Glynn Thompson

San Juan school board to address harassment complaints against superintendent

Published: Tuesday, May. 14, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, May. 14, 2013 - 7:42 am

Complaints that San Juan Unified Superintendent Glynn Thompson is a bully who pushes administrators around and treats women unfairly is an orchestrated effort to undermine reform efforts, say some supporters.

"It's just the old guard resisting change," said Edwin Manson, principal at Dyer-Kelly Elementary in Sacramento.

Nine former and current employees have alleged harsh treatment by Thompson in complaints filed with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing, according to attorney Robert Biegler, who represents the women.

Thompson was mean-spirited, harassed employees, forced some to quit and retaliated when they complained, Biegler said. Some former administrators have publicly said that poor treatment by Thompson led to their early retirement.

But Manson called the complaints "a very calculated effort" by a "small, well-orchestrated group." Many of the same people speaking out against the superintendent also tried to block his promotion from chief academic officer to superintendent, he said.

"I guess this is round two of the same game," he said.

Tonight, the San Juan Unified School District board is expected to privately discuss the complaints against Thompson in a 5 p.m. closed session at the district office. The board said last week that it would investigate the nine formal complaints.

Manson said the campaign against Thompson comes from central office staff members who don't like a reorganization that eliminated a layer of management. He said detractors also include principals who didn't want the added accountability that came with more autonomy.

Manson himself was caught up in the reorganization. The district reassigned him to a school as a principal when his position as program manager of professional development was eliminated.

"You go where you are needed," he said.

Former principal Mary Ann Pivetti, the past president of the San Juan Professional Educators Coalition – the district principals' association – said the formal complaints had nothing to do with Thompson's changes.

"I have personally told board members it's not about the work. It's how you talk to people and how you're treated by people," Pivetti said. "People embrace the reform and changes. We know we needed to do something. It was not at all about not wanting San Juan to change any of its old ways."

Pivetti said Thompson's treatment of administrators amounted to "a very different world for different people."

On Monday, The Bee received a copy of a complaint filed with the district by Stacy Spector, president of the San Juan Administrators Association, on behalf of three members.

The association complained May 2 that board President Larry Masuoka and board member Pam Costa failed to call for a formal investigation into complaints of alleged gender-based discrimination, harassment and retaliation by Thompson.

Masuoka, the complaint said, did conduct his own investigation, interviewing 10 people, but failed to take action.

Neither commented Monday. Masuoka said he had not fully read the complaint; Costa said she hadn't seen it.

Thompson supporters have been meeting to plan a counteroffensive, Manson said. "I think there is a groundswell of people who are attracted to his vision and his leadership," Manson said. "He's not just doing piecemeal reform. He's trying to do systemic reform."

Todd Lindeman, principal at Thomas Edison Language Institute, an elementary school, said Monday that he didn't know details of the complaints. But he said Thompson "has done an amazing job in our district."

Tom Alves, executive director of the San Juan Teachers Association, said he has encountered no signs of questionable conduct involving the superintendent.

"The only thing I can say is our relationship with the superintendent has been outstanding and very collaborative," Alves said. "We had no indication of the kinds of conduct we've read about in the paper."

Some employees said they chose to work at San Juan Unified because of the reforms initiated first by former superintendent Pat Jaurequi and then by Thompson. Manson decided to leave his job as a principal in New York when he heard about an opening at San Juan Unified. He had worked as a vice principal under Thompson at Florence Elementary School in Los Angeles a decade earlier and was eager to rejoin him.

He was impressed by the way Thompson increased test scores at one of Los Angeles' lowest-performing schools.

At least four people asked the school board last week to put Thompson on administrative leave while it investigates the allegations. The board could not consider that request until it noted the possible action in a public agenda, as it has for today's meeting.

Thompson said he would not be opposed to that proposition if it is necessary to "ensure the process is fair and respectful of all involved."

It is important that the investigation is fair, comprehensive and independent – one that "staff and community can trust," he said.

Call The Bee's Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Read her Report Card blog at http://blogs.sacbee.com/report-card/.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.



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