Anonymous Email Sent to John Baldwin Parents Creates Public Rift

In reaction to the email, parents and teachers filled the Board of Education meeting room to express their support and their concerns with the leadership at John Baldwin Elementary.

At the moment, all is not well at .

An unknown staffer at the school sent out an anonymous email to a larger portion of the school's parents. The email listed Baldwin teachers by name who had allegedly requested transfers due to issues with the school's leadership, mainly principal Darlene Hale.

And this email, which district officials say contains inaccurate information, has caused quite a ripple in the Baldwin community.

"(The email) had some misinformation in it. (It said) teachers were filing for transfers due to the working environment created by the principal," San Ramon Valley Unified School District Community Relations Director Terry Koehne said. "It stirred people up."

Koehne said that a few teachers at Baldwin had explored transfers but when the district offered to grant them, the teachers had changed their minds.

The anonymous email also stated that the culture and climate had reached a stressful boiling point, he said.

The anonymous email spurred parents and teachers to attend Tuesday's Board of Education meeting to speak about the incident and the issues facing Baldwin school.

Airing out in public

Testimony during public comment appeared to be on both sides of this issue regarding the leadership of Baldwin. Some were in support of Hale, while others appeared to be wary of her and school leadership.

"I'm a parent of two at John Baldwin and have been a room mom for multiple years and I'm concerned about the state of the school, the children, and the teachers," Melissa Candy told the board Tuesday. "The tension at John Baldwin has grown over the years. I've written the school board and superintendent twice in the last two years. ... This situation far exceeds the standard school dispute."

Other parents also spoke during public comment, depicting an environment of fear and questioned the leadership of the school.

"I am concerned, I'm stressed," one parent told the board. "I've been afraid to speak up over the last three years."

On the other side, one parent said these issues stem from only a few parents and staff who are "bitter" and upset with Hale.

"I urge the board to look deeper at what is going on at our school," parent Maria Vandarakis said. "Because of a mob mentality that has surfaced at our school, I'm fearful that the few against Mrs. Hale will overshadow the rest of us."

Donna Kenyon, 2011-12 district teacher of the year and a finalist for the Contra Costa County's teacher of the year, spoke in support of Hale.

"I'm shocked to be here tonight, speaking in defense of our appointed administrator of the year. ... I'm embarrassed that our parents were asked to be here to represent our staff as a whole," she said, reading a statement.

"Darlene Hale is by far the strongest principal in which I've worked under," she added.

Mark Thornton is a Baldwin parent of three. He also supports Hale.

"I strongly support Darlene Hale," he said. "Everyone can improve, and I'm sure she can improve, too."

After the public comments, outside of the meeting room, Kenyon maintained that the issue has not affected instruction at all.

Superintendent's response

Superintendent Steve Enoch, in response to the anonymous email, sent an email out to Baldwin parents on Monday.

"Some of you may have received an anonymous email last week that was basically critical of your principal, Ms. Hale," Enoch begins. "Regardless of whether the concerns in the email have merit or not, it is totally unacceptable that a person’s career and reputation can be potentially damaged by an anonymous email."

Enoch also discussed the inaccuracies in the anonymous email but didn't go into detail. He stated: "As for that email, please know that there were serious errors contained in it including the fact that no grievances have been filed by John Baldwin teachers. Some other aspects of the email are also incorrect, but I am limited on what I can say because I need to respect the privacy of employees."

Last Friday, Enoch met with staff after school and has talked with some Baldwin parent leaders. He goes on to say that disputes exist in workplaces but are usually solved internally.

"I am convinced that everyone at John Baldwin wants the very best for the students and is deeply committed to the community," he concludes.

The issues, however, will not be ignored.

An outside facilitator is on the way

Koehne said an outside facilitator would be brought in to sort out what's happening at Baldwin and recommend solutions.

"The issues will be resolved internally," Koehne said. "(The facilitator) will meet before the end of the school year with administration and staff at Baldwin to get at the heart of the issues."

He added that the district was disappointed that the issues were aired out in public. "Really disappointed it was made so public. These are false and real damaging assertions. They could be damaging to a career," he said.

Most of the board stayed quiet on the issue. Though, Board President Greg Marvel affirmed to the audience that a facilitator would be brought in.

Member Paul Gardner, however, was more vocal.

"I'm disappointed at the way the John Baldwin issue has gone. I have my own feelings about the issue, but I'm very disappointed in staff and disappointed in everybody," he said.

Does your child go to John Baldwin? What do you think of the school?

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Mark Thornton as a teacher at John Baldwin Elementary. This version corrects that error.

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Sam Clemens May 31, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Msvenezia I've been told by the district spokesman that the district will not consider spinning off some public charter schools as supported by studentsfirst.org. The spokesman said that charters were "systemic" and nothing the district should consider. So.... There u have it, Teachers Union trump card. (if citizens allow it)
Susan Gutierrez June 12, 2012 at 06:45 AM
Here are specifics and accountability. On a random day when my mother was visiting from Fla., we decided to show up at Baldwin to observe recess. We arrived to find practically the entire school outside without any adult supervision. Chaos. I walked around the entire perimeter looking for one adult. None. The bell sounded. Darlene appeared. I asked her why there were no adults outside supervising the children. She did not look at me and kept walking away. I followed her and repeated myself. She answered, without looking at me- " We have a lot of substitute teachers and I guess they didn't know they were supposed to be out here." Her tone was flippant. I tried to ask her again and she continued to walk away. This attitude was unsettling to me. She did not seem to take this seriously. I contacted the Superintendents office and told of the unsupervised playground. They assured me they would look into it. Darlene called me at home that evening. She was angry asking, " Did you call the Superindendents' office? I thought we already discussed this." She proceeded to speak in an intimidating manner and I felt as though I was dealing with someone who could retaliate against me for having voiced my concerns. Why are people afraid to sign there names? FEAR. Why are her supporters signing their names? No mystery there. Susan Gutierrez
CAgirl June 12, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Any follow up to this story? I'm sure there are plenty of Baldwin parents who would like to know what's going on as the school year closes and what to expect for next year.
Terry Parris Jr. June 12, 2012 at 09:47 PM
No follow up story yet. I'll post it here as soon as I have something.
Tom June 12, 2012 at 09:52 PM
There were some issues at her previous school as seen on a google search but cant tell who is right or wrong there. These places like to protect privacy and sometimes that helps to hide and ugly truth, sometimes it is only fair to all. Look at test scores as a good place to start. http://www.greatschools.org/?google_pid=gsenter1&s_cid=brand1


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