Leaders of Cupertino Union School District to 'Release' Embattled Superintendent - NBC Bay Area
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Leaders of Cupertino Union School District to 'Release' Embattled Superintendent

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    Cupertino Union School District
    Superintendent Wendy Gudalewicz has been released from her contract with the Cupertino Union School District. (March 16, 2017)

    Trustees of the Cupertino Union School District announced Wednesday that they will be releasing embattled Superintendent Wendy Gudalewicz at the end of the current academic year. 

    Gudalewicz, who joined the district in 2012, will be released from her contract effective June 30, school board president Anjali Kausar wrote in a statement.

    "The entire board concluded that it was a good time to change leadership to meet the challenges facing our district," Kausar wrote in an email. The board's decision was unanimous.

    "Wendy made some very difficult choices in the face of short and long-term challenges. As with all responsible leaders, not all of her decisions were popular, but all were very important to improving the instructional programs and operations of the District," Kausar wrote. "This change is intended to keep the district well positioned to address the challenges that will continue to confront the district, its schools, and most importantly, our teachers."

    For her part, Gudalewicz said the school district has faced "many challenges" during her tenure that helped improve the "learning opportunities for all students."

    "I am a firm believer that change is necessary and good. This change will be best for the district moving forward, and I want all to know I consider myself fortunate to have worked with an outstanding staff and board members," she wrote in a statement.

    A call to the Superintendent’s office for additional comment was not immediately returned.

    The superintendent’s contract was renewed in 2016 and has a three year term.

    Her release falls under section 11.6 of the contract called Unilateral Termination By the Board (Without Cause).

    Under this section, Gudalewicz will receive her current salary for a period of 12 months. Her current salary is $285,563.

    Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone has emails from board members claiming Gudalewicz  and the board president were restricting members from attending public meetings, citing the Brown Act. 

    Stone, who co-founded the Cupertino Education Endowment Fund in 1984, says he revealed these allegations in a meeting with Gudalewicz and board president Kausar in a meeting just a couple weeks back.

    “The opposition to the superintendent was growing rapidly through the community,” said Stone.

    That opposition can be traced back to 2015 when the district decided to replace all staff members at West Valley Elementary School because of “tensions.” Many administrators, teachers, and parents felt Gudalewicz's decision ruined the school environment, and was done without community engagement and consideration.

    “She has done such incredible damage to our district,” said CUSD parent Colleen D’Amour. "All I could think was it’s about time." 

    Her student was a second grader at West Valley Elementary School during the reassignment.

    D’Amour says many parents have had a lack of trust and confidence in the district under Gudalewicz’s leadership.

    “Now there is hope in the district again,” D’Amour said.

    Hundreds of parents had even signed a petition declaring "no confidence" in Gudalewicz over what they deemed a lack of transparency.

    The petition argued the superintendent and board members are working secretly to develop teacher housing at a closed school site without input from the community. 

    The board's decision to release the superintendent could also partly be in reaction to recent controversy surrounding an oath of office taken by two board members this year.

    New board members Liang Chao and Phyllis Vogel were asked to state an oath with a line that hadn’t been used in previous oath ceremonies, according to The Mercury News.  The line read, “That I will support by word and deed decisions made by the board majority, and advocate for those decisions.”

    Some felt the addition meant board members must comply with board majority even if they hold opposing views.

    Superintendent Gudalewicz, who administered the oath, said she received it from Oak Grove School District.

    "At the time, I did not know that the additional line existed in the oath as we assumed that the language was standard for an oath," Gudalewicz said in a written response to the community.

    The oath of office was eventually readministered.

    The board has already started the process of hiring a new superintendent, according to CUSD Chief Information Officer Jeff Bowman. The board has requested proposals from hiring firms to help in the search for a new candidate.

    The goal is to select a firm by the April 4 board meeting, and select a final candidate by July 1, one day after Gudalewicz’s term ends. If no one is selected by then, the board will name an interim superintendent.

     

    The superintendent’s contract was renewed in 2016 and is a three year term.

     

    Her release falls under section 11.6 of her contact called Unilateral Termination By the Board (Without Cause).

    Under this section, Gudalewicz will receive her current salary for a period of 12 months after release. Her current salary is $285,563.

     

    Calls to the Superintendent’s office we not immediately returned.

     

    Calls to the Board president was not immediately returned.

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