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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