live here. Jesusita Rivera is my name, and if I have issues with Ronda, I will tell her myself and not hide behind anonymity. Her voice has been a resounding gong about how she and RTA feels about Goff. It's time others spoke out. "a Teacher" this is your chance to speak for the better of the children served in Ravenswood, not tear down the work of a noble person.

Anyway, it's time we gather as a community, teachers, parents, friends and family. Hernandez-Goff must not have her contract renewed. Get ready to go out and vote in November. Wilson and Pulido CANNOT be on the board again. They are not serving the community. They are not serving the children well by supporting Hernandez-Goff. In case you missed it, my name is Jesusita Rivera, a teacher in Ravenswood.


12 people like this
Posted by public education advocate
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2018 at 10:45 am

Further, if, indeed, a majority of the broader community in which the Ravenswood District resides strongly feels that a major paradigm shift in thought, attutude, and action is warranted, AND which may include leadership change in the Superintendent's office, along with the board, that broader community HAS TO GET OUT TO VOTE WISELY! The stakeholders of the district community, namely the residents of the neighboring areas, the parents of the attending students, the professional teachers in the classrooms, the uncertified staff workers, and their respective administrators (the Executive Officer[s]) must coalesce into a strong and out-spoken SINGLE ENTITY - AND VOTE AS ONE! This group must also populate the school on a regular basis to forge a working plan on how to achieve specific educational goals through practical means, and verified through proven and achievable outcomes (often called "step benchmarks"). More can be said, but at a later time.


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