The Woodside Elementary School District in the Menlo Park area spent almost $600,000 to dismiss a teacher.
According to a report by The Almanac, the district tried to fire the teacher, but in November 2015, an administrative panel dismissed all charges against the instructor. The teacher not only continued to be employed by the school, but apparently received a raise before eventually being persuaded to leave – with a hefty severance payment.
District officials were left responsible for all costs associated with the hearing, and had to pay for the teacher’s attorney fees as well as their own.
The Almanac made repeated attempts over the past year for documents related to the costs, but was stonewalled. The newspaper filed a Public Records Act request March 9, but did not receive any documents until April 18, two weeks after an election for a parcel tax measure promoted by the school district.
The parcel tax, Measure Z, presented voters with the following ballot question:
“To maintain and enhance academic excellence at Woodside School through emphasis on quality instruction, especially in math, science, reading and writing, attracting/ retaining outstanding teachers/ maintaining small class sizes, shall the Woodside Elementary School District extend its existing annual school tax without increasing the current rate of $290.00 per parcel each year for eight years, adjusted annually, with independent citizens’ oversight, an exemption for those 65 years and older, and all funds spent only in Woodside School?”
The tax was approved with 73 percent of the vote, and is expected to bring in $300,000 annually.
The cost of dismissing the teacher therefore is just short of two years’ worth of the parcel tax revenue.
Documents provided to the newspaper after the election revealed that the district spent more than $180,000 for both legal counsels, $174,000 in teacher pay and benefits, and an additional $200,000 in severance pay.
Individual district members refused to answer the newspaper’s questions and instead released a joint board/district statement:
“The District does not intend to comment at length about this matter, given privacy concerns, but in light of the local interest in this topic, we feel the public should be aware that the district and Board have to make tough calls sometimes in matters of staffing and the system in state law for dismissing teachers is challenging for both school districts and staff. The District and Board have accepted the outcome of the process in this case and we’re focused on the future and continuing to offer an excellent educational experience to all our students.” (Source: The Almanac, May 16.)