UPDATE: This morning (Feb. 28), Assistant Superintendent Lorena Morales-Ellis, who was picked by the board to replace Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff during her suspension, turned down the job, forcing the board to look for another interim replacement.
Morales-Ellis sent an email to the school board this morning that said: “This e-mail is to officially inform you that I am respectfully declining your offer to take on the superintendent’s day to today duties and responsibilities. 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. I thank you for your consideration, and you have my commitment that I will continue to serve Ravenswood in my current capacity to the best of my abilities.”
No word yet on who the board’s second choice will be.
BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
East Palo Alto’s controversial school district Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff was placed on paid administrative leave today (Feb. 27).
Ravenswood City School Board President Tamara Sobomehin said in an email that Hernandez-Goff was suspended yesterday “effective immediately,” but offered no explanation.
In Hernandez-Goff’s absence, Assistant Superintendent Lorena Morales-Ellis is overseeing all of the district’s day-to-day operations, said Sobomehin.
Hernandez-Goff has been under fire for the past few years. In May 2017, 143 of the district’s 184 teachers signed a letter asking her to resign.
Teachers were upset after Hernandez-Goff and other administrators allegedly told parents where teachers would be assigned for the next year before the instructors themselves were notified. That created an “air of distrust,” her opponents said.
Hernandez-Goff was also criticized for reassigning popular Belle Haven Elementary School principal Todd Gaviglio to a desk job in the central office. In April, about 200 students were kept home from school by their parents to protest the removal of Gaviglio.
She was also criticized for deciding to relinquish the district’s control of its preschool, the Child Development Center, which is now being run by a county contractor.
Her son’s on the payroll
In Feburary 2018, East Palo Alto Councilman Ruben Abrica revealed that Hernandez-Goff had put her son, John Denos, on the district’s payroll in the HR department. When the district had a round of layoffs, Denos job was spared. A district spokesman said at the time that Hernandez-Goff didn’t directly supervise her son. But critics of the district held out the hiring of Denos as an example of corruption in the school system.
On April 26, the school board voted 3-1 to renew Hernandez-Goff’s contract for another two years. Board member Marilena Goana-Mendoza voted against the contract. Then-trustee Marcelino Lopez was absent.
Prior to her contract being renewed, Hernandez-Goff said she has achieved two major accomplishments — the opening of a middle school and revamping the district’s special education program so it did not have to be overseen by a federal judge.
Two reformers elected in November
In November, two new board members, Sobomehin and Stephanie Fitch, who both campaigned in favor of reforming the district, were elected, replacing Lopez and Charlie Mae Knight. Ana Pulido, who voted to keep Hernandez-Goff, was also re-elected.
While it wasn’t known what led to Hernandez-Goff’s suspension, the board met Monday in closed session to discuss “Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release.” No name was listed on the agenda. The board also held a closed session that day to review a claim filed by Gaviglio against the district.
Today, the board will be meeting in closed session to discuss multiple personnel issues, one of which is “public employee discipline/dismissal/release.” The agenda also has the item “possible release/reassignment of certificated administrators,” which could potentially mean a further shakeup among the district’s administration.
Hernandez-Goff has been superintendent for just over five years, joining the district in July 2013 after working for the Twin Rivers Unified School District in Sacramento.
Morales-Ellis, who will be acting as superintendent during Hernandez-Goff’s suspension, also joined the district in July 2013, and prior to her joining the district, worked for Twin Rivers.
The transition comes at a time of financial stress for the district that serves East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park.
In December, district leaders announced they are planning to cut $3.7 million from the budget by next year. Last year, the district cut $5 million from its budget. The district lost funding from the state, which is based on enrollment. Families in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park have been moving their children to charter schools. Test scores in the Ravenswood district are lower than other districts.