News

Major leadership changes on the way for Mountain View Whisman schools

Musical chairs for top staff amid turnover at schools and district office

The Mountain View Whisman School District has selected three new principals, an assistant principal and a chief business officer amid staffing changes caused by turnover.

Similar to last year's administrative churn, the district office released a statement Wednesday with a long list of changes for the 2019-20 school year. Stevenson Elementary's principal, Rebecca Westover, will head to the district office as the new chief business officer, filling a position left vacant by Robert Clark in April.


Rebecca Westover

Ryan Santiago

Mariko Kobata

Vern Taylor

Miguel Espinoza
Westover led Stevenson, the district's parent participation choice program, for three years, and previously was assistant principal of Jordan Middle School in Palo Alto. She has a bachelor's degree with a minor in economics and a master's degree from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, and received a doctorate in education at the University of La Verne.

Replacing Westover will be Ryan Santiago, currently an assistant principal at Graham Middle School. He was "reassigned" to the position by the board in March 2018 after working for three years as principal of Theuerkauf Elementary School. During his short stint at Graham, Santiago was responsible for leading the sixth grade class of students and was the primary contact for after-school programs, according to a statement by Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph.

Replacing Santiago in the assistant principal position at Graham will be Mariko Kobata, the district's special education coordinator. Her tenure in the district spans 17 years with roots as a special education teacher at Graham and Huff Elementary School.

Though not yet opened, the district's newest school -- Jose Antonio Vargas Elementary -- also experienced turnover. Last week, Vargas Principal Michael Jones announced he had to resign from the role, citing a need for more "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.

Replacing Jones will be Vern Taylor, also an assistant principal at Graham Middle School, who spent less than two years in the role before he was named the new principal of Vargas on May 31. Taylor had been a Castro Elementary School teacher and an instructional coach in the district before his promotion to assistant principal in October 2017.

Rudolph announced in April that Huff Elementary has a new principal in Miguel Espinoza, who will be moving to the Bay Area from Stanislaus County after working for three years as principal of Josephine Chrysler Elementary School. Espinoza does have Bay Area roots -- before moving to the Central Valley, Espinoza was the academic dean and assistant principal at the Ravenswood City School District, working with Spanish-language dual immersion students and schools with a high concentration of low-income students.

Espinoza replaces Geoff Chang, who has been the Huff principal since 2016 and plans to take a leave of absence for "personal reasons" starting on June 30. Espinoza was chosen for his "varied" experience and his community-building capabilities, which Rudolph said is particularly important with school attendance boundaries changing in the 2019-20 school year.

"With Huff undergoing a shift in enrollment, I think that this is an important attribute," Rudolph said. "I am confident that Miguel will continue the work of Mr. Chang, and help Huff soar to greater heights."

The district had a similar lengthy introduction to new school leadership around the same time last year. That announcement came after the school board voted to remove and reassign four principals at Graham Middle School and Mistral, Theuerkauf and Landels elementary schools.

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Comments

72 people like this
Posted by Rudolph Must Go!
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 6, 2019 at 4:21 pm

As usual The Voice is missing a lot of between the lines analysis required of critical journalism. Since when does a leave of absence lead to a new external hire? A leave of absence for "personal reasons" is code for you're fired for not jelling with the Superintendent's ego and authoritarian style. It's also code that Huff will no longer be the white flight school. And since when does a PACT principal make a good CFO, particularly in light of all the financial chaos and mistakes in the last two years? This sounds like more an offer of something you can't refuse and a plan to punish Stevenson and the PACT program, all part of the larger plan to dismantle the choice programs. First they did it to Spanish Immersion at Mistral, by chasing away their principal to greener pastures and a real DI program in Palo Alto, and now they are going after PACT. Meanwhile, Santiago will become the heavy to squash the power elite parents just like Miller at Mistral. Let's not forget as well that these moves now leave Graham MS without any experienced VPs. Way to go. Campus leadership and experience at Graham is now one person, one year deep. Complete insanity. The only thing that has changed is that after last year's parent backlash to the purge, Rudolph and Ghysels have figured out even more underhanded means to enact their directionless, shoot-from the hip plans. Sooner or later the Board and community will have to realize that these two really don't know what they are doing and are only sitting around for a paycheck. In the meantime students will pay the price and the district will take years to recover.


44 people like this
Posted by Elaine
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 6, 2019 at 9:19 pm

Isn’t this always the way of MVWSD? They make controversial changes and they happen to coincide with the end of school/start of summer when people’s focus is elsewhere. Is anyone else concerned we are getting a CBO with no background or experience in this area? Our heads are still spinning from the last CBO’s blunder one year ago:
Web Link

(Again, note the date this was announced - end of school/start of summer.) Then the Sup sent him packing with a half year’s salary just about a month ago with no explanation. MVWSD just spent over a year’s pay on a principal before he even had a school (Vargas) - why? Now he is resigning. MVWSD has wasted money on personal coaches for the Sup, a PR person, a failed math program at middle school. Then they tell the community we have to make cutbacks - jobs that actually affect students are slashed. We may not have seen the end of a charter school threat. This is the time they decide to promote a principal with no experience to CBO?? It is time for the trustees to wake up. When is this district ever going to get off this crazy carousel ride?


31 people like this
Posted by Birds of a Feather
a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 6, 2019 at 9:24 pm

One thing is for sure, Ms. Westover's professional experiences and values as a former Palo Alto VP will fit perfectly with those of Asst. Superintendent Ghysels! Well done Mr. Rudolph. It's nice to see you putting together such a team. Birds of a feather certainly do flock together!

My greater concern is how the new Huff hire will bring about positive changes and improved scores. Scores at his previous Stanislaus school are near rock bottom! And his Ravenswood School's performance and scores indicate there was more a race to the bottom at play than a race to the top. Overall, a very perplexing appointment.

Clearly, the word is out and few people are applying to Mountain View schools with the current leadership, headlines over the past few years and direction things are going. I agree a firm change is needed at the top and on the Board. Rudolph, Wheeler, Gutierrez, Blakley and Wilson all need to go in 2020. For the sake of the children.


30 people like this
Posted by Birds of a Feather
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 6, 2019 at 9:49 pm

And one more thing... the dust still hasn't cleared from Santiago's role and doings regarding his handling of the sexual harassment allegations that have now turned into a lawsuit against the school district. Stay tuned for all that. I certainly hope that his sudden promotion this year, on the heels of his sudden demotion last year, isn't some sort of hush payment by the powers that be at the district office trying to get all the right people on the bus headed to the court house. To quote a now famous meme from last year's purge and shenanigans, "Something doesn't pass the sniff test here."

Cue Cleave


41 people like this
Posted by ex-Hooli person
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 6, 2019 at 10:39 pm

I'd like it if our school district wasn't so newsworthy. Perhaps we need better leadership.


10 people like this
Posted by Terrified
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2019 at 10:40 pm

We just lotteried into ST this past year and my child has been thriving.
I only hope it won’t all go down the drain in the next couple of years.
I have no idea what the PPs are implying as I am not in the loop for district gossip - but it all sounds pretty terrifying.


39 people like this
Posted by KittyCatty
a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2019 at 11:06 pm

KittyCatty is a registered user.

Unqualified principals, a shady Superintendent, and legal and financial woes aside, is anyone going to get to the bottom of why so many teachers aren't returning each school year? This is no longer a district worthy of praise.


25 people like this
Posted by @ ex-hooli person
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 7, 2019 at 7:41 am

I would like to see the Voice actually print some positive articles for a change. Their slant is always to find the negative. How about covering the great things that are happening like rising test scores, promotion ceremonies, sports teams winning their division, etc.


19 people like this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 7, 2019 at 9:56 am

Old Steve is a registered user.

Ms. Westover has as much district office experience to be CBO as Mr. Goldman did at his initial appointment. I had my disagreements with Mr. Goldman's decisions as our Supt, but his work in the Business Office was beyond reproach. People who are already here, already have housing. Many teachers leave simply because the district can't afford to pay them enough to stay. Yes, each blunder has a financial component, but if you add them up and divide by the number of teachers, perfect management does not get teachers a raise.

Since personnel issues are confidential, I'll step into "Cue Cleave" and say that Dr. Clark does not deserve to be discredited.


11 people like this
Posted by @Must go
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2019 at 11:22 am

Comments like the first one are uninformed and not helpful. As a Mistral parent I don't appreciate the suggestion that the program isn't "real." My kid's wonderful dual-language skills and all the hard work put in by students and teachers aren't fake or less-than. I wouldn't have chosen the current principal perhaps, but principals come and go. I don't like the way you just dismissed our wonderful choice programs based on conspiracy theories and scant knowledge or experience.


20 people like this
Posted by Not sure
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2019 at 4:17 pm

I don’t think the first poster dismissed Mistral
If anything they said Mistral was under attack


22 people like this
Posted by Hello from PA
a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2019 at 5:35 pm

Looks like you got suckered with this superintendent, also looks like the board should have been spending the past few months negotiating a severance package. His experiment just hasn't worked.


22 people like this
Posted by Same old same old
a resident of Bailey Park
on Jun 9, 2019 at 8:16 pm

There is a long history of mismanagement of principals from poor superintendents to weak school boards


26 people like this
Posted by Birds of Feather
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jun 10, 2019 at 10:07 am

It's a lot like running a college or professional sports franchise. Not Just the players, but the owners and management need to go if real change and success is expected to occur. The same old thinking, strategies and rhetoric just ain't working to produce a winning team.

As long as we keep electing Ellen Wheeler to School Board little is likely to change. The Superintendent, District Office Asst. Superintendents Ghysels and Bauer and their disciples need to go as well. They all have had plenty of chances to turn around the schools, which should be on par with our neighbors, but all they've produced is flat and mediocre results.


39 people like this
Posted by Westover as CBO?
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jun 10, 2019 at 1:42 pm

Westover as CBO? is a registered user.

How nice to see that the district carefully documents that while Westover is to be well-compensated, she is not competent to serve as CBO:

1. She will earn $200,000 plus benefits, see Web Link

2. They plan to pay a consultant ~$93,000 to do her work for her as she apparently is not capable of doing it herself, see Web Link

The consultant will be paid to provide:
$30,000 Coaching/Mentoring Services for new Chief Business Officer
$20,000 Budget Analyst Services
$10,000 Planning Services for Construction Programs
$15,000 Provide Assistance Services to the Maintenace, Operation and Transporation (MOT) Department
$10,000 Provide Assistance to the Food Services Department
$8,000 Analysis of After School Programs offered by District


22 people like this
Posted by Elaine
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 11, 2019 at 3:33 pm

Thank you, "Westover as CBO?" for posting those details. It is true, I just looked at the contract that is to be approved by the board in their next board meeting on June 13th. And isn't this always the way? They slip in these items at the end of the school year when everyone has gone off on summer vacations and not focused on school issues.

The district talks a good game about needed cutbacks, but when it comes down to it, the cutbacks are never at the top. The Sup is asking the trustees to approve a $95K contract to have the interim CBO stay and train and work with the new CBO, Westover, while they pay her full salary as well. Working at the DO is lucrative. Just like the guy hired to be the Vargas principal a year ahead, earning a full salary for over a year with no school to head up and then he left. (Actually, he doesn't officially resign till 6/30 so he is earning an extra months salary while planning to leave.) Not to mention the Sup's need for a 57K coach to help him do the job when he came on for a couple of years. I can't figure out why the board keeps buying into this. Meanwhile, the people at the bottom who actually work with students or keep the schools functioning are always the targets of proposed cuts.

If any of this bothers you, please write to the trustees. Trustees@mvwsd.org

Trustees - please ask more questions and hold the Sup accountable!!! Our tax dollars are not being spent responsibly!


2 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 11, 2019 at 5:21 pm

Steven Nelson is a registered user.

Please do not "write the Trustees" about every last thing you do not like about what they are doing (allowing to be done - it is their VOTE on the $$ to do this).

What might have the litty bitty chance, ask them specifically to vote to have the CFO training contract divided by half in time/dollars. OR have the start-up CFO's salary reduced until she learns her job and needs no training! Someone in industry, who needs extensive help and training in their position, does not get hired at FULL PAY.

my 2 cents. (but I voted/wanted a year training for Dr. Rudolph - no idea the subsequent Bd.s would extend That So Far). SN was a MVWSD Trustee 2012-16


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