The Ravenswood City School District Board of Education voted 3-1 Thursday night, with Trustee Marielena Gaona-Mendoza dissenting and Trustee Marcelino Lopez absent, to renew Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff's contract for two years.
The vote came after weeks of upheaval in the community over Hernandez-Goff's leadership, with community marches and parents keeping their children home from school in protest. Former and current district employees have accused Hernandez-Goff of nepotism, financial mismanagement and creating a hostile work environment.
Gaona-Mendoza, who has been vocal in her criticisms of Hernandez-Goff, cited concerns about financial transparency and personnel decisions before casting the sole "no" vote.
Board President Ana Maria Pulido, Vice President Sharifa Wilson and Trustee Charlie Mae Knight cast the three affirmative votes. Pulido and Wilson defended Hernandez-Goff's leadership, attributing numerous improvements, including the district's exit of a yearslong federal court mandate and the addition of makerspaces and technology in classrooms and the opening of a comprehensive middle school, to her. A change in leadership now, they said, would cause more harm than good.
"If we were not to renew the contract it would throw this district into chaos," Wilson said.
The question of Hernandez-Goff's contract renewal has sharply divided the K-8 East Palo Alto district. Teachers, parents and community members pleaded with the board on Thursday to hear their concerns and vote against keeping a superintendent they described as an ineffective instructional leader and manager. Parents said they are not satisfied with the academic progress students have made during Hernandez-Goff's five years as superintendent.
"There is a real disconnect between the board" and its electorate, said Maria Chavez. "Its members ... are elected by the very people who are crying out for help and yet no one is addressing that cry."
Longtime Costaño teacher Jesusita Rivera urged others to express their discontent in November, when three of the board members' terms -- Knight, Lopez and Pulido's -- will expire.
Pulido told the large audience gathered in the gym at Costaño Elementary School that she was not "deaf" to the community's concerns.
"I'm listening to what everyone has to say. ... and I'm also committed to trying to address all of those concerns that I'm hearing," she said. "We can't ignore the improvements we've made as a district under the current leadership."
Ronda White, president of the Ravenswood Teachers Association, said after the meeting that she was disappointed but not surprised by the board's vote. Despite a desire to protest the decision, she said teachers and the superintendent will now have to find a way to work together for the next two years.
"We might be sitting on opposite sides of the table but we're all one family," White said. "We have to figure out, how do we get past these differences and how do we fix this?"
In a prepared statement, almost identical to one she gave at a press conference two days before, Hernandez-Goff also urged a bridging of divisions.
"Let's find some common ground," she said to parents. "There are ways we can work together. We are partners in the development of your child and I will never allow politics to interfere with the objective of meeting the needs of our children."
Under the new contract, Hernandez-Goff will continue to receive her current base salary of $192,814 with additional stipends for master's and doctorate degrees. She will receive the same salary increases as negotiated for certificated staff with the teachers union.
The contract will expire on June 30, 2020.