Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary principal resigns shortly before new school's grand opening

Graham Middle School's assistant principal Vern Taylor named to replace Michael Jones

After spending a year leading a school that has yet to open, Vargas Elementary School's principal announced his resignation, effective June 30. The new school is set to open in less than three months.

Principal Michael Jones announced his resignation in an email sent to parents Friday, May 31, stating that he needed "flexibility" to travel from the U.S. to the United Arab Emirates, where his family resides. He said completing his family's immigration into the U.S. is an ongoing process that will continue over the next year.

Michael Jones
Just days after Michael Jones announced his resignation, Mountain View Whisman School District Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph told parents in an email June 3 that Vern Taylor, assistant principal at Graham Middle School, would be taking over as the new principal of Vargas Elementary.

Jones described his departure as "bittersweet" and said he was grateful to work with the future school community in the Whisman and Slater neighborhoods of Mountain View.

"Thank you for the opportunity to work as the instructional leader of what I know will be a learning institution of excellence," Jones said in the email. "Thank you for your trust and for our time working alongside each other as we prepared Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary for our children."

Jones, selected by district administrators in May 2018, previously held an executive position overseeing a cluster of schools in Abu Dhabi for three years. Before that, he worked for five years as a principal at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, a school district in Charlotte, North Carolina.

District administrators hired Jones before the new school on the former Slater campus was named. Students in the northeast end of Mountain View have been divided between Theuerkauf, Huff and Landels elementary school campuses, and many of those children attend the district's choice programs in lieu of neighborhood schools.

In addition to planning for the opening of Vargas Elementary, Jones spent the early part of his brief stint in Mountain View Whisman as interim principal for Stevenson Elementary, filling in while its principal, Rebecca Westover, was out on personal leave, according to the district website. After that, he focused on "staffing and logistics" for Vargas.

"I am confident that the next leader of Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary will guide its successful opening," Jones said in his email to parents.

Taylor, an 11-year district employee, taught at Castro Elementary before becoming an instructional coach in 2014. He was appointed to be assistant principal at Graham Middle School in October 2017, just five months before the school board voted in March 2018 to remove Kim Thompson as principal of Graham and reassigned the other assistant principal, Heidi Galassi, to be the principal of Landels Elementary School.

Taylor joined Graham at a critical time when a new "cascading" eight-period schedule was rolled out, along with a new co-teaching model to support students with special needs.

Rudolph said Taylor was selected as principal on an accelerated timeline so he could prepare for the opening of Vargas Elementary over the summer, and that he is qualified to lead the school.

"I know Mr. Taylor will hit the ground running and build on the Vargas planning set in place," Rudolph said in the email. "We are excited for him, a well-respected educator, to move into this position that supports our students and the new Vargas community."

Taylor did not immediately respond to the Voice's requests for comment.

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65 people like this
Posted by Great hire, Ayinde!
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 3, 2019 at 1:53 pm

Just a thought, but maybe try someone local next? Someone whose family lives closer than Abu Dhabi -- might be an idea worth considering.

Hiring your friends from NC to be instruction leaders of nonexistent schools isn't working out so well. For Mtn. View anyway.

8 people like this
Posted by Bored M
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 3, 2019 at 2:28 pm

@Great Hire

That's an ignorant comment. Look around you in Rex Manor. How many of those people, who I assume are successful and good at what they do to afford homes in Rex Manor, have family overseas?

I'm not saying the hire was great, but the comment sure wasn't.

27 people like this
Posted by Greg Coladonato
a resident of Slater
on Jun 3, 2019 at 2:42 pm

Greg Coladonato is a registered user.

Well that's disappointing. With summer about to begin, most educators have already had their jobs lined up for the fall for months. It's going to be a real scramble to find a great, experienced principal to fill this vacancy before school starts.

36 people like this
Posted by Middle S Parent
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 3, 2019 at 3:15 pm

Middle S Parent is a registered user.

Are ANY of the new hires working out?

Graham has certainly not benefited from Hermosillo. School communication is horrible. Any information provided to parents is given at the last minute and is often incomplete. The new elective selection "process" is a joke. There is no way to rank choices and the situation for kids in .2 math is never properly explained. See below.

Kids who selected French last year have been abandoned. They now have covered 1/2 of the high school beginning class. No one seems to care.

This NEVER would have happened with Kim Thompson!

So sad! Does our school board just not care or are they just not informed as to what is going on?

Web Link

Q: What is the difference between academic enrichment elective and general elective?
A: Electives are electives. All students will have access to the full catalog of electives, regardless of which category the class is in. The electives were organized in the catalog in two categories because we want to understand students’ interest in both academic and non-academic areas so that we can better schedule them. During the scheduling process, we’ll make sure each student gets core subjects, an RTI class (it may be intervention, .2 math or academic enrichment) and at least one choice elective.

48 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 3, 2019 at 3:19 pm

Ed is a registered user.

Perhaps the board would consider reappointing one of the great, experienced principals who were inexplicably demoted last year?

43 people like this
Posted by Community member
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 3, 2019 at 3:22 pm

Steve Chesley would make a fine principal. Just saying.

29 people like this
Posted by WTF
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2019 at 3:51 pm

is there some sort of an impeachment process for a sup?!

34 people like this
Posted by Sad at Slater
a resident of Slater
on Jun 3, 2019 at 3:54 pm

So much to speculate on with this article.

Immigration seems like a pretty well documented process. If Jones knew he’d have this issue why take the role? Was he ever intending to stay until Vargas opened?

Word has it that he has taken a leadership role at a tech company, which begs the question as to whether or not Jones used this role as a stepping stone to a bigger, better Silicon Valley salary.

Totally tired of rotating leadership in MVWDD. When will the focus be on training and retaining staff and leadership?

20 people like this
Posted by J.D.
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Jun 3, 2019 at 3:59 pm

Seems ironic that someone who's trying to help their family enter the country legally is employed by a school that's named after a person famous for having entered the country illegally. Yes, I know Mr. Vargas was a child when brought here, just saying

4 people like this
Posted by WTF
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2019 at 4:35 pm

Yet he is flaunting his status... not a child anymore. Just saying!

I am sure immigration is just a pretext for leaving for a greener pasture though.

36 people like this
Posted by KittyCatty
a resident of another community
on Jun 3, 2019 at 10:57 pm

KittyCatty is a registered user.

What a shame that the students and teachers are yet again suffering for the decisions made by our District Office. We are cutting programs, we're cutting summer school, because we are so busy paying someone a 6 figure salary to run an empty school and then skip town when the kids are months from arriving?

They say you can tell a lot about a person by the company that they keep. Isn't this a personal friend of our Superintendent? Time for a clean sweep. What a travesty

35 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 3, 2019 at 11:04 pm

neighbor is a registered user.

There are no words for this. If I was on the school board, I would be embarrassed to have been so taken advantage of and manipulated by our SUP. He continues to hire his favorites, from either Charlotte-Mecklenburg or his loyalists from MVWSD into coveted positions. Vern gets the principal job at Vargas literally overnight! So he and Heidi, both assistant principals 1 year ago with scant experience, get Principal jobs 1 year later. I believe all the principals in the last year are new, except for Bubb principal Cyndee. Is that correct? If so, something must be wrong with the district leadership. It's not right that all those principals deserve to be fired, or are resigning because presumably they are miserable working for SUP. Something is fishy here. When is he going to leave? The writing is on the wall...

14 people like this
Posted by OneMoreTime
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 4, 2019 at 12:31 am

OneMoreTime is a registered user.

Middle S Parent -- I sympathize with your frustration, but the elective debacle cannot be blamed on the site administrators. The decision to provide electives to all students was predicated on the promise that the district would hire additional elective/enrichment teachers who specialized in teaching world languages, visual arts, performing arts, and STEM. Teachers repeatedly expressed concerns about the district's ability to hire elective teachers who had the content expertise and passion to teach these courses. Due to the current teacher shortage in the area, the teachers' fears have proven to be justified. The middle school site administrators are left to cobble together an electives program that is often driven by the credentials of current teachers, not Ayinde's original promise of exploratory classes that provide hands-on, participatory, meaningful, and engaging experiences. There are many goals that are admirable in Ayinde's strategic plan, but the outcomes are far from what he promised.

BTW -- No disrespect intended to the hardworking teachers who have worked tirelessly to provide meaningful electives courses for our students.

15 people like this
Posted by An Interested Observer
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2019 at 1:56 am

An Interested Observer is a registered user.

Sure hope he returns the salary he was paid. Oh, but that would be the ethical thing to do and ..... his action shows he is so unethical.. it's hard to believe!!!

13 people like this
Posted by Cfrink
a resident of Willowgate
on Jun 4, 2019 at 3:30 am

Cfrink is a registered user.

It always makes me laugh that people insist they understand how the hiring practices of the district work. And yet their comments repeatedly reveal complete cluelessness. Just in case, community members, parents and staff participate in the process for these roles. In fact they typically do the first round of cuts to get the group down to finalists. Guess can participate if you get off your computer and get down to the district and ask!

It’s also interesting how many people find it unacceptable to hire people who’s work you know, as a manager. This is a bedrock of Silicon Valley hiring practices. Everyone interviews and hires people they know and have worked with in the past for the simple reason that they are typically trustworthy.

These commenters never disappoint. It’s a crap show every day.

26 people like this
Posted by another community member
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2019 at 6:27 am

another community member is a registered user.

Graham's assistant principal was a very strong teacher at Castro, a respected teacher-coach in the district, and admired Assistant Principal at Graham. His selection represents how the system should work. It sends the message, do good work in MVWSD, and there's the opportunity to rise. I hope this replaces the past image that in-house talent gets quickly dismissed if they make mistakes, then to be replaced by out-of-state educators, who are then forgiven if they make the same mistakes, that cost their predecessors their jobs, with the only difference being that the new hires are less likely to question who hired them. The process is again less than ideal, but in this case, the final outcome is a good one. I hope the former Landels principal will also be given the chance to lead again too.

28 people like this
Posted by Gaby
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jun 4, 2019 at 8:41 am

Gaby is a registered user.

What about that [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language] at the helm of Mistral? If you ever wanted to know how it feels to know that your [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language] principal probably maintains a lot more interest, respect, and compassion toward a ham sandwich than kids under her charge, give dual-immersion a try!

Our district ended up with two North Carolina transplants last year. One was qualified and the other wasn't. Guess which one isn't leaving?

28 people like this
Posted by Middle S Parent
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 4, 2019 at 10:32 am

Middle S Parent is a registered user.


Certain things are indeed beyond the control of the site admins, however, Hermosillo could have:

* Contacted parents to let them know what was happening with French.
* Indicated in some fashion that this was actually a priority.
* Made a real effort to hire a replacement teacher (certification in French is not that rare).
* Clearly communicated with parents regarding elective choices
* Allowed for rank-ordering of electives

2 people like this
Posted by KittyCatty
a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2019 at 10:56 pm

KittyCatty is a registered user.

@ neighbor. You are mistaken. Huff has had Geoff Chang for 3 years. Gloria HIggins @ Monta Loma has also been in her position for a number of years. So not quite a new one each year.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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