News

Ousted superintendent violated harassment policy in comments about employees with children

Outside law firm probes former principal's discrimination complaint

An external investigation found that Gloria Hernandez-Goff, the ousted superintendent of the Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto, violated the district's harassment policy in making repeated comments about employees' family status and their leave history, according to documents released under the Public Records Act.

The investigation, conducted in response to a complaint filed by former Belle Haven Elementary School principal Todd Gaviglio last year, cleared Hernandez-Goff of other allegations of wrongdoing, including retaliation, discrimination and unethical behavior.

The district released the investigation documents one year after the Weekly filed a public-records request. The school board accepted Hernandez-Goff's resignation last week; her employment will be terminated this Sunday, March 31.

Gaviglio, a longtime Ravenswood educator who was appointed principal of Belle Haven in 2015, was reassigned to a district office position days after filing his complaint. He had recently adopted a baby and alleged Hernandez-Goff discriminated against administrators with babies, including by making "derogatory statements" and engaging in "practices to negatively impact their employment status," he said in his complaint.

Gaviglio declined to comment on the outcome of the investigation on the advice of legal counsel.

An attorney for Hernandez-Goff called the investigation a "grotesque waste of taxpayer dollars."

"The district spent a year and many thousands of dollars to find nothing. Seriously nothing! Why do you think she received such a lucrative severance package?" Gregory Rolen of San Francisco firm Haight Brown & Bonesteel wrote in an email to the Weekly. (Under a separation agreement with Hernandez-Goff, the district agreed to pay her $160,873 in severance.)

Ravenswood hired Van Dermyden Maddux Law Corporation, a Sacramento law firm that focuses on workplace and Title IX investigations, to conduct a monthslong probe into Gaviglio's claim. The investigation began on March 30, 2018, and was expanded twice in April and May to include additional allegations lodged by Gaviglio.

Liz Paris, senior associate attorney for Van Dermyden Maddux Law Corporation, noted in the final report that the investigation was "challenging" and included reviewing hundreds of documents and interviewing 24 people over five months. She interviewed Hernandez-Goff three times from April through August, the report shows.

Paris wrote that the district allowed for an independent investigation and provided her "complete access to all requested witnesses and documents. No party interfered with, or attempted to influence, the findings in this report."

A draft report detailing the findings was prepared eight months ago but was delayed by the investigator's discovery of a "relevant" document protected by attorney-client privilege. A district attorney sought a limited waiver of this privilege, a process that was delayed by the school board election in November, legal training for the trustees and waiting for a board meeting during which the attorney could request the waiver, Paris wrote. She received the document on Jan. 21 and then completed the final report, which is dated Feb. 6.

Paris determined under a preponderance of the evidence standard (that it's more likely than not that the conduct occurred) that Hernandez-Goff did make comments about administrators with children, including whether someone should receive a promotion because the person recently had a baby, making multiple comments related to an employee's maternity leave and telling someone that he or she "needed to decide whether to be a mother or an administrator."

These comments rose to the level of harassment, causing employees to be wary of discussing pregnancy or family leave with Hernandez-Goff and giving them "pause" when considering whether or not to have children, Paris found.

Hernandez-Goff's comments were "'severe and pervasive enough' as to adversely affect an individual's employment," the report states.

Rolen, her attorney, asserted that the report "fails to address how the factual findings constitute a policy violation" in relation to harassment.

"That conclusion was merely words on a page," he said. "Harassment is a legal standard.

The investigation also found Hernandez-Goff called an employee an "Indian princess," but did not find she made other race-based comments alleged by Gaviglio. Hernandez-Goff acknowledged saying this but told the investigator it was in a joking context.

Hernandez-Goff denied making negative comments about administrators with children and other race-based comments, according to the report.

In making her final determination on the harassment allegations, Paris found Hernandez-Goff "less credible" than Gaviglio.

Hernandez-Goff made several assertions that were not corroborated by witnesses or documents, Paris wrote, including that she conducted performance reviews of her employees, despite the fact that all principals interviewed and the district's human resources director denied this and there were no performance reviews in employees' personnel files. She also made inconsistent and contradictory statements about reassigning Gaviglio, according to the report.

Hernandez-Goff had "motive to be less than forthright," Paris wrote. "Gaviglio's allegations against her have been the subject of media attention and public scrutiny, potentially affecting her employment and reputation."

This did appear to be a factor in Hernandez-Goff's decision-making related to Gaviglio. She told Paris that his complaint "didn't faze" her but his "media stuff" prompted her to transfer him to the district office mid-year.

"He's making it very public, very ugly," Hernandez-Goff said, according to the report.

"I moved him primarily because people were not focusing on instruction ... He was leading staff to come into board members (sic) and slam me. Talk about bringing out everything about the kitchen sink. So at that point, I thought, I am going to have to remove him."

Noting it was a "close call," Paris found that Hernandez-Goff reassigned Gaviglio for reasons unrelated to his complaint.

"Although I do not sustain this allegation, Hernandez-Goff made several comments and decisions that reasonably raise concerns. She appeared unable to recall critical dates and did not have written documentation to refresh her recollection. She also provided inconsistent direction and guidance to her subordinates, creating confusion within the district office," the report states. "These factors ... raise reasonable concerns about Hernandez-Goff's judgment and professionalism."

Paris determined that Hernandez-Goff did not misuse Title I funds, withhold student information, ignore special-education directives or direct schools to falsify data for textbook inspections, as Gaviglio had alleged.

The report notes that these are not legal findings but rather factual and policy determinations meant to "facilitate the rendering of legal advice by the employer's counsel."

Board President Tamara Sobomehin could not say whether the findings of this investigation factored into the board's February decision to place Hernandez-Goff on paid administrative leave and then sign a separation agreement with her, citing the confidentiality of closed-session discussions.

In a statement, she emphasized that her "responsibility as a school board trustee is to ensure that our district is responsive to the values, beliefs, and priorities of our community that lead to student achievement and success for all students.

"With that in mind, one of my strategic priorities for Ravenswood this year is to establish trust and strengthen relationships with our families, staff, community members, and partners. I personally appreciate everyone's understanding and patience with the Board during this transition of the superintendent position, and I want you to know that I believe we are in strong and capable hands under the leadership of our acting Superintendent, Gina Sudaria," she wrote. "I look forward to a vision of strong community engagement and inclusive stakeholding around the success and support of our students and staff."

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Comments

16 people like this
Posted by District Employee
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2019 at 11:34 am

The district spent this much money because Gloria constantly harassed employees, and if the report says that they did not find all the allegations truth, it does not mean that it did not happened. It only means that she was too smart and cover all traces, and lie to the investigators. I believe that the investigation was not really an "independent" Can someone find out if the investigations was done by the say firm that does the negotiations. It it is, they shall not believe that things did not happened. This law firm works for the district and of course they would be very conservative on their findings.
What an embarrassment for Pulido, lopez, Wilson, Knight (she did not know what was going onL). Employees came to them to complained and they brushed them off because they owe favors to Gloria and did not want to do anything against her. GOOD FOR GAVIGLIO FOR STANDING UP and for risk his job to expose the truth. Gaviglio the majority of the last year's board owe you an apology and hope that you suit those corrupted board members who did nothing when they knew what was going on. Shame on them, if they had dignity, they shall stepped dow. Board Member Gaona was the only one who knew that things were wrong. pulido and willson shall not be call a trustee, they cannot be trust


12 people like this
Posted by District Employee
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2019 at 11:58 am

"The district spent a year and many thousands of dollars to find nothing. Seriously nothing! Why do you think she received such a lucrative severance package?" Gregory Rolen of San Francisco firm Haight Brown & Bonesteel wrote in an email to the Weekly. (Under a separation agreement with Hernandez-Goff, the district agreed to pay her $160,873 in severance.)

This might not be the reason for giving her the fat check, but for not spend more money on going to court with happens all the time when an employees is found to violate the the harassment laws.

The report notes that these are not legal findings but rather factual and policy determinations meant to "facilitate the rendering of legal advice by the employer's counsel."

HOPE GAVIGLIO TAKES HER TO COURT AND THEN THER REAL TRUCH CAN COME UP. THE FACT THAT SHE KEPT CHANGING THE STORY WILL FIND HER GUILTY, JUDGES DO NOT LIKE THIS.
I believe that all allegations are truth. Gaviglio would had no reason to lie, but gloria did because the community will know the truth, and she could loose her job.
She is nothing but evil. We are all lucky she is gone.
Mr. Gaviglio, I am sorry Gloria did this to you and the board members ignored your cries for help. They too are as corrupted as Gloria. How can they still be sitting at the board meetings?

It makes me sick to my stomach and like Gloria used to say when she was spending her working time being interviewed by tv reporters ME ARDE LA SANGRE (MY BLOOD BOILS) to know that we had this kind of truth leading the district. We still have some trash working at the district that need to be fired. I hope the new board members do not wait till they do something like what Gloria did. That is if they had not done it already. Remember they used to cover for each other.


12 people like this
Posted by BleachBIt
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Ms. Goff receive the severance package because it was a contractual obligation, thanks to Pulido and Wilson, her shills. RCSD elected to get the leech out using a provision in Goff’s contract that let it get done quickly rather than a long drawn out “ for cause” termination. Too bad Pulido and Wilson can’t be forced to pony up their own money for their mismanagement!


4 people like this
Posted by District Employee
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2019 at 1:28 pm

Last poster says:
Ms. Goff receive the severance package because it was a contractual obligation, thanks to Pulido and Wilson, her shills. RCSD elected to get the leech out using a provision in Goff’s contract that let it get done quickly rather than a long drawn out “ for cause” termination. Too bad Pulido and Wilson can’t be forced to pony up their own money for their mismanagement!

TBleachBIt is right and he said it better than I did.
If Gloria's attorney knew who Gloria really is, he would not open his mouth to defend Gloria. He would probably say "no comments"
Yes I agree Pulido the rest of last years board members shall pay this money, except for Board Member Gaona, she was the only one who knew Gloria was not doing her job, while the other board members attacked her and bullied her because they blindly believe on Gloria.
Hurry for Ms. Gaona, who put up with Pulido and Wilson's bullying at every board public board meeting, and who know what else they did to her during closed session when there were no witnesses. Gain is a strong woman who deserves respect and admiration because she did no allowed the other board members to infect her with their corruption.


4 people like this
Posted by Grade D on this Article
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 25, 2019 at 3:08 pm

How come Elena did not put a link to the report as she does in other cases? It would really help to see the report, but perhaps Elena was asked to keep information away from the public. Overall not a good article for something of this magnitude. This is probably why Gloria's attorney says that nothing happened. The article does not give justice to Todd Gaviglio. I hope she updates this article soon when she puts the investigations report on line.


7 people like this
Posted by She got away with it.
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 25, 2019 at 3:33 pm

This explains why Gloria did not give the principal position to M’s. Michelle, the assistant principal when she was going to promote Ms. Chin to Assistant Superintendent at the student services. She preferred not to give Ms. Chin the position rather than hiring M’s. Michelle, because unfortunately for Gloria she had a baby, and of course the ignorant board members allowed her to do this. They could not control her anymore.


8 people like this
Posted by Elena Kadvany
education reporter of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Mar 25, 2019 at 3:44 pm

Elena Kadvany is a registered user.

Dear Grade D on this Article: A link to the report is now available in the story. Thank you!


7 people like this
Posted by Sorry To Mr. Gaviglio
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2019 at 4:34 pm

Last poster says:
Ms. Goff receive the severance package because it was a contractual obligation, thanks to Pulido and Wilson, her shills. RCSD elected to get the leech out using a provision in Goff’s contract that let it get done quickly rather than a long drawn out “ for cause” termination. Too bad Pulido and Wilson can’t be forced to pony up their own money for their mismanagement!

TBleachBIt is right and he said it better than I did.
If Gloria's attorney knew who Gloria really is, he would not open his mouth to defend Gloria. He would probably say "no comments"
Yes I agree Pulido the rest of last years board members shall pay this money, except for Board Member Gaona, she was the only one who knew Gloria was not doing her job, while the other board members attacked her and bullied her because they blindly believe on Gloria.
Hurray for Ms. Gaona, who put up with Pulido and Wilson's bullying at every board public board meeting, and who knows what else they did to her during closed session when there were no witnesses. Gaona is a strong woman who deserves respect and admiration because she did not allow the other board members to infect her with their corruption.
I have not finished reading the investigation, but it is gross, and I believe Gaviglios allegations, He has proof that he is not a lier as Gloria is. I want to thank Todd Gaviglio because if it wan't for him, Gloria would be still at the district abusing, bullying and harassing employees, and denying special education students the right to have their needs met. Hope the new board members hire someone who knows what she or he is doing, is respectful, honest and has good values so he can put our students education first.
At BH there is a music teacher who has hit special education students two times, and nothing has been done about it, but Gloria made sure she punished Gaviglio by first moving him to the DO, and then as if it was not enough she demoted him by pointing him to be a teacher. To me, this called retaliation no doubt about it, and it happened because the incumbents allowed it (including Wilson). They should hold responsible, and be removed. I do not want them to be in charge of my children education or out school district. I know Sharifa had to pay back for not firing her partner when she gave the wrong child to another parent when she worked at the CDC, which by the way did not meet the qualifications.


8 people like this
Posted by Board M Do Better Next Time
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 25, 2019 at 8:26 pm

I am guessing that Gloria was paid that big amount of money to avoid the scandal and negative reputation for the district which by the way it cannot be stopped and any way ever since the teachers wrote the letter of no confidence, the district got bad reputation when he board members ignore the teachers, when the BH principal was removed, when Mr. Goff called a member of our community a Monkey, as if he was not human (he was as racist as his wife) and so on. If I was a board member I would have not even give her a penny, and I know that she would have resigned so it would not look like she was fire because of the findings of this investigation. Board Members please do not be afraid to do the right thing, do not give our students money just like that. If you did nothing wrong, and Gloria was the one, she would have not won the case. I really wish you would have not wasted our students' funds on someone who did not deserve any money but a kick on her behind. Are we going to wait for her son to do something even worst of what he has done already to get rid of him too?. I hope you are not planning to give him the very little funds that are left after paying the attorneys, and Gloria. Enough is enough. No more wasting $$, this is why our district does not move forward.


8 people like this
Posted by Nice Severance
a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2019 at 9:28 pm

>> the district agreed to pay her $160,873 in severance.

Not bad for a job poorly done.

Where will Ms. Goff take her educational skills to next? Are there professional headhunters who source school administrator jobs?


2 people like this
Posted by A Misunderstanding?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 26, 2019 at 12:58 pm

Is it possible she was misquoted or her words taken taken out of context?


7 people like this
Posted by Elephant was in the room
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2019 at 11:37 pm

For those who admire Gloria. Here is how she spent her working hours with were paid at 190,000 plus benefits. As you will see in the videos, other RCSD employees also spent time on these TV shows, instead of taking care of our students or doing their work. Hope the new super

Web Link

More videos that might not be on the above link
Web Link RCSD Employees on TV during working hours (Lucy Barron, Lorena M)
Gloria is in the wrong business, she wanted to become a movie star and be famous, now she is famous, but for the wrong reasons, what an embarrassment that it became public how he treated employees.
Web Link She exploited unfortunate families to get money which was spent on?
Web Link Poor Graciela she could not even talk the reporter had to talk for her.


6 people like this
Posted by The Elephant was in the Room
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2019 at 11:39 pm

More Videos of Gloria and RCSD Employees "at work"
Web Link Child was dragged to show, instead of being at school.
Web Link Part 2 Again District employees wasting time on TV shows


1 person likes this
Posted by Gina Lied
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 27, 2019 at 8:11 pm

I can’t believe what Gloria was doing, intead of doing her job and I’m sure the old board members knew and they allowed to happen. They should be kicked out. They cannot be trusted. They are a big disappointment for us voters who put them there to do the check and balance. I’m wonder how much cash they got from the super fornkeeping quiet and renewing her contract. They had to get something. That is the only explanation why, they let her go this far. Wilson and pulido shall not be called trustees as they have lost our trust and we the community shall preset them with a letter of no trust on them, but I bet they will do the same that Super did:NOTHING. I
Also I do not trust Gina as I believe she is lying when she said that she did not give the report to the super till later, after Mr. GAviglio was removed from Willis. Both of them are such a lyers. Gina should not become a superintendent. She learned too much from Gloria. We need a new start. Please trusted board members get somebody new for a superintendent.


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