Is censure enough for Steven Nelson? | October 11, 2013 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

Opinion - October 11, 2013

Is censure enough for Steven Nelson?

The normal collegiality of the Mountain View Whisman board of trustees was ripped apart with the election of Steven Nelson last year. Nelson has overwhelmed board president Ellen Wheeler, other board members and district staff with his off-the-wall comments and often abrasive demeanor.

He is known for his tendency to go off on long tangents without ever arriving at a point or being cut off by justifiably impatient colleagues before having a chance to fully explain himself. During the Sept. 19 board meeting, he brought up the bloody turmoil in Egypt, and mentioned the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, which were established in South Africa as the years of white rule were coming to an end. It appeared he was attempting to compare his pending censure to political violence or a massive investigation into human rights abuses. The audience was unsympathetic, and several in attendance scoffed audibly.

Nelson has developed a reputation for attacking and second-guessing district plans — especially those related to the substantial school upgrades called for under the $191 million voter-approved Measure G bond.

While he has rudely criticized teachers and district staff, both in public and in emails, no one has received more of his vitriol than Superintendent Craig Goldman. On March 28, at the height of what was likely his most egregious outburst, Nelson reportedly yelled at the superintendent: "You are full of sh--," in front of other district staff members.

In an email recounting the incident, Goldman wrote that Nelson had "accused me of resisting a Bay Area News Group request for earnings information and falsely claimed responsibility for getting the District to provide the requested information. I both defended myself against these allegations and expressed my belief that he (Nelson) did not care about the students." Nelson later said that he lost his temper after Goldman questioned his commitment to the district's children, admitting he was wrong to act the way he did.

According to emails dating back to January, which the Voice obtained through a Public Records Act request, Nelson has made many apologies over the past nine months.

In our view, the emails, and evidence compiled by trustee Bill Lambert, show that Nelson is quick to make serious and often inaccurate accusations, has a pattern of threatening and insulting district staff members, has attempted to use his position on the board to gain political leverage over Superintendent Goldman, and appears to think little of issuing a terse "mea culpa" when he is called out for his transgressions — as if a simple apology will suffice without any real change in his behavior.

For example, in an email sent Aug. 1, he claimed that the board would be breaking the law if it went ahead with a special meeting with multiple items on the agenda. "The law is pretty darn clear," he wrote, adding "only one item may be on a special meeting agenda."

But when Superintendent Goldman responded that he had never heard of this rule, Nelson quickly backed down: "Probably MY BAD. In a two-minute search I cannot find that limitation."

As a local school district trustee, Nelson should not be barred from asking tough questions of the superintendent and voicing his concerns in board meetings. However, no board member has the right to hijack meetings or hurl insults at those with divergent views. Nelson's behavior has interrupted the ability of the board members, and to some extent, Superintendent Goldman, to do their work.

Nelson's behavior has left lasting scars on his colleagues and the district staff. It is a terrible way for the district to do business, and often works against Nelson in getting any support for his concerns — many of which have some validity, albeit misunderstood.

We believe the district did the right thing, but even after being censured, we wonder whether Steven Nelson's behavior will change. We hope it will.


Posted by Still Continuing!, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 23, 2015 at 5:18 pm

Unfortunately, Steven Nelson has continued with his disruptive behavior.

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Posted by Doesn't represent me, a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 24, 2015 at 10:55 am

This guy's ego is unbelievable! He claims to be fighting for a school in my neighborhood, but all he is doing is pissing off fellow trustees and making life difficult for everyone.

Posted by Obviously Not, a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 24, 2015 at 1:50 pm

The censure had no effect on Nelson. He hasn't changed his behavior one bit. In fact, he has become for physically threatening at the Board meetings. Someone is going to get hurt. It's time to resign, Mr. Nelson, and let the district start to recover from the damage you have caused to every one of the students in this district.

Posted by How long must we suffer?, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 24, 2015 at 2:43 pm

When will his term expire, or when is he due to not be re-elected?

Posted by @How long must we suffer?, a resident of Waverly Park
on Jun 24, 2015 at 3:40 pm

Steve Nelson's term is due to expire in 2016. So unless a recall drive is successful, there will be another year of this nutjob's antics on the school board..

Posted by PACT parent, a resident of Rex Manor
on Jun 30, 2015 at 12:18 pm

@Doesn't represent me of North Whisman

"This guy's ego is unbelievable! He claims to be fighting for a school in my neighborhood, but all he is doing is pissing off fellow trustees and making life difficult for everyone."

Then PLEASE come tell him in-person at the Board meeting tonight,
or if you cannot, then at the next Board meeting in August.

Make SURE you make it clear where you are from and please find others in the W/S area to join you.

Your neighbors are the only people who can fix this, but only if you come to the meetings and tell him.

Posted by PACT parent, a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 1, 2015 at 5:36 am

Nelson wont resign now, he's totally won!

You decide, which group are the "takers"?

Nelson and Coladonato have already taken $30million from the district and locked it away for the exclusive use of building a new Slater School no mater what damage it will do.

Slater just got $30million lock-box funding, Stevenson NOT on any list to get any Measure-G money.

Stevenson is NOT even on the list of schools to get ANY of the Measure-G money for critical repairs or any upgrades at all!

And yet the Slater Advocates on the Board (Nelson and Coladonato) have taken $30million out of the general fund and tied it up in a reserve fund for the exclusive purpose of building a new district standard 450-600 school in Whisman/Slater.

Slater gets well over $30million, Stevenson gets ZERO, yeah those "greedy"...wait, WHO is being greedy?

Slater assured $30million budget already and Stevenson ZERO, yeah, see, that proves how "greedy" the Stevenson families are we want NOTHING from Measure-G and would be happy with NO construction MONEY at all. See, there is the proof of how greedy the Stevenson families are....uh,,huh? Did I read that right?

The $30million the Board voted to be specifically set aside in a special reserve account for the Slater School at the above Board meeting didn't even get mentioned in this article. (That $30million number is rounding down.)

That seems very odd, since this huge Slater set-aside also takes away from district funds which could be spent on other things.

The Slater School now has a $30million budget (which is 3/4 the budget of the whole Castro 2-school project) and yet still Stevenson is NOT even on the LIST of schools getting construction money.

Well, I guess if that's the price the Board decides we must pay to stay at Stevenson, we'll find a way to make due with what we have. As long as we can stay where we are, we will find a way to survive until the next bond measure, whatever year that may come in

Posted by Majority rules , a resident of Slater
on Jul 1, 2015 at 7:58 am

@ PACT parent

"Nelson and Coladonato have already taken $30million from the district and locked it away for the exclusive use of building a new Slater School no mater what damage it will do."

How do 2 out of 5 members do something without majority approval. Why name just the two members? Why not list all of the majority voters?

Posted by LMGTS, a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2015 at 10:12 am

Help me out here Pact. You want neighborhood parents of the Whisman area to go bash board members because your school didn't get money's alicated towards your needs.
Some of you will, as you say, "will survive and make do"as long as you stay where you are.
No wonder teachers, administrators are looking to leave MVWSD. Parents what you are doing is dangerous. It's divisive. Your teaching your kids that separation is equal.
Slater neighborhood is in need of a school SLATER SCHOOL.

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