The Ravenswood school board has appointed Gina Sudaria, the district's director of student services and a longtime employee, as acting superintendent while Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff is on paid administrative leave.
The board of the K-8 East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park district approved Sudaria's appointment in a 3-2 vote in closed session on Thursday evening, President Tamara Sobomehin announced in open session. Sobomehin, Vice President Stephanie Fitch and Marielena Gaona-Mendoza voted in support, with Ana Pulido and Sharifa Wilson casting the "no" votes.
The trustees split along the same lines in their earlier vote to place Hernandez-Goff on leave. Because the action didn't change the superintendent's employment status, Sobomehin said Thursday, the board was not legally required to report the vote but said that "the board feels that it is important to put this information out to the public."
It is unclear what specifically prompted the board to place Hernandez-Goff on leave, though she has been under fire in recent years from teachers, parents and community members who have accused her of financial mismanagement, lack of transparency, nepotism, discrimination and retaliation.
Several parents and a district maintenance worker spoke in the superintendent's defense at Thursday's board meeting, urging the trustees to honor her two-year contract approved amidst community protest last spring.
"I will ask (you) to respect our superintendent, Dr. Hernandez-Goff, because she has brought so much to our students," said parent Marco Duarte, president of the District Advisory Committee, which involves parents in the planning and development of district services.
Citing Hernandez-Goff's work to bring more arts and STEM instruction to the district and to invest in parent engagement, he said, "It's a slap in the face when you say she's doing nothing for the students."
Others thanked the board for taking action they had long been hoping to see from their elected officials.
"Finally we're going to see justice in this community," parent Ligia Rivera said.
The announcement of Sudaria's appointment drew loud applause from the full room at Thursday's board meeting. The district's assistant superintendent, Lorena Morales-Ellis, had initially been appointed to oversee day-to-day operations in Hernandez-Goff's absence. But on Thursday, Morales-Ellis declined the offer in an email to Sobomehin, writing that she could not take on additional responsibilities.
Sudaria started her career as a teacher at Belle Haven Elementary School in 1998, according to her LinkedIn profile. After six years of teaching, she became vice principal and then principal of Costaño Elementary School and 49ers Academy. She was principal for nearly eight years before assuming the position of director of human resources in 2016 at the district office, according to LinkedIn. She became Ravenswood's director of student services last year.
A graduate of Stanford University, Sudaria went on to earn her master's degree in educational leadership and administration from California State University, East Bay.
The board will hold a separate meeting to work out details of Sudaria's interim employment, Sobomehin said.
Hernandez-Goff has not responded to requests for comment.
The school board has revised what was supposed to be a budget study session on Monday, March 4, to discuss employee discipline/dismissal/release in closed session at 6 p.m.