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Student-services director named Ravenswood's acting superintendent

Board of Education split 3-2 in decision to place controversial superintendent on paid leave

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.

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

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Comments

17 people like this
Posted by CORRECTION
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 28, 2019 at 10:55 pm

To the Article Writer:
You wrote:

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. CORRECTION THERE WERE ONLY TWO PARENTS, ONE OF THEM IS THE DELAC REPRESENTANT, WHO ACTED AS GLORIA'S PUPET). I WAS IN THE AUDIENCE AND COULD HEAR HIM PROMPTING THE OTHER PARENT AND THE MAINTENANCE EMPLOYEE WHAT TO TELL AND HOW TO SAY IT). THE OTHER PARENT WAS A RECIPIENT OF THE FOOD BANK WHO HAS ALSO BEEN CALLED BEFORE TO COME AND SPEAK ON ON GLORIA'S BEHALF WITH THE THREAT THAT IF THEY DO NOT DO IT, THE FOOD BACK WILL BE CLOSED DOWN.

"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. SORRY TO SAY, BUT THIS MR. DUARTE MADE A FOOL OF HIMSELF TO COME AND ASK THE TEACHERS AND BOARD MEMBERS TO RESPECT THE SUPPER. RESPECT IS EARNED NOT BEGGED. WE NEED A NEW DISTRICT ADVISORY COMMITTEE THAT RESPECTS THE PARENTS AND DOES NOT ATTACK THEM. THIS IS WHAT HE ALWAYS DOES AT MEETINGS WHEN PARENTS COME TO COMPLAIN.

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." SLAP ON THE FACE IS WHAT THE INCUMBENTS DID WHEN THEY RENEWED THE SUPER'S CONTRACT LAST YEAR. AND HE IS WRITE WHEN HE GEST UPSET ABOUT PEOPLE SAYING THAT SHE WAS NOT DOING NOTHING. IN FACT SHE WAS DOING SOMETHING, SHE WAS SPENDING HER TIME ON BECOMING A MOVIE STAR BY SHOWING UP IN EVERY TV PROGRAM SHE COULD. THIS WAS BECAUSE OF BONILLA WHO SET THESE INTERVIEWS UP. I HOPE LORENA AND THE NEW SUPER DO NOT DO THAT TOO. THEIR JOB IS TO LOOK UP FOR OUT STUDENTS' EDUCATION. THIS IS ALSO SOMETHING DUARTE IS GOING TO MISS. BONILLA ALSO SET UP INTERVIEWS ON DIFFERENT TV CHANNELS FOR DUARTE SO HE COULD COME UP AND SPEAK ON BE GLORIA'S BEHALF. I GUESS HE WAS GETTING USED TO THAT AND NOW HE IS GOING TO MISS BEING THE CENTER OF THE ATTENTION. HE EVEN ALLOWED PULIDO TO USE HIS CHILDREN FOR PULIDO'S CAMPAIGNING SIGNS.
IT IS TIME FOR BONITA TO WORK FOR THE MONEY HE GETS, AT LEAST HE SHOULD GO TO COMMUNICATE THE STUDENTS ABOUT THE SAFETY RULES AND AT THE SAME TIME SUPERVISE THEM WHILE THEY ARE NOT IN THE CLASSROOM.


16 people like this
Posted by Voter
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2019 at 10:07 am

Thank you President of the school board for breaking down the votes in closed session for us. Sudaria is a strong choice and I am thrilled that she’s going to be Interim Sup. I’ve worked with her and know she’s hard working and ethical. Thank you the school board members who continue to support our community (Fitch, Sobomehin, and Gaona-Mendoza).


18 people like this
Posted by Thanks to the 3 Who voted to get her out
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2019 at 10:20 am

I am an employee of Ravenswood, and Sometimes I am afraid it is just a dream, and feel like Gloria is going to walk in and the employee's smiles will disappear. We hope Gloria stays out forever. Please, please board members do not allow her to come back. She was one the worst things that happened to our district.


2 people like this
Posted by Correction
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 3, 2019 at 5:35 pm

[Post removed.]


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