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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Controversial New Principal Hired by School District

Teachers Cry Foul:
Anti-Teacher Record Follows New Principal

Summer vacation, normally a quiescent time at the Emery Unified School District is turning out to be a time of great consternation after the Superintendent of the Schools certified the hire of a controversial new school principal last week.
Anna Yates Elementary School teachers are railing against the hiring of the new employee, Dr Russom Mesfun after it was revealed that Mr Mefun was named as a defendant in a successful 2008 lawsuit brought by teachers at his former place of employment, Lodi Unified School District.  The charges brought against Mr Mesfun at San Joaquin Superior Court show a administrator hostile to teachers that includes violations of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act for unlawful retaliation and discrimination and also defamation, wrongful termination with negligent hiring supervision and retention among others.  Lodi Unified ultimately settled the suit for $750,000.
Mr Mesfun had been Principal at the Central Valley town of Lodi's Christa McAuliffe Middle School before he resigned in the wake of the lawsuit.

Dr Russom Mesfun
The selection of Mr Mesfun at Emery was initiated by two panels consisting of district administrators, three teachers and a School Board member but the School Board as a whole has the final say in the matter.
  In a July 17th letter drafted to all the elementary school teachers at Emery after the selection of Mr Mesfun, new Superintendent Dr John Rubio, a champion of Mr Mesfun, said it was important that a "strong leader" be chosen for principle at the school and that there were "no other candidates that came anywhere close to Mr Mesfun in terms of experience and leadership ability."
However, teachers at Anna Yates expressed dismay at the prospect that Emery would hire a new principal with such a polarizing anti-teacher record, pointing to the baleful and divisive tenure of the recently deposed Superintendent of the schools Dr Debbra Lindo.   Ms Lindo's anti-teacher tactics brought on a response known as the Teacher's Resolution; a litany of abuses against Emery's teachers at the hand of Ms Lindo.
Teachers at Anna Yates who expressed desire for anonymity told the Tattler they hoped the selection of Mr Mesfun would not mean the start of a new season of anti-teacher culture and action directed at them by Emery Unified.  "It doesn't inspire a lot of confidence" one such teacher said after noting the retirement of Ms Lindo had brought hopes of a reset of teacher relations for the administration at Emery.

The San Joaquin County Superior Court complaint against Mr Mesfun may be read HERE.


  1. The Henry FamilyJuly 27, 2014 at 8:11 AM

    So this is what the Brilliant Board Hired:
    Over seventy faculty, parents and concerned citizens attended the first half of the February 18, 2014 Fillmore Unified School District (FUSD) Board Meeting which was held in the auditorium. Most had come to support those who spoke during the Public Comments. They addressed the Board on a variety of issues from concern over lack of leadership, questionable funding, English translators and teacher salary increases. During the second half of the meeting there were two presentations on the Common Core State Standards.

    Site Council Members addressed the Board stating no confidence in the Fillmore High School (FHS) Principal Russom Mesfun. There were complaints that during Site Council Meetings Mesfun showed little interest and would often leave early having stayed less than 15 minutes.
    Site Councils are a group of teachers, parents, classified employees and students (at the high school level) that work with the principals to develop, review and evaluate school improvement program and school budgets. They have an obligation to make decisions that will best serve the whole school community and advise the principal on the school’s academic or school improvement plan and evaluate the school’s progress.
    There were accusations of Mesfun not following legal requirements and distorting information on funding that was available while also leaving meetings early therefore not being available to discuss the budget. One of those that addressed the Board was Karen Ashim, who worked as head counselor at FHS and the Site Council for two years. Ashim stated, "Mr. Mesfun either lied or misled the Site Council" adding that Mesfun, after being asked about funding, sent an email six weeks later dated February 18, 2014 stating; "This is to ask you to get a wish list from team members for individual and/or departmental use. I would like to request the School Site Council to fund much needed materials and resources for classroom use. Please send me your items by Friday (2/28)." [See Letter to the Editor ]
    These concerns about Mesfun are overshadowed by his past work at Lodi Unified School District (LUSD) where he was sued for harassment, and lost resulting in LUSD paying out a total of $750,000 to three teachers. When asked if FUSD Board Members had knowledge of the harassment case and if they had vetted Mesfun before approving his being hired, the Board responded that Superintendent Dr. Alan Nishino had told them about the harassment and Mesfun's loss in court before they approved his being hired, but refused to respond any further citing employee confidentiality.
    Others addressed the Board by reading letters from parents and teachers (20 letters). One letter questioned a $500,000 expenditure where the writer asked the administration for an itemized list on what that large amount of money had been used. The writer received a response of "books and supplies." The letter goes on to ask "Is that an itemized list?"
    Many of the teachers who attended were there to display their unity and anger over the Board not having put a salary increase into this year's budget, stating that they had not received a raise in over seven years. And that with the increased funding that Proposition 30 has brought, they felt it was time to reward their patience adding that last year ended with a 15% surplus. FUSD teacher Sandy Butts charged "....the District’s bargaining team has not come to the bargaining table" adding that present teacher moral is low.
    Some in attendance are considering a recall of the FUSD Board and flyers were handed out before the meeting with the websites and for those wanting information.

  2. The Henry FamilyJuly 27, 2014 at 8:18 AM
    Investigation shows that the Fillmore Unified School District Board allegedly improperly hired Fillmore High School Principal Russom Mesfun, relying upon cronyism instead of due diligence. Personal friendships concealed serious flaws. Karen Ashim’s letter (below) reveals possible scandal of fiduciary failure of the school board:
    Dear Fillmore Unified School Board members,
    I want to inform you about the results of my recent and continuing investigation into the background of Russom Mesfun as it relates to his conduct at Fillmore High School. Note that I uncovered this information in only a few days and with limited resources. I suspect this information is only the tip of the iceberg. A more thorough investigation, given more time, more resources, and conducted by a trained investigator will no doubt expose far more than I have.
    I have found a consistent pattern of unacceptable behavior at each of the last four schools where Mesfun has been employed. The pattern has been one of harassment, retribution, incompetency, disrespect, and destruction of staff morale.
    I have received emails from teachers who worked at Britton Middle School at Morgan Hill and found articles in the Morgan Hill Times. One Morgan Hill teacher writes, “The one time I really got angry about Russom was when he used parent volunteers to spy on me in my classroom.” Another Morgan Hill teacher writes, “He used to use students to spy on teachers and report back to him! He was out to get every woman! You should talk to (teacher name not for publication) who was out on medical leave, and he tortured her…. The stories are endless. ”
    The Lodi lawsuit and deposition by Mesfun speak for themselves. When Mesfun was under consideration for his job in Lodi the assistant superintendent of LUSD, Dr. Brown, met with Nishino and Mesfun at Starbucks in Morgan Hill.
    A reasonable supposition is that Nishino used this opportunity to gloss over Mesfun’s inappropriate behavior and performance at Britton Middle School. This likely was one of the reasons for the statement in the law suit, “they should have known.”
    I have received email from teachers with documents from Montero Middle School in Oakland which I include with this letter. Rachel Uthman, a former vice principal writes, “I left my position at Montera because Russom Mesfun, the new principal wrote the position out of the budget. This was a deliberate act of revenge. He wrote my position out of the budget because I voiced concerns about him consuming all of my work time with his countless demands for me to witness him harass and bully others throughout each work day. Mr. Mesfun took a personal grudge against anyone who questioned his unscrupulous management practices.”...........Please go to the link and read the rest.

    I am very upset that the Superintendent and the Board hired this disgrace. There was no community input. We are done here. This is disgraceful, disrespectful and no way to instill confidence in this community. You take us for fools and it disgusts me. This district is done!

    1. Thanks Henrys! We are doing a follow-on to this story and will include this information you've provided and more. We need to get quotes from the Superintendent and of course Mr Mesfun. Watch this space....

  3. The Henry FamilyJuly 27, 2014 at 8:20 AM

    This is the garbage this District is left able to hire? God help us.

    1. I don't think this is appropriate. We have not even gotten to know him yet. Let's give him a chance.

    2. If you do a little research from the shambles he left behind in Fillmore, CA you may feel garbage is a more correct description.

    3. Inappropriate? Did you read the power point presentation from the teachers at Montera stating their concerns? This is EXACTLY like our last teacher's resolution against the former administration here. This guy has had issues at 4 of the last 4 schools he was at. A quote from a former Montera Vice Principal's letter: "And for the record, Mr. Mesfune is biased towards black students, staff and parents at Montera. He talks to them and treats them in a degrading way. He talks down to them and is very belittling. Whenever a black student gets into trouble, the first thing he asks them is 'Who do you live with?' If the parent is female he speaks to them in a really ugly way, and is disrespectful to them.....with women, he's an equal opportunity bigot. One day he told me, 'This school is being ran by crazy white people, mostly fat white women who have no life and have too much time on their hands because their husbands left them and they are angry. So they have noting better to do but to fuck with me!.....This is what work sounds like for me on a regular basis."

      Those are not MY words, that is what Juanita White, a Montera faculty member, wrote to the state administrator and SEIU. Please go read the letters from past faculty at the last schools he worked at. 4 for 4! Give him a 5th chance? Because he's going to change after the 5th time? I don't buy it. Take it from someone who won't stop making a fool of himself on this blog and still knows exactly what he's doing. This is the same old opera.

    4. I meant to write even though I know I'm making a fool of myself. Sorry I write with my elbows.
      The point is people don't change. ...much.

    5. Hey Ron. Where can I go to read the Montera power point with the staff concerns?

    6. All those documents are in windows at the end of the Fillmore Gazette article link. Just keep scrolling down. Here are some direct links to the Power Point:

      Juanita White's letter:


      Look I am not accusing anyone of anything but I am looking at the data available to me and questioning whether or not this is a good fit for our District. Dr. Mesfune may be a wonderful and nice person, I haven't met him. Regardless, there seems to be an inordinate amount of baggage attached to him as an administrator. Was this choice head and shoulders above the rest? Decide for yourself.

    7. Thanks Brian and Ron for all of the information. I read through ALL of the articles, complaints, and law suit. As for giving him a chance? A chance for what? Another lawsuit? Brian and Ron are correct! 100%! I did my own research as well. As a community member, I have connections all over OUSD. I had to check for myself to see if the complaints were accurate. I got information from two sources. The first, one of his former AP's at Montera. She not only verified what happened there, but was still angry while talking about it. The other, a former teacher at Montera and a friend of mine for the past 11 years. We spoke for 45 minutes on the phone and the stories she told me made my stomach turn. I am VERY disappointed with this hire! I'll be at the district office on Monday to demand an inter-district transfer for my three children. They deserve better than this!!!

  4. Even my 5th grader read those articles and asked why they would hire him after all of that.

  5. These articles make Dr. Mesfun sound like a sexist pig at best, and a predator at worst.
    I am sure our family's public comments here will create a hostile environment for us and our children at Anna Yates. I am sure the Superintendent should have no issue with granting us an immediate inter-district transfer request.

  6. I learned the above information and more on google. interesting things you can find there and it's free! I guess the board committee doing the hiring hasn't heard of it or check references of past employment. they must have paid the same headhunter agency that was used to select stephen wesley.

    wherever dr. alan k. nishino, so goes dr. mesfun. nishino was investigated by the santa clara county grand jury on his excessive retirement pay of $200,000 annual pension and a lump sum of over $400,000. shortly afterwards, he bought a house for $650,000 in southern california.

  7. The School Board has to approve all personnel decisions and I do not believe they have met to appoint him yet. There is still an opportunity to contact the Board and tell them not to make this hire. We should get a retired principal for a year and do this search right!

    1. That ship has sailed according to a July 17th letter to all Anna Yates teachers from John Rubio, the Superintendent of the Schools. Mr Rubio refers to Mr Mesfun as "your new principal" in the letter. It's been done.

    2. All personnel decisions are approved by the Board. Rubio might have expected this to be a routine rubber stamp by the Board, but it has clearly turned in to something more. Call School Board members and ask them if they have approved this hire yet. I am fairly certain the answer is: not yet. So long as that is true, there is time to advocate for a different way forward.

  8. This is unfortunate, there are so many good public employees out there, so many good principals--what is going on with Emeryville? Please dear residents make sure to vote in the November elections and make sure to pay attention to the school board.

  9. and just yesterday I received a brochure (in beautiful color) from the school district asking me what I think the priorities of spending should be due to "funding gaps created by years of sacramento budget cuts." is this some kind of a joke? two of the items to vote on are "keeping school libraries open" and "maintaining art and music classes." see my previous comments on how measure a is supposed to be spent.

    does the school district have an extra $750,000 laying around in case some teachers decide to sue the new principal?

  10. Anonymous it does not matter if you pay attention and are involved with the school board, involved with the school, attend and be a participating member in the school site councils, parent teacher committees, or parent oversight boards. We've done all that and still we find out about this new hire via the Emeryville Tattler. Nothing against Brian's blog but seriously? We got involved and participated in the schools so we could be informed and have a say in these types of decisions. Here we are. Shut out like the junkyard dog. EUSD has made it very clear they do not want public, parent or any other outside voice involved in their business. Dr Mesfun may be a wonderful Principal but I ask you, do you think after all of his history with angry parent and teacher groups calling for his head and ouster and writing letters claiming incompetence and forcing him out he is going to be highly motivated to bring the parents at EUSD together to form a strong coalition? All of the complaints I have read about his incompetence in leading the School Site Councils are EXACTLY the same concerns and complaints we voiced about Jag Lathan's lack of leadership. We were informed and participating parents but now we have no idea what the School Board and administration are doing over there. They are incredibly tone deaf when it comes to listening to the needs and desires of this community, and someday I hope they take their blinders off and look to the parents and community for partnerships but it is apparent that's not happening anytime soon.
    We too received the shiny card-stock questionnaire from Dr. Rubio asking what our priorities are and how we rank them in order from 1 to 5. Here's what we are asked to prioritize in this District: "Keeping school libraries open (why are they closing ours?), improving student's skills for the 21st Century Global Economy (whatever THAT means), maintaining student academic performance (we're asked to prioritize this? shouldn't it just be THE goal?), maintaining sufficient, up-to-date books and instructional materials (well DUH! Do you think anyone is satisfied with our kids learning from out-of-date sources? Especially since there is a whole new curriculum called "Core"? You are aware of that right Dr. Rubio?), Maintaining art and music classes (yes we are going to lose those), keeping classroom technology up to date (Ahh the hell with this one. Who needs modern technology? Certainly not our students).
    You know when we first got the questionnaire I was optimistic that at least our new Superintendent was reaching out to the community and asking for input. Now it appears to me that this is going to be the same old hollow lip service that the Lindo-Simon school board and administration paid us for the last 3 years. Here's an example of what I'm talking about: On his way out the door at his last Board meeting, Josh Simon pulled me aside and said "You know Ron the Emeryville school district has as much money as the Piedmont school district." That was all. I replied "That's great Josh" but in reality I still haven't figured out what that meant or what he was implying. What I do know is that the Piedmont school district is not asking their parents to prioritize the basic pillars of education and rank them 1 to 5.

    1. To Ron and the rest of the Henrys-
      I have to say I'm inclined to agree with your assessment here about the woefully inadequate partnershipping the District is doing with parents (and teachers and citizens). I've always noted the irony that Emery Unified is so bad at this when set against all the blather about how good they are at know the Center of 'Community' Life and all the focus group generated corollaries they run past us. They're not just bad at partnering with parents/citizens and teachers, they're actively opposed to it. And woe be it to those who disagree...

      However, all hope is not lost. There is an election in November. Finally we're going to get a chance to vote for our School Board members. All it takes is three new members with a better attitude and the change will be total and complete. As mighty as they seem, this District, with it's hardened bunkers and anti-teacher/parent attitude, is really a paper tiger. We can effect real change. Remember to vote.

  11. we already lost the music teacher and music program. I have an email signed by anakarita allen, addressed to council member jennifer west, dated april 11 (or thereabouts) advising " anna yates does not have a music program at this time and mr. carraway's position was not filled. every spring we review the parcel tax budget with parcel tax oversight committee every fall. funding is not earmarked because we look at all programs that are funded with parcel tax dollars and create a new budgets (sic) yearly based on instructional needs and local plans. we are addressing the possibility of bringing back the music program through the local control accountability plan process and the anna yates school site council process."

    it is also interesting to note that according to the emery unified school district website, there is a vacancy on measure a's oversight committee.

    i had asked then supt. mr. quinn and chief business office mark bonnett who forwarded my email to ms. allen. i received this email from jennifer west, not the people to whom i addressed my question.

    i therefore consider the ballot measure a as fraudulent since it misled the voters.

    there will be a special meeting july 30 at 6:30 to extend measure a, the school parcel tax. for your information, this tax started out for three years at ten cents per sq. ft., then extended another ten years to fifteen cents per sq. ft. it is set to expire in 2016 although some sources show the expiration date as 2019. it will be interesting to see if the senior exemption clause is removed.

  12. Emeryville parents, students, and teachers are in for a Treat!

  13. Our school board approved the hiring at his last district (FUSD) on the recommendation of the superintendent. I am telling you now that this is going to turn out bad for your district. He will talk a good game, but this is a classic example of wolf in sheep's clothing. I witnessed it first hand. You should start now and make the school board accountable for this. Write a letter to each member of the board andask for an explanation. The board has the power to do something. If they can't give you a valid reason for the hiring, they should not be around for the next term. Once he reaches tenure you will be stuck. Watch for morale to decline at the school.

  14. I have also had the misfortune of being "led" by Mr. Mesfun. He has left outrage and disgust here. His arrogance and lack of leadership hurt my school terribly. I have witnessed and been personally attacked by his bullying "tactics". He is a person I lost faith in almost immediately.