News


Ravenswood superintendent placed on paid leave

Board of Education president provides no reason for sudden action against school district's top administrator; assistant superintendent refuses to take over for boss

Gloria Hernandez-Goff, the controversial superintendent of the Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto, was suddenly placed on paid leave on Wednesday, effective immediately.

Board of Education President Tamara Sobomehin confirmed this shortly after sending out an email to all staff notifying them on Wednesday evening. Sobomehin declined to comment further.

Hernandez-Goff did not respond to requests for comment.

The superintendent, who was hired in 2013 with high hopes for turning around an underperforming school district, has faced mounting pressure in recent years from teachers, staff and parents critical of her leadership. Teachers signed a vote of no confidence and called for her immediate resignation in 2017, citing concerns about lack of communication, transparency and a "hostile and draining" work environment. They were particularly critical of what they said was her failure to involve teachers in the development of the district's first-ever comprehensive middle school, which opened that fall.

Former and current district employees also accused Hernandez-Goff of nepotism, financial mismanagement and creating a hostile work environment.

The school board renewed her two-year contract last spring after weeks of community marches. Belle Haven Elementary School parents kept their children home from school in protest of Hernandez-Goff's decision to transfer their principal mid-year, a reassignment he alleged was retaliation for filing a discrimination complaint against the superintendent. His claim has been agendized several times on the school board's closed session agenda, including as recently as Monday.

The superintendent's supporters, including some trustees, have credited her with improving a long-struggling district, including by opening the comprehensive middle school and bringing more arts and STEM programming to Ravenswood.

Management of the district's finances has also been a flashpoint in recent years. The district grappled with a budget crisis last year, resulting in $5 million in budget cuts, including classified staff layoffs. The board is now again discussing further budget cuts for next year to mitigate declining enrollment and other financial pressures.

Concerns over Hernandez-Goff's leadership and unrest in the community prompted several new challengers to run for two open seats on the school board in November.

An online petition started circulating in January calling on the newly constituted board to terminate Hernandez-Goff. Close to 300 people have signed the petition to date.

Ronda White, president of the Ravenswood Teachers Association, said she did not know what prompted placing Hernandez-Goff on paid leave. The concerns teachers voiced about her leadership in their vote of no confidence two years ago persist, White said.

"The district as a whole is not growing and is not transforming the way that it needs for the community and that's a problem. I'd like to think that the board is finally starting to listen and starting to see that she was not the one to lead us into the future," White added.

Sobomehin said Wednesday that the district's assistant superintendent, Lorena Morales-Ellis, would oversee day-to-day operations in Hernandez-Goff’s absence "and until further notice." But on Thursday, Morales-Ellis told Sobomehin she was declining the offer and could not take on additional responsibilities, according to an email provided to the Weekly.

"As a member of the Superintendent's cabinet, I can speak for all of us when I state that the District's management team, both cabinet and director level, are currently working 12+ hour days and cannot absorb additional responsibilities," Morales-Ellis wrote. She did not return requests for comment. (The board voted Thursday night to appoint Gina Sudaria, the district's director of student services, as acting superintendent.)

When reached Wednesday night, the district's spokesperson, Rolando Bonilla, said he was unaware the superintendent had been placed on leave.

An "employee dismissal/discipline/release" item was on the board's closed session agenda at a budget study session on Monday evening. Sobomehin said the board did not take any reportable action in closed session.

Hernandez-Goff was not present at the study session and has reportedly been out for medical leave.

Another "employee dismissal/discipline/release" item was scheduled during the board's closed session on Feb. 28, at the district headquarters, 2120 Euclid Ave., East Palo Alto, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Learn more about this issue on "Behind the Headlines," now available on YouTube and our new podcast.

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Comments

37 people like this
Posted by Mark Dinan
a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2019 at 8:19 pm

Elections have consequences. Ravenswood School District voters elected two new board members last November to do exactly this: rid the district of an incompetent, corrupt, and ineffective superintendent. Ravenswood has many challenges, but Hernandez-Goff's leadership has made things worse, not better. Congratulations to the School Board for making a tough and much needed decision.


32 people like this
Posted by Justice has been Served
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 27, 2019 at 8:26 pm

It is a shame that it had to take this long a two new board who would not sell their souls to get her out. I hope this new board clean house and get all the co-workers Gloria brought with her from Sacramento. It is time to clean the whole district up, and if Pulido and Wilson do not shape up and work for the students we need to kick them out too. They are so disrespectful to teachers, parents and other board members. it seems like they got no educations. They covered so much from Gloria and her gang and ignored the teachers, parents and community for so long it is just a matter of time, but they will go out too [portion removed.]
Ravenswood Today this is a very new beginning and the education system is going to improve for our kids. So Glad the other two [portion removed] board members lost the election, otherwise we would continue with the bad. In with the good out with the bad.
Thanks God Justice has been served. Gloria put so many people on leave now she is getting what she deserves.
Bonilla (Polio's best friend) is not out of the woods yet either. I see that he now does not know what is going on on the district when he gets paid about $100,000 per year.


26 people like this
Posted by Voter
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 27, 2019 at 8:33 pm

This is truly a win!! Keep it up new board members!!!


27 people like this
Posted by Thank you Board!
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 27, 2019 at 8:36 pm

A huge thank you to the Ravenswood Board for listening to the people who are closest to the children - Teachers and Parents!

Now PLEASE do not put her second in command, the person she brought with her from Sacramento, in charge. She is just as bad if not WORSE!

Ravenswood needs a real leader, one who can pull this amazing team together to fight for whats best for ALL of our children! Someone who knows our context and is passionate about doing what is best for kids!

#OneRavenswood


21 people like this
Posted by BH resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 27, 2019 at 9:41 pm

Great news! Now replace her other enablers and the district can finally improve. Yeah to the voters for putting new members on the school board.


24 people like this
Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 27, 2019 at 10:10 pm

thank you to the two new board members for getting rid of the [portion removed] superintendent in East Palo Alto Ravenswood City School District. this person bought all of the board members with the districts money and gave her followers positions and got rid of the ones that got in her way and now the tables turned and she is the one that got fired and her friend Lorena may want to be the next superintendent but let me tell you people this lady is just as bad or worse than you may think. and Pulido and Wilson may support her. to the two new board members please don't let them fool you,do some research and lets elect the one that knows what is best for the kids in the community.
there are still bad apples that need to be discarded. thank you Tamara and Stephanie for standing up for the kids in the Ravenswood School district.


12 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 27, 2019 at 10:36 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


9 people like this
Posted by Cheers
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 27, 2019 at 11:14 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


22 people like this
Posted by Elephant in the Room
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 27, 2019 at 11:46 pm

Hmm! Gloria is placed on paid leave, and Elena the writer of this article wonders why? it does not take a genius to know that Gloria was found out wrongdoing. No one is ever put on leave for doing something good. Finally, there are three board members who listen to us, voters. They have opened eyes and ears that work and are not afraid to make difficult decisions like Sharifa and Pulido were when they voted to renew Gloria's contract even though more and 100 people asked them not to do it. Pulido and Willson shall be ashamed of themselves for ignoring the public. They need to go to follow Gloria wherever she goes move to Sacramento with her and Lorena, Sevilla, Bonilla, Alex Padilla, Denos, Ms. Goff and everyone else who Gloria brought from Sacramento to work with her to destroy our school district.


17 people like this
Posted by YES!!!
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on Feb 28, 2019 at 12:44 am

First off, the editor of this article knows full well why the superintendent is on leave?!?! I understand you are trying not to be objective but COME ON!!!! She is finally being held accountable for the last 5 years!!! Tamara does not have to, nor should she, give an explanation. This email was odviously leaked on social media and was not supposed to be made public until Thursday’s board meeting.
Secondly, Lorena Morales is just as bad (probably worse) than GHG... we CAN NOT let her stay on as interim superintendent. Please email the board and let them know your concerns with Ms Morales.
Last.... Thank the board members, Tamara, Stephanie AND Marielena! This was not easy for them and they have been working very hard to support our children. We are lucky to have them and the deserve to hear and feel the gratitude of our community!


16 people like this
Posted by Rolanda
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 28, 2019 at 8:11 am

why do so many public employees receive 'paid leave' when they are about to be dismissed for some wrongdoing?

it doesn't work this way in the private sector.

I've also noticed that law enforcement officers get paid leave or administrative reassignment when under investigation.

shouldn't they have to pay the money back if found guilty or have it withheld pending completion of an investiagation, review or court process?


11 people like this
Posted by Finally
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 28, 2019 at 11:33 am

The way children are treated in this District are criminal. A new supe from somewhere else is imperative. Please follow through!!!


18 people like this
Posted by Justice Has Benn Served
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 28, 2019 at 12:17 pm

Did I read wight? Lorena, will not follow the Board President Instructions (at this time her boss)? Isn't this call insubordination? Perhaps she wants to be the next one who gets to be send home and get a paid check without doing nothing like Gloria. Do not fell for that Board President. She is been insubordinate so she can be fire her and that way she will leave with a lump of cash. I guess she wants to solidarity to Glorias thinking that perhaps that way the President will ask Gloria to comeback. What they do not know is that there are plenty of people who are trying to find a job so well paid like Gloria's and Lorena's. Lorena is wasting an opportunity to show the board president that she is a good worker, but it is her lost not Ms. Sobomehin's. I just hope that Gloria does not start showing up at the Buenos Dias America TV Program as Gloria did. The big question is what is going to happened to Gloria's son Mr. Denos. Does the district plans to keep him? How about Mr. Goff, is he going to continue making trouble at Caetano during the Food Distribution Program?


19 people like this
Posted by Akeesha
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 28, 2019 at 1:03 pm

The school board should be held accountable for having hired her.

How is EPA supposed to evolve when its municipal government & school board representatives are so short-sighted and/or inept?

Inquiring minds want to know.


14 people like this
Posted by Yes, Pulido and Gang shall be hold Responsible
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 28, 2019 at 2:57 pm

Akeesha,
Anybody can make a mistake when hiring someone. Pulido was the one who hired her. She probably did not do a good background check, and our kids including pre-schoolers ended up paying for it. By hiring her Pulido sent us back 15 years back to the time when we had Dr. Knight as the superintendent. I could forgive Pulido for making that mistake, but what is intolerable and no one should forgive her is for is that knowing that the teachers presented the letter of no confidence, and there were already many signs of bad leadership (removing the BH principal without a valid reason, other than he was becoming aware of the kind of leader GHG was, and Pulido went ahead and ignored everyone at the board meeting and renewed her contract and the rest of the incumbents board members agreed to it (except for Gaona). She seemed to be the only one who know that Gloria was dooing a horrible job, but no one listened to her. Thanks to the 2 new board members for not doing the same thing as the past board members did. They pretended things were fine.

Because of the inept majority of the board who renew the contract now GHG gets her paycheck without having to move a finger. But at least she is away from our schools, kids, teachers and parents, and she will not be able to cause more harm to our school district.

I hope by now Pulido realizes the big mess she got the district into when she decided to ignored people and renewed her contract. That was opportunity to get rid of her, and she wasted, she did not want to accept that she had made a mistake by hiring her.

The Board Members shall conduct a full audit to find out how she left the district in all areas. This shall be done before Gloria and her gang fly, so if she mismanaged $$ she can be accountable for it.



18 people like this
Posted by WHAT COMES AROUND GOES AROUND
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 28, 2019 at 6:59 pm

Today, the East Palo Alto community woke up to a new beginning. Finally, after many years of constant complaints and requests from the community, parents, teachers, City Officials and District employers to have Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff removed, the day has come and Gloria is no more.
My hat goes off for our new board members who were able to see thru the multiple layers of corruption, nepotism, favoritism, indifference, complacency and extreme negligence on the part of the majority of the the Board members who blindly acted as puppets while Gloria pulled their strings. I suspect that this is just the beginnings of the cleaning house project. The very next negative person who should be immediately removed from any School District activities is Gloria’s husband Mr. Duane W. Goff who was appointed by his wife to “RUN” the Food Bank at Castaño School. He should not have any nexus with the District whatsoever, I’m sure there are plenty of honest people in our community who would gladly end efficiently take over the logistics of the food donation program. Last but not least, is their son who still holds a HIGH paid position whom I understand holds no credentials of any sort other than a High School diploma, that would justify his high salary and benefits.

It would be interested to see how long Ms.Wilson & Ms. Pulido would endure being on the minority side of the table. Out of dignity they both should step down on their own.

Of course it would take a lot more than just removing a corrupt Administrator for significant positive changes to be noticeable but this sure was the first and main obstacle that needed to be moved out of the way to clear the road to accomplish better education to our children in this community.

Thank you new Board members for supporting Trustee Gaona-Mendoza, you’re my heroes !!!!


14 people like this
Posted by Machiavelli
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 3, 2019 at 2:18 pm

The events that have taken occurrence within RCSD recently have been overdue to the community! I have finally been able to experience the HEALING process a certain City Council Member had mentioned at City Council meeting on September 4Th, 2018 when he brought up to discussion the formation of a City Council School District sub committee. Although this was a great idea it was turn down. Ultimately this was a better choice because at the current time the school board was lacking the leadership needed to move it forward. Although, I do tip my hat off to the newly elected board members, I believe that a lot of credit should go the groups of community members that protested and marched to create awareness of the sinking Titanic situation RCSD found itself in although they probably found themselves being harassed and persecuted by GHG. These people were the frontline soldiers even before any former candidate had consider to campaign for a seat on the school board. This groundwork laid the foundation for these three amazing ladies to finalize the beginning of HEALING the community surely needs. - Machiavelli


11 people like this
Posted by Elephant in the Room
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2019 at 7:49 pm

Gloria wanted to fe famous since her fittest day on the job, and finally her dream is becoming truth. She has been in Palo Alto on line many times and also in Palo Alto Daily. The bad thing is that she is becoming famous for the wrong reasons. I don’t want to be in her shoes right now. I hope next district that hires her read all this comments so they know what they are getting into. Pulido and Sharifa always defended her says Elena in some of her articles. I’m wonder why she needed people to defend her, unless she was doing wrong.


4 people like this
Posted by Change has come
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2019 at 2:13 pm

Change has come is a registered user.

This is the best things that could have happen to our district. Thank you to the 3 board members who voted to get her out, and are trying to repair the damage caused by the renewal of the contract done by pulido, Wilson, Knight and the coward of Lopez who decided to stay home so he wouldn’t disappoint the super, Pulido, Wilson, Knight. He knew it would be a mistake to renew the contract. But he did not have what to it takes to do the right thing (vote no for the renewal of the contract. Because of that now the majority of the new board have to clean house district wide. In a way we have to thank Pulido for making the mistake of renewing the super’s Contract because thanks to that people got angry, frustrated and disappointed of the majority of the board who voted yes to the renewa, and it make the community realized how bad the majority of the board were and decided that it was time for them to go!. Thanks pulido for making that huge mistake and for ignoring the cries of the community. Thanks to you, we now have three and brave board members who are not afraid to make difilt decisions. You Pulido would have never done that. Goloria became your friend and no longer could supervise her as you were supposed to when you took the oath.


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