Kevin Skelly

Kevin Skelly

The teaching credentials of three San Mateo Union High School District administrators are still in limbo after the governing board responsible for determining the fate of their case declined to reconsider its decision to suspend the officials. 

Dr. Kevin Skelly, district superintendent; Dr. Kirk Black, deputy superintendent of Human Resources and Student Services; and Pamela Duszynski, Mills High School principal; face suspensions of their education credentials due to mismanagement claims brought by a Mills High School teacher. 

The Committee on Credentials, the investigative arm of the state’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing, recommended suspensions of 120 days for Duszynski, 30 days for Skelly and 14 days for Black. 

The officials lobbied the governing body to reconsider the recommendations but were sent letters Monday informing them the COC’s decisions would be upheld. Formal suspensions have not been approved at this point, leaving each administrator still credentialed.  

Robert Griffin, president of the San Mateo Union High School District Board of Trustees, reacted to the news in an email statement, sharing disappointment the committee’s chose not to reconsider “its initial erroneous decision.” 

“Each of these administrators have exemplary records of service,” Griffin said. “The committee has acted irresponsibly and without regard to the facts, the law or the public interest in its decision.”

The officials still have the opportunity to appeal the suspensions which will be decided through the Attorney General’s Office. While a timeline for when a final decision will be made is still unclear, the district shared hopes for a “swift resolution.” 

“We are confident that when, and if, this matter reaches the Attorney General’s Office for review, no adverse action will be taken against these outstanding administrators,” Griffin said.

The issue stems from a lawsuit brought by Mills High School teacher Patricia Petersen in March, who alleged district officials negligently disregarded her attempt to blow the whistle on abusive students, urged her to inflate grades and retaliated against her.

In court documents, Petersen alleges administrators discouraged her from reporting a violent student who allegedly attacked the teacher and threatened to report that she had been sexually assaulted. 

Petersen had suspicions the student had cheated on the test she needed to pass a class and graduate while taking it on an iPad which possessed the answer key, the lawsuit alleges. The student became enraged after Petersen attempted to arrange a time for the student to retake a test she needed to pass the class she needed to graduate. 

She further alleges the administrators attempted to sweep other issues under the rug and to silence her through intimidation.

After reporting the issue to the administration, the lawsuit alleged Skelly instructed Petersen to give the student a passing grade and “move on.” When she declined to cooperate, the lawsuit alleged administrators intervened and changed the grade, allowing the student to pass.

Duszynski is also accused of repeatedly urging Petersen to disregard and forgive abusive and threatening behavior by students. 

At the heart of the matter is administrators issuing a formal notice reprimanding Petersen for her conduct, claiming she behaved unprofessionally and failed to foster a supportive environment or support students.

“I’m fighting back,” Petersen said. “It has really taken a toll on me and pulled me away from work I love.” 

Petersen’s fight against the district has been both difficult and stressful, she said. She asserts she’s only one of many employees who’ve fallen victim to the district’s negligence over many years. 

Eventually, Petersen said she’d like to return to the classroom. The teacher is currently on medical leave but frequently runs into students and parents in public who share support for her challenges of the district, she said. 

“It’s vindication that the CTC found these guys guilty,” Petersen said.

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(3) comments

RandomCommenter2020

As a Mills parent, having interacted with Principal Duszynski quite often, I have a hard time believing the allegations against her made by teacher Peterson, and find the recommended suspension and lack of thorough investigation troubling . I have asked my children who attend/ed Mills, and the teacher was generally not well liked by the students, which makes me even more suspicious of the fairness of the recommended disciplinary actions. I also find it a bit odd for a teacher, even if trying to help a failing student, to meet at a park to take a test on an iPad, and be negligent in leaving the answer key so easily accessible for the student to quickly find it and then use it to cheat… Why not use a school-issued Chromebook? Why wasn’t the teacher properly proctoring/supervising? I also wonder if this meeting was approved by the school prior to the event. Going this much out of the way, meeting off campus and outside school hours, I would like to think to do such official duty work with a student privately in an unconventional manner would have required some level of obtaining prior special permission to interact (even as a layperson I can easily think of several ways the teacher has opened a pathway for many legal consequences if something happened… and it did!). In addition, attempting to remedy the negligence by trying to force the student whom she created the opportunity to cheat to retake the test (why not just void the test based on the anti-cheating policy and fail the student?), placed herself in a further compromised situation that added another layer for the student to abuse the system. The entire circumstances just sounds completely lacking foresight and puzzling to have even taken place.

I admit I do not know all the details as the record is sealed from the public, and what I have learned from the news outlets is far from complete. But events leading up to the point of Peterson making a complaint about the student behavior counters what I consider common sense and responsible behavior by an educator. I understand compassion can move a teacher to try unconventional paths, but at the same time that sense MUST be tempered with clear understanding of the legal and harmful consequences that may precipitate from such acts. Rules and regulations may be frustrating, but they are in place for a reason, to protect all involved parties from potential harm, physical, mental, and legal as best as possible. Thus I want to know if any regulations the teacher may have violated in the first place that led to these unfortunate consequences as well, to understand the full picture. The media reports and district board’s statements suggest the credential board only took the accuser’s report and views and did not allow any defending and rebuttal remarks by the accused nor made any effort in thoroughly investigating the incident from the beginning. As a parent with children at Mills who will be impacted pending the penalties of a principal whom I hold in very high regards (and I have seen best to the worst), want to know more of the details and really would like more thorough investigation and better disclosure prior to any disciplinary actions that will have severe repercussions.

KRN

The Mills Principal should flip on Black and Skelly as she is taking the fall for their negligence. The Mills principal’s 120 day suspension will cost her over half of her salary. She will also have an Adverse Action stamped on her teaching credential and will most likely be let go from her job and become untouchable by other schools.

How do we know they are guilty? They already tried to buy off the teacher prior to the CTC’s findings. Why make a big cash offer of the district's money. The district is not in peril, the individual administrators are.

Is offering a bride the proper use of taxpayers funds?

Black and Skelly have no skin in the game.

Skelly and his $330,000+ salary and retirement package is going to walk into a very wealthy retirement.

Black has a law degree and can leave education to work in another field.

The only loser will be the female principal who they will hang our to take the wrap. She most likely did not want to do this in the first place… and they see her as collateral damage.

JustMike650

Black was shady at Aragon HS. Griffin is a pawn and will support his cronies.

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