Superintendent selection process criticized

Union says board mishandled Ghysels' 'breach of conduct'

At the Mountain View Whisman school board meeting Thursday evening, teachers expressed concern over how trustees handled what they called a "breach of professional conduct" by Superintendent Maurice Ghysels, and the less-than-inclusive process by which his "designated successor" was selected.

"We are concerned with the way the Board of Trustees appears to have handled the breach of professional conduct by the superintendent," said Gloria Valdez, president of the local chapter of the California Teacher's Association, reading from a prepared statement.

She said the statement represented the "overwhelming majority" of teachers and that she had spoken with teachers at each of the district's nine schools.

Trustees briefly commented that they had heard from some teachers who did not agree with the statement.

The statement comes over a month after Ghysels revealed his relationship with Landels Principal Carmen Mizell. Ghysels later announced to the board that he had been planning to look for work elsewhere, and he and Craig Goldman, district CFO, agreed that Goldman was the likely successor.

After a closed session meeting on the subject at that time, trustee Phil Palmer read in a statement that Goldman had the "full support of the board to take on the superintendency of our school district" after Ghysels left.

Valdez said though "Craig Goldman has been a dedicated principal and CFO," teachers were "surprised" to learn that he had been the "designated successor" to Ghysels. She said the appointment represented a "shift from the more open and inclusive way in which the trustees have generally selected and appointed superintendents."

Though trustees declined to comment on the statement specifically, saying they would be working directly with the union and teachers, they said that such an appointment is not outside the norm.

Trustee Fiona Walter said school boards have two options when hiring new superintendents: They may conduct a search, hiring a consultant for $35,000 to $45,000, or they can appoint someone to the position on their own.

"Why would I spend $40,000 on a search and end up back at Craig Goldman?" she asked. "We have a fabulous in-house candidate who's had 12 years of interviews."

"Our board unanimously supports Craig Goldman as our internal hire as superintendent of Mountain View Whisman School District," said trustee Ellen Wheeler in an e-mail to the Voice.

"Our nearly 50-point rise in student test scores over these past five years shows how a concerted focus on student achievement can make a difference," she added. "We believe that Craig will do an excellent job of adding to this five years of foundational work."

The union's statement implored trustees to "immediately draft and implement a policy" in regards to the "professional working environment between a supervisor and the persons supervised."

Valdez noted that the union does not support a separation agreement with Ghysels that includes a "financial buy-out."

When asked about the California Teacher's Association statement, Ghysels said through his assistant that "he just wants to keep working on the good things we've been working on and focus on the kids."


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Posted by H. Blix
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 11, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Amazing !!!!

To the board members who have no practicum hours in the classroom what so ever. A sucessful superintendent needs to have rolled up his or her sleeve and have worked in the trenchs/classroom to understand the true concept of education.

Mr. Goldman is a CFO he deals with money. What does he know about school curriculm, human relations and needs of the teachers/students/community??

What a slap in the face for the students,teachers and community that Maurice would say that he is his sucessor, and con the board into believing that. You all have mud on your face. If he is leaving why doesn't he leave now, what is his timeline??

Remember that once a cheat is always a cheat regardless of your title!!

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Posted by A community volunteer
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Before someone starts second guessing how appropriate Craig Goldman is as an appointee, perhaps they should actually do some research into his years of service in the education field and look to see what a good fit he may actually be. Asking the above open-ended question shows a lack of knowledge and does not give him credit for his experience. What a disservice. Can we all try to be a bit more positive in light of the difficult circumstances that we find ourselves in ? From the article above, it sounds like the statement from the CTA that was shared was more about a concern of process than for the candidate himself. Can we get some clarification around that by someone who actually knows what the concern is ?

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Posted by anonymous teacher
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2009 at 4:02 pm

The question that needs to be asked is "When exactly did the Board know of Maurice's lack of fidelity and sexual impropriety with an employee?" If they knew before he signed his contract this summer, they put our money at risk. To think that he could weather the storm of public criticism was a very expensive game of chicken. If they knew either officially or through rumor, they are not worthy of our trust and continued support. To think that we may have to pay a $180,000 payout to Maurice while he is not working is galling. The hardworking teachers of our district have not received a pay increase or a cost of living adjustment in 6 years.

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Posted by RecallRita
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2009 at 4:08 pm


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Posted by KD
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 11, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Craig Goldman knows the district, the issues and all the parties at the table. He is a lawyer by training, taught in Burlingame, was principal at Huff for 9 years (both my children attended / graduated) and has worked as the district CFO for the past 2-3 years. I endorse the board's decision to name him Superintendent of the district and have every confidence that he will do an excellent job.

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Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 11, 2009 at 5:56 pm

The official minutes of the Board show that when discussing personnel issues - including a Goldman promotion - "the Board took no action". Goldman does not have a contract to be superintendent (yet). And to beg to differ with Trustee Walker - it does not take $35,000 to hold public hearings or superintendent replacement workshops.

There is no "official" decision to hire Goldman. That must be a public contract.

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Posted by teacher
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2009 at 7:43 pm

I agree that we should move for impeachment of the board, there is a hidden agenda to protect and pay out the superintendent. And then to also promote who he feels should be his successor. Is this the example that we want to set for our district and for our students?? What a joke! I never trusted him from the start and now I know why. This is all a sham and a cover up. Please wake up and smell the coffee people. He was obviously thinking with his " SECOND HEAD" and the board wants to reward him for this action. I am embarressed to tell other professionals that I work for the MVWSD.

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Posted by Mom
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 11, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Ghysels comment " focus on the kids " he should have thought about that before he started messing around with the principle. What a mess of thing he's but all of us through. I like Racalrita comment impeach the board. I think a board member got a job because of Ghysels makes you wonder there all in bed together.

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Posted by Betty
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 11, 2009 at 9:05 pm

Ghysels shouldn't get on dime from the tax payers.

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Posted by Teacher 2
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 11, 2009 at 9:44 pm

I am appalled with the reaction by the Trustees who seemed disinterested or bothered by the fact that an overwhelming majority of teachers in the school district stood behind this statement.

"The teachers of the Mountain View-Whisman School District remain focused on providing a quality, standard-based educational program for the students in our district. We are concerned with the way the Board of Trustees appears to have handled the breach of professional conduct by the superintendent."

"M.V.E.A. does not support any separation agreement with Superintendent Ghysels that includes a financial buy-out."

"We request that the Board of Trustees immediately draft and implement a policy that maintains the integrity of a professional working environment between a supervisor and the persons supervised."

"Although Craig Goldman has been a dedicated principal and CFO, teachers were surprised to know that Mr. Goldman has been the designated successor to Dr. Ghysels as it represents a shift from the more open and inclusive way in which the Trustees have generally selected and appointed superintendents. We trust that an opportunity for input by the staff will be scheduled in the near future."

Their lack of respect and value towards the "worker bees" of the district is absolutely discouraging. Mr, Ghysels and his educational experiment had NO EFFECT on student scores, and if Mr. Goldman is expected to continue the momentum, well "good luck to ya!"

An over whelming majority of teachers in the MV school district are not drinking the Ghysels-CI Kool Aid. So a word of advice to Craig, who I respect and like a lot. Go ahead take the ride to the top, but when you're there be yourself and trust in your own knowledge and expertise as an educator. Huff is a successful school for many reasons. As Huff principal you managed and led the school well, and you did it without CI. Your interventions were targeted and simple. You trusted your staff and supported their development. The schools in MV can thrive under your leadership if you follow your original formula to success.

As for the Trustees, you all need to get out to the school sites. The MV teachers should be your number one concern if you really care about the kids. You seem to be more interested in aligning yourself solely with the district office Gang than the people who are really making the difference for kids on a daily basis. Stop letting your ego get in the way of seeking the truth. Talk to your teachers!

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 12, 2009 at 2:40 am

I thought that Maurice Ghysels' contract was up at the end of this year and he was not staying on after that. If this is true, I believe that there won't be any sort of financial buyout, because they aren't cutting his contract short. So to keep talkng about a buyout ad nauseum is only to try and keep people stirred up, imho. Red herring.

Teacher 2 -- I heard that Landels as a school really adopted CI. Landels scores went up a huge amount this year, if I'm not mistaken? You will say it had nothing to do with CI, they might say differently. But from my observation, in public education, people change systems, curricula, programs, constantly, like changing shoes, without really giving them a chance to succeed or fail, so you don't really know if a program might work. If a program is implemented haphazardly for a few years, you can't say it got a fair or scientific trial, so you can't say if it was successful or not.

H. Blix -- "Mr. Goldman is a CFO he deals with money. What does he know about school curriculm, human relations and needs of the teachers/students/community??" As an earlier poster pointed out, this is way off base, and it's obvious that you do not know anything about Craig's background. All of these areas you cite are things Craig excels at. The CFO thing was the new thing for him, his background was not finance. And he's done a great job at it, from all accounts. But what will make him a great superintendent is his knowledge, experience & skills in curriculum, HR, needs of teacher/students/community, etc.

To Mom from Sylvan Park: "I think a board member got a job because of Ghysels" -- huh? Can you elaborate with some facts? People take out papers to run for school board elections. Recent board members were appointed because they ran unopposed. Only one candidate, no need for an election. That's the way it works. So how did Ghysels ensure that there were no other candidates? Break out the tin foil hats, folks, the conspiracy theories are thick in this district.

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Posted by Stan
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Dec 12, 2009 at 7:10 am

Wheeler claims a 50 pt gain in scores, but ignores the widening achievement gap. Walters states there are only two options to hire a supe? A consultancy firm or an internal appt? What about listing the position and taking in applications and then selecting a committee of parents teachers and adminisrators to conduct a background and intereview process? Gee, it took me all of 5 seconds to think of that costless and open option! Afterall, we all know this district track record for success when it comes to hiring a consultant and internal appointments. What a joke! It just shows how the board's lack of imagination coupled with their naivety is staggering. The district and board are all about self-serving the local politically active power parents at the expense of everyone else. As for as Ghysels, he should go look in the mirror and blame himself for all this. He has brought this district to the verge of chaos. No one respects anything coming out of the district office. Their is no leadership.

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Posted by Parent of Two
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Dec 12, 2009 at 10:17 am

I agree with Stan. Mr. Ghysels brought this on himself. He is at fault for creating the drama. I don't understand how the Trustees could give him a 2% raise? They should have saved our dollars and put the money towards direct student services. Have they taken the time to add up all the extra $$$ perks he gets and maybe think of another way the money could be spent? I know my teachers could use a bigger classroom library. Think of the classroom needs Trustees. Mr. Ghysels is not worth retaining!!!

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Posted by reader
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 12, 2009 at 11:35 am

Ghysel's new contract is for 4 years and includes a guaranteed 2% raise annually. He feels absolutely no remorse and could care less about the district (why should he, he's leaving - we hope), the teachers, or the kids. He has made this very obvious with his actions with the trustees.
But the fault also lies hugely with the board. They absolutely need to go, every one of them.
We can hope that Goldman will do a good job, there is no doubt that he is qualified. If he takes that time to ask for and listen to input from the teachers he couldn't help but do better than Ghysels. The question is will Goldman do that? He has a history of wanting to be the one making decisions (no input necessary) and the staff is fed up with that kind of behavior. CI was supposed to be working from the bottom (teacher input, kid input) up to the top (administration). It did not work that way at all.
It is time for a house cleaning - HR staff, admins, AND the board!

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Posted by Educator
a resident of another community
on Dec 12, 2009 at 11:59 am

Parent of Waverly Park....It is rumored that Mr. Ghysels went to the board in July and told them of his indiscretion. In August, AFTER the disclosure, the school board OFFERED and SIGNED a FOUR year contract to keep him on. The board will now have to pay him for 18 months of this contract if he doesn't leave on his own accord. Can anyone CONFIRM this rumor? If TRUE, do you really want to continue with this school board? I agree with Stan, listing the position and taking in applications and then selecting a committee of parents teachers and adminisrators to conduct a background and intereview process. No one respects anything coming out of the district. There is no leadership. Mr. Ghysels is "not a good fit for the district".

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Posted by reader
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 12, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Most of them currently in the DO in Admin positions are "not a good fit for the district." Get off "the bus" Maurice!!! No one wants your leadership and you have lost our respect. Please do the right thing and just pack up and leave. Use the $$ you get from your consulting job to support your life style.

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Posted by Claire
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Dec 13, 2009 at 7:48 am

I was at the board meeting when the letter was read and was shocked at the "poker game faces" of the trustees and Ghysels, Totter, Lairon and Goldman! I was expecting a professional exchange which the union sought as well. Instead, the trustees seemed irritated by the teachers union's right to weigh in on the issue and voice their concerns. It would appear that the trusteess don't believe the teachers have any role to play in the way this district conducts it's business and moves forward, which does not bode well for our schools. I was astonished to even see Goldman rolling his eyes and making faces mocking the whole event. Wow! We are in trouble folks. And then Fiona telling everyone how she's received emails from few teachers supporting the current "state of affairs". That really floored me as well. It seems as if for them, these issues have come down to nothing more than saving face, and mostly for this goof Ghysels. Why they feel they need to display and extend such loyalty to this guy is perplexing. The district and your roles in it, trustees, are not about one person and his image, or about you all saving face and circling the wagons It's about you all responding to your constituents and putting the needs and interests of the children first. The trustess are adrift and rudderless and someone needs to throw them a line soon. They also need to spend more time at the schools observing what's going on by talking to teachers rather than bunkering down in the district offices gobbling up whatever Ghysels feeds them. I think the teachers union took a bold step here and attempted to throw them a life line. We need to get off focusing only on Ghysels, Goldman and the other incompetents in the district offices and start listening to the people that work and interact with our children on a daily basis. I also agree with Stan regarding setting up a home-grown and free superintendent hiring committee and that the point increases in the district are highly subjective and open to interpretation. In addition, they ignore the increased achievement gap under Ghysels and the lagging performance of minority populations in the district that comprise nearly 50% of the students.

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Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 13, 2009 at 12:02 pm

USA is a registered user.

From all the comments, it appears that the only real problem is that the teachers and union have their nose out of joint about not having more power in the process. Oh well.

The board made a good decision in Craig Goldman. Both of my daughters went to Huff where Craig was principal. Craig is a good egg.

Mom -- it's "principal"

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Posted by no
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Dec 13, 2009 at 1:18 pm

USA-I want my children's teachers to be empowered. Those teachers are the most important part of the equation in this school district. They offer an invaluable perspective on how mandates and management theory actually play out in the classroom. None of the district office administrators have ever taught in a classroom in this new era of accountability or for that matter in the 21st century. When they want to try out business strategies in the classroom, it pulls the teachers' focus off of being responsive to the needs of the unique students in each classroom. Each school in Mountain View has its own issues. The current one size fits all approach is doing a disservice to the students in Mtn. View schools. We should be glad that the teachers are finally speaking up. Their input has not been heard in a very long time. I believe that they want an opportunity, in seating a new superintendent, to have a voice in the conversation about how to make sure all students excel in our schools, and the direction of the district with new leadership. If anyone doubts the real motivation of the teachers in this district, I encourage you to drive by the school parking lots on the weekends. Teachers are usually there on Saturday or Sunday-making sure that lessons are ready for the week ahead. District administrators do not have a lock on solving the complicated issues facing education today. They would do well to consider the input of the people closest to the student "customer"-the teachers. The community of Mtn. View is missing out on the true innovations that could happen in our schools if the district would work with our professionals in the classrooms.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 13, 2009 at 3:27 pm

I haven't looked up the agenda for the board meeting when the teachers presented their letter. Was it on the agenda, or during public comment time? If it was not on the agenda, that would explain the poker faces and lack of "professional exchange" that Claire mentions. The board never comments on non-agenda items. No organization does, if they are truly following an agenda -- even PTA boards are not supposed to address or take action on non-agenda items.

Has anyone asked all of the Huff teachers who worked with Craig their opinion of him as a superintendent?

As for the process of hiring a superintendent -- I suppose they could just post the job and do interviews. But since every school district hires supers by using a search firm, not sure if you'd get the same sorts of candidates. I guess I just don't know enough about the process; but I know that companies, both profit and non-profit, usually hire executive search firms when they need to hire a CEO or Exec Director. I personally would be a little leery of an executive candidate who was surfing Craig's List for jobs, but maybe it would be OK.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 13, 2009 at 3:35 pm

One thing I forgot. I think if you all want to impeach the board, you should automatically be appointed to their terms. No one ever runs for that thankless job. I'm grateful to the folks that are doing it. I may disagree with some decisions, agree with others, but it is all too easy to criticize and not step up to the plate. If I'm not willing to do it, I may call or email them my questions or opinion on things or tell them something I'm not happy with in the district, but I won't trash them. I'm not willing to take the job, so other than voting for a different candidate (if there is one), I don't think I have the right to bash them wholesale. Airing an honest difference of opinion is fine. The "they should be impeached" name-calling is not very productive. My opinion. Which will probably now open me for bashing. Oh, well...

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Posted by parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 13, 2009 at 8:20 pm

I've seen the "poker faces" (that Claire describes above) as the norm.

I've also observed that it's not unusual for only 3 or 4 trustees to participate in board discussions, and the questions they ask staff tend to be very superficial, not probing or substantive.

It's my observation that trustees APPEAR to know in advance of meetings how they will vote, based on their minimal discussion and unanimous votes that show complete disregard for dissenting community input.

I've been explicitly told that trustees have an agreement that the board president replies to emails on behalf of the board. I've never had any other elected official tell me that one of their peers would reply on behalf of the entire governing body.

Several times at school board meetings I have asked specific questions about school finances. Both Ghysels and Goldman have replied that they would be happy to answer my questions "over coffee."

That's not name calling, it's not judging, it's simply an observation that I and other parents have experienced.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 15, 2009 at 7:00 am

All of this is a distraction from the real issues - we have a one size fits all system that hurts all kids and we're in a race to the bottom or at least to the middle of nowhere. We can thank our school administrative leadership teams for this.

I've seen the sup intended parade around Huff will his bull horn with parents in tow like the pied piper of Hameln. His Napoleonic views and command and control management style should go over well with those who prefer to remain caught up in the test scores which take our kids nowhere.

However, it's easy to quarterback from the anonymity of our home offices, how many of you will be running for the school board in the next election? And can you make better decisions than those made by our current leaders? They put in a lot of thankless time and energy trying to do the right thing on behalf of all of us.

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Posted by Pete
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Dec 16, 2009 at 3:35 pm

To Parent of Waverly Park:

Hiring costly consultant firms to choose a superintendent got us to where we are now. The process doesn't work and it always an old boy network that shops candidates around. I find it hard to believe that the community of parent and teachers and administrators would be able to do a better job of choosing a qualified candidate at no charge.

As for the board, don't get involved if you don't plan on getting fully involved.

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Posted by Thomas g
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 16, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Mr. goldman knows more about school curriculm, then you will ever Mr Blix.

He's the right man for the job. go whine somewhere else

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Posted by no
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Dec 16, 2009 at 4:46 pm

I'm not sure that the community of parents and teachers necessarily wants to spend money on an executive search, but there is usually a process for input when there is going to be a change of leadership. The way this change of leadership is shaping up, it appears to close out input from the greater community on the direction the district is going. My understanding is that as a public school district, the position of superintendent must be advertised and interviews held. This does not mean that Craig Goldman might not still be the strongest candidate for the job, but the school board seems to have shortchanged the community of the opportunity to give input on what they would value in a superintendent and the direction they would like to see the district go. I hope they step back a bit and solicit input from parents and teachers.

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Posted by Jen
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 16, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Yeah no kidding it's a public position and should be open to the public for applications and input. Oh, I forgot King Ghysels has chosen his designated successor! What a joke. The union was right to get up and say enough of all this.

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Posted by Jonah
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Dec 16, 2009 at 9:22 pm

I am very suspicious of an public organization that closes itself off to public input. What are they afraid of?

Come on Ms. the position, review the applicants, hold interviews, and then hire the best person.

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Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Dec 20, 2009 at 8:37 am

Superintendents should not be designated, particularly by a disgraced cad of a superintendent like Ghysels. The board needs to start acting more like a representative body and less like a military junta.

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Posted by Ray
a resident of Castro City
on Dec 22, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Ray is a registered user.

More nonsense from the school board and so-called district administrators. When will it end?

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Posted by Ronelle
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 5, 2010 at 4:19 am

So what's the deal with this guy Ghysels, is he stepping down or not? Maybe he figured if he told everyone he was stepping down, and then laid low for a while it would all go away. These are tough times and we need an identifiable leader in our school district. Who is it? Goldman or Ghysels?

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