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Trustee comes under fire as parents grill school board

Original post made on Mar 13, 2015

Controversy over former superintendent Craig Goldman's $231,567 severence agreement with the Mountain View Whisman school board bubbled over Thursday night as members of the public -- and even board members -- spoke of dysfunctional governance and a hostile work environment that led to the settlement.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 13, 2015, 1:55 PM

Comments (42)

3 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 13, 2015 at 2:32 pm

The article should mention who Sanjay Dave is.

19 people like this
Posted by Sylvie
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 13, 2015 at 2:35 pm

I applaud the parents who are calling the Board out on this severance.

Having seen Steve Nelson in action, the explanation being put forth for the severance, however, sounds extremely plausible and I'm not sure how much the entire board can be blamed for one member's egregiously awful behavior.

Interesting that Nelson was absent for this meeting when he shows up at practically every possible event in the district and and needs to invoke the Brown act within moments of opening his mouth. Mr. Nelson-- why don't you think about the kids you purport to care about and step down?

10 people like this
Posted by mumbojumbo
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 2:53 pm

These guys are criminals and they operate with impunity because that is how is our system is designed and structured. There is no transparency and there will never be and liberals are no better than the conservatives in the red states. This is not going to stop. Remember the episode, a librarian retired some years ago and she was rehired for the same position as a consultant and paid $125 dollars and hour while she was drawing a pension of around 80% of her final salary for the same position. Our elected officials operate like criminal enterprises and they are leeches. The system has no laws to punish these criminals because the legal department in our cities and towns are all of the same corrupt kind of people. Where is the district attorney and the state attorneys on this case and who is looking after these criminals?

10 people like this
Posted by Sad
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2015 at 3:41 pm

Focusing on the perceived uses of the $250K is crazy. It had better have been proposed to give $250K as a 1-time bonus to all the teachers rather than a raise. Otherwise, that would be $250K and more each and every year going forward. Quite a bit more expensive.

The district could still give each teacher a 1% bonus this year. Anyone up for that?

And if you pick on the amount, well, he clearly deserved something. If they did fire him, they'd have had to pay a lot more. He could also have contested the firing. If he was willing to go no wonder he offered them a deal for his resignation. Wouldn't you? He could also have stayed. Would that have been the best thing?

People don't realize the superintendent really runs things. The board has very little control in the end. Pressure for them all to agree on everything makes this even more so. Steve Nelson is a scapegoat for those who believe the board should be a rubber stamp. He asks good questions. The response of the administration in refusing to respond to those questions is a real problem not of Mr. Nelson's making. That's why Craig had to go, in the end. He didn't politically manage the situation properly, and that is his job.

5 people like this
Posted by Comment
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2015 at 3:43 pm

Comments don't seem to work.

4 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Bailey Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 3:56 pm

Really happy my kids have finished with the district and graduated from University. Seems like everywhere you turn you find dysfunction!

6 people like this
Posted by More govt. Waste
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 13, 2015 at 4:42 pm

"agreement that was drafted, discussed and signed behind closed doors, awarded Goldman nearly a quarter-million dollars"

More of the same govt waste 1/4 million here 1/2 million there, 1/4 million for a lecturer at a big university.

For more govt waste go to

Web Link

15 people like this
Posted by Let's Hope....
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 5:21 pm

The payment to Craig Goldman is all because of Steve Nelson. I certainly would not disagree.

I just hope HE understand that. And, the voters that clicked his name.

AND, even more so, I hope the voters did not just put in another one just like him with the name of Greg Coladonato.

Ms. Iwai - maybe you should not speak on behalf of the Foundation unless you are President or Executive Director or even a Board member.

16 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 13, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Gosh, I had a boss in a big high-tech company that used to yell profanity at people (me included). I guess I should have sued due to my "hostile work environment."

Yes, Mr Nelson is a pain (I didn't vote for him and I was shocked, yes shocked when he won even to the point of thinking there must have been some mistake in tallying votes) but come on. Deal with it. We all deal with hostile work environments from time to time and we don't get a quarter million payout because of it. I think Goldman just played a fast one on the district at the expense of our kids.

11 people like this
Posted by Andrew
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 13, 2015 at 5:42 pm

Each new superintendent implements their own priorities and pet program, which always require new materials, training, etc., all of which cost considerable amounts of money and time and then get tossed away when the next superintendent takes over.

19 people like this
Posted by csea member
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 13, 2015 at 6:25 pm

The District lost a good superintendent with Goldman leaving. I know we have lost other good employees at the District Office and school sites. Long term employees.

The board should start looking into why people have left over the last 3 to 4 years. I am sure there are others and other reasons why they have left, besides Steve Nelson for them leaving.

The District is in a very sad state. Very Sad.

17 people like this
Posted by Robin Iwai
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 13, 2015 at 8:28 pm

@Let's Hope,

At the meeting I identified myself as an alumni Huff and Graham parent who contributed a lot of money to MVEF and a lot of time and effort to two parcel tax campaigns.

While I did serve on the MVEF Board for several years, I spoke not on behalf of the MVEF board but as a MVEF donor.

A few additional thoughts:

"Chiang stood by his support of the settlement, and said he would have voted for it even if the action had been taken in an open-session meeting with a crowd of people opposed to the payout. He said it was important that Goldman waive his right to sue the district... He said it reached a point where he felt concerned enough about the legal liability of the district and the hostile work environment created for Goldman and others to vote for the agreement and the payout."

From these statements we can infer that, in their private meeting, Craig made sure the trustees understood the likelihood, if not certainty, of legal action against the district. It's my hunch that Craig would NEVER have threatened to sue MVWSD in a public meeting. While I understand that all personnel matters are discussed in "closed session" only, it is this all-important closed session that cost the district a quarter million dollars.

And considering that this "hostile work environment" still exists, what is to prevent the hundreds of other district employees who also had to and continue to endure such pain from seeking monetary compensation as well?

15 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 13, 2015 at 8:33 pm

And they planned it all to happen after a few of them were re-elected. They waited to get their votes, and then paid him off. Oldest trick in the book.

11 people like this
Posted by M. Wright
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Mar 13, 2015 at 10:02 pm

Robin Iwai is out of line with her comment about Maurice Ghysels personal life. That comment is unprofessional and way out of line. Robin should stick to the point and not insert what she thinks…. The topic was: Controversy over former superintendent Craig Goldman's $231,567 severence agreement.

10 people like this
Posted by comments is comments
a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2015 at 9:11 am

comments is comments, and the topic was and is superintendent severance past and future
Mrs. Iwai (former Huff parent) is quite entitled to her comments and opinions, along with Pauly (Huff parent), Mirza (Huff parent), Dave (Huff parent) and Wilkinson (Huff parent).

14 people like this
Posted by CSEA Member
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 14, 2015 at 10:21 am

The District lost as good superintendent when it lost Goldman. The board needs to look into why so many employees from the District Office and the school sites left. Is the harassment of Goldman by Nelson just the tip of the iceberg? Is there other harassment going on throughout the District? My feelings are that there is. The board should contact all the employees from the last 3 to 4 years to find out their reason for leaving. We know that the HR department was corrupt when Totter was there, and I am sure it still is with Robinson and McNamee running things.

15 people like this
Posted by Robin Iwai
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Mar 14, 2015 at 11:56 am

Mr. Geysers' close personal relationship with one of his employees received extensive media coverage in this and other newspapers and resulted in a re-assignment of who that employee reported to. Does she still report to an assistant superintendent?

Mr Pauly proposed 3 specific ways to prevent a superintendent settlement payout from happening again in the future. These were discussed extensively at the meeting and the departure of 5 superintendents in the last 15 years is relevant.

7 people like this
Posted by Samuel L
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 14, 2015 at 12:36 pm

@CSEA Member a.k.a Troll who doesn't post their name while calling people corrupt.

This board is the sole reason so many good people are leaving. More leaders are about to leave or looking to leave soon. Steve Nelson is 75% of the problem but just look how each board member is throwing each other under the bus. Chiang has a big mouth and is hypocritical. Caldonado knows nothing about how Craig left but is chirping in how he would have done it different to make himself look good. These people think they know more than the dedicated professionals with 20 years experience.

Maybe look at who you are voting for next time. If you voted for any of these people then stop commenting. If they are not leaders in their profession should they be a leader in our school?

3 people like this
Posted by Robin Iwai
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Mar 14, 2015 at 12:43 pm

Ghysels not Geysers (darn auto-correct)

17 people like this
Posted by Interested Observer
a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2015 at 1:50 pm

@CSEA member - I would like to ask that you provide definitive proof of your accusations: "We know that the HR department was corrupt when Totter was there, and I am sure it still is with Robinson and McNamee running things." If you can't provide the proof, you should refrain from making inflammatory and libelous statements that don't add anything to the discussion. This is not the forum for you to vent your destructive and untrue comments.

15 people like this
Posted by Vote Your Conscience
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 14, 2015 at 8:44 pm

Here's how to recall a local officer in California ...

13 people like this
Posted by Vote Your Conscience
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 14, 2015 at 9:26 pm

One more try posting this link (it appears the link does not work without first writing: https://).

Here's how to recall a local officer in California ...

Web Link

17 people like this
Posted by PACT parent
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 15, 2015 at 1:19 am

This really sounds like the BEST time for the district to be in the process of deciding how to spend 198 MILLION dollars for facilities construction AND to be deciding on which schools to CLOSE in order to open a different school AND to be trying to find a NEW long-term Superintendent.

Yeah, NOW is the time? Really????? Are they serious?

The 3 biggest sets of decisions which will so directly effect the future of our schools and our children and the district is trying to RUSH decisions thru ASAP while the district is in such disarray and has a "hostile work environment" to boot?

And they want to make these decisions NOW??????

49 people like this
Posted by Time to step down Mr. Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 15, 2015 at 12:46 pm

Steven Nelson - it appears that you have created a hostile work environment for district staff. Time to step down before anyone else decides to sue, which will cost the district more money that could be used to educate kids. Or do you want to face a recall election that will take even more money away from the kids. Do the right thing, Mr. Nelson - step down before any more damage is done.

43 people like this
Posted by Gloria
a resident of Slater
on Mar 15, 2015 at 3:35 pm

I second the request, Mr. Nelson, for you to step down. Your heart may be in the right place but your manner of doing business is hurting everyone. Precious funding for all our schools has been lost as a direct result of your behavior. This fact is intolerable. You really must consider the children first, your ego second. Please step down from your role as a MVWSD Trustee.

42 people like this
Posted by Former Parent
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 15, 2015 at 7:32 pm

I have sat through numerous board meetings in the past 2 years and it continues to become more ridiculous each meeting. I would ask that Mr. Nelson step down because he is doing the job he swore an oath to do. He has a personal agenda and that agenda doesn't seem to focus on the best interest of Mountain View's children.
If he doesn't step down, then maybe it is time to start a recall.

13 people like this
Posted by csea member
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 16, 2015 at 6:33 am

Harassment of Mr. Goldman, by Mr. Nelson has just brought the harassment issue out in the open. Harassment has been going on for a long time. Long before Mr. Nelson became a board member. Which started this whole issue of severance pay.

8 people like this
Posted by Huff Parent
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 16, 2015 at 1:04 pm

The sad commentary is that this is a political nightmare. Unfortunately, there are currently 3 members of our elected board that will most likely vote in favor of opening a Whisman school, even if it means closing/moving other established schools and programs. It is quite clear that Steve Nelson and Greg Coladonato have opening a Whisman school as their top priority, no matter the costs and negative impacts to children across the city.

What I'm surprised most people haven't commented on is that Ellen Wheeler, who has served on the board for so long, is also of the opinion that Whisman needs to open. See her position paper on this topic here: Web Link

With a 5 member board, it looks like the writing is already on the wall to close or move other schools in favor of opening Whisman (Slater is not an option due to higher remodeling costs). Or is it? I urge all families who do NOT want to see another school open at the cost of closing/moving another school to email Mrs. Wheeler and share their concerns. She is likely to be the swing vote that can save the impending train wreck. Her trustee email is here:
[email protected]

Also, please contact the BATF to voice your concerns. Their recommendation to the board is valuable, and your input is priceless. Here is their email: [email protected]

39 people like this
Posted by Nelson Must Go
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 17, 2015 at 4:08 pm

Based on this story it is obvious that Mr. Nelson is causing irreparable damage to this district. He has already cost the students of the district over $200,000 - money that could be used for so many wonderful things. We need to start a recall petition. Who is wiling to help gather signatures?

9 people like this
Posted by Wake up people!
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 17, 2015 at 9:28 pm

Steve Nelson is the macguffin, a plot device to keep the story going. Take him for who he is - a highly intelligent individual somewhere on the spectrum who, although he has excellent insight and asks the hard questions, struggles with the social/emotional aspects of getting his point across. His strategy of knocking on every door in the district was successful, so I know that he can communicate successfully in some forums.

He is not the issue. He is one vote of five,

The greater issue is years of promoting from within and finding a place for everyone, no matter how unsuccessful they were. Sending Goldman on his way, although expensive, was a necessary evil to move the district forward. It was time for him to go, and it is obvious the board initiated the separation, and long before the teacher dispute. Would an active engaged superintendent normally sit back and check out at such an important board meeting?

But changes are afoot. Eyes have been opened. And finally, the community is responding to the challenges the district faces. The years of the same three stalwarts being the only ones sitting listening to the board are thankfully over.

Now is your chance to move us forward. Not by demeaning other parents in the district or challenging each other to debates. Not by conjecture about "DI parents want to live near their school" and "Theuerkauf and Stevenson are the best of friends and happily share the same plot of land without incident".

No, now one must look at the data, and talk to the teachers, and understand exactly what all of the challenges are that must be considered as the board moves forward. Realize that this is an issue bigger than your child, and your school, but one that has to be considered as an entire community. Do you want to stay in your silo and close your eyes to the social issues that must be considered moving forward? Or do you want to be the change you want to see in the world.

Read everything the board has produced for BOTH committees. Watch the meetings online. Talk to some parents outside of your comfort zone. Then support the board when they make the difficult choices. And accept them.

And if that doesn't work for you, run for the board. The elections were unopposed for years. Let's make sure that doesn't happen again.

21 people like this
Posted by Nelson's Damage to MVWSD
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 19, 2015 at 1:52 pm

Anyone who was at the Castro committee that was interviewing potential architects for the remodeling of the school witnessed yet another inappropriate and frightening outburst by Mr. Nelson. Do we have to wait until someone really gets hurts before this clown will be forced to resign or be recalled? Imagine how much money that lawsuit will take away from the students.

3 people like this
Posted by Curious
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 20, 2015 at 5:37 pm

@Nelson's Damage to MVWSD:

Were you there? What happened?

5 people like this
Posted by Strange Board Members
a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2015 at 11:00 pm

I agree that there is something fishy about blaming the Superintendent departure on Mr. Nelson, as if this were a BAD thing.

Clearly the superintendent clashed with the teachers overall. There were multiple reported issues, including the "impasse" mentioned by the original article regarding the contract negotiations. This immediately preceded the no confidence decision made by ALL the trustees. Don't tell me they couldn't have gotten the superintendent to stay if they had wanted to.

Just because the situation didn't involve the discharge of the superintendent by vote of the board doesn't mean he wasn't "let go" by way of "resignation." That's clearly what happened. The only way they could have escaped the need to honor the contract provision for a continued year of salary would have been to insist that he stay on. They could have done this, but they did not. Blaming Mr. Nelson is bogus.

And, the board decides to stop keeping FORTY PERCENT of the annual budget in cash reserve after poor boying it with the teachers. This wasn't Mr. Nelson's fault. It seems like that recommendation may have come from the departed Superintendent as well. Perhaps that had something to do with the impasse, d'ya think? Perhaps the board finally found fault with that idea. In any event, they have reversed course on that reserve amount, which was extreme and not supportable. Not Mr. Nelson's fault....

3 people like this
Posted by Stupid Foundation
a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2015 at 11:03 pm

Another thing. The district has $20 Million in reserves. They ask the foundation for $700K each year. Mr Goldman's contract calls for a year's salary, $230K, on board-supported termination. And, it's not the $20 Million but the $230K that calls into question the ability to motivate the foundation to fund raise? Hmmm.

5 people like this
Posted by Fund Raising
a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2015 at 11:07 pm

The MVWSD Foundation needs to think bigger. In Los Altos, their foundation raise $3.2 Million per year. Not only that, but the sum total of the budgets for all the PTA's there is another $2 Million. MVWSD is poor? Well, why did Google folks give LASD $1 Million for their foundation one year? Isn't MVWSD worthy of equal consideration? After all, Google is a closer neighbor to MVWSD than it is to LASD. It seems like the MVWSD parents should think bigger and try to fund raise from the DEEP POCKETS North of Bayshore, including those wealthy executives who work there but live elswhere. You just need to get creating and ask for money for some tech use dear to the Google Heart. Another year, just one school in LASD got $1 Million to build a new library on their school grounds, and it was out of portable buildings. I kid you not.

8 people like this
Posted by Greedy Teachers
a resident of Whisman Station
on Mar 20, 2015 at 11:28 pm

The capital reserves are held in reserve for one-off expenditures that are desperately needed. It is not to give giant raises to teachers that don't work a full work-day, nor work a full (american) work-year. I'm so tired of these teachers that post anonymously on this board trying to get us to give them even more money.

Sorry, but if you would like to earn more, then go do a more challenging job. When you leave, there will be a line of teachers applying for your position that are probably more qualified than you. If teachers are truly under-paid, then there wouldn't be such a glut of them.

Since there is a surplus of teachers and that brings down their wages (supply and demand), the only way they can get us to overpay them is to hold our schools and children hostage via union action. How is that fair? Where is your civic pride?

7 people like this
Posted by @ strange board members
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 21, 2015 at 8:30 am

If you don't think Nelson is responsible for the payout to Goldman go watch the video of the March 12 board meeting. The blame is cleary laid at the feet of Nelson for creating a hostile work environment. If Goldman had chosen to sue, the district would likely have been held liable for much more. That also begs the question of how may other district employees are in the same boat and have lawsuits coming in the future.

4 people like this
Posted by Reserves
a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2015 at 12:47 pm

The reserves of Mountain View Whisman at $20 Million DO NOT INCLUDE any capital funds. They have $100's of millions of Capital available due to the bond authorization and issuance. The $20 Million has been built up by saving operating money each year over many years. It's directly usable for teacher salaries, whereas no bond money may be so used.

Prop 2 was passed last November and limits greatly the amount of that reserve which MVWSD is allowed to continue to withhold from district operations. This was the factor which caused the board to change that practice. The entire board supported it based on the recommendations of the staff until that point. That led to the teacher impasse at negotiations and to the bad feelings created with Mr. Goldman negotiating with the teachers.

Anyone can sue about anything. If you have the trustees worrying about upsetting the superintendent because he might sue, you have non-governance. The trustees are just making a skapegoat of Mr. Nelson because that's not why Mr. Goldman left, not at all. If it is a contributing factor to worry about a lawsuit, it's not the entire basis of a lawsuit. The $230,000 in compensation can be viewed as liquidated damages, and Mr. Goldman would have a hard time collecting more than that. THAT's why districts pay these lump salary amounts in the first place. No doubt Mr. Goldman negotiated that before he resigned, and who's to say he would have resigned if he had been other wise forced to sue the district for compensation. They might have had to fire him, and then, voila, $230,000 in compensation.

9 people like this
Posted by question
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 21, 2015 at 2:08 pm

I agree that the trustees are trying to blame it all on Steven Nelson. He was just one of many problems.

Does anyone think that Craig Goldman would really file a lawsuit against the district that he gave 15 years of his life's work to? Chris Chiang sounds like he is 100% certain that Craig would have sued the district if they had not bowed to his demands and forked over the money.

Yet I still can't wrap my head around the fact that he knowingly, intentionally took a quarter-million dollars that could have been spent on students. Is it any different from getting back at adults you don't like by taking toys away from their kids?

What would the basis of a lawsuit be? Is a "hostile work environment" a legitimate basis for a lawsuit? Haven't we all had lousy bosses who weren't very nice? He could have just sued Steve Nelson directly but I guess you can't sue someone because they are mean to you, we'd have little kids suing each other for name calling and so on.

I just can't get over the fact that Craig said to the trustees "you give me an extra year pay or else!" He didn't have enough class to just graciously say "this isn't working, it's time for me to move on, I've done a lot of good here and have been compensated fairly for it, thank you all for the past 15 years, let's shake hands and wish each other goodbye" and leave with his head held high, knowing that he could easily get another superintendent or other position in education. Instead he snuck out in the middle of the night, trying to hide a bag bulging with funds for students, hoping or not caring if anyone noticed? Would another school district ever hire someone who had turned on and screwed their own like that? It's nothing less than stealing from the parents and students who depended on you to guide the ship.

5 people like this
Posted by Unbelievable
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 21, 2015 at 10:06 pm

Goldman was pushed out to acede to the demands of the union who wanted to pay above market salaries to teachers. He had the guts to stand up to them, but paid the price.

16 people like this
Posted by really simple
a resident of Castro City
on Mar 22, 2015 at 9:49 am

Nelson has cost the district a lot of money.
He needs to resign.

4 people like this
Posted by Simpler Still
a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Nelson hasn't done anything that cost the district money. The district is complacent and the board lackadaisical. If his spice stirred things up then that was good. If he doesn't get re-elected, well, that's life. But he's not going to resign. What a moronic suggestion that is. The district has run through superintendents since long before he became involved. Worry about them resigning in sequence, but don't be diverted by any issue of the service for an elected fixed term by one trustee.

Here's some money to worry about: Web Link

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