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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Emery Schools Superintendent Defends Choice in New Principal

New Superintendent Stakes Reputation on Mesfun Hiring

Emeryville parents have joined the ranks of concerned Anna Yates Elementary School teachers after it was revealed last week Emery Unified School District had recently hired school principal, Dr Russom Mesfun a school administrator with a history of teacher complaints against him, including a successful lawsuit from his previous job at another school district, however District Supervisor John Rubio told the Tattler he is standing by his choice in Mr Mesfun.   In an interview in his office, Mr Rubbio downplayed the complaints recently even as he acknowledged the apparent severity of the allegations from teachers and parents at four different school districts Mr Mesfun worked for before he came to Emery.  Superintendent Rubio was adamant; Mr Mesfun he said "...will be a great improvement for Anna Yates Elementary School"adding he emerged "by far the strongest candidate after two separate interview processes".

Emery Superintendent
of the Schools John Rubio

Mesfun choice represents 
a bold and risky move.
Superintendent Rubio is himself only recently hired as a replacement for the embattled and deposed former Superintendent Debbra Lindo, widely seen as contributing to the anti-teacher reputation the District has.  He takes a large risk with the hiring of Principal Mesfun, a point he acknowledged, noting if his choice in Mr Mesfun doesn't work out it will be his credibility and reputation damaged.
Mr Rubio also acknowledged the recent bad blood between the District and its teachers, "It was important for me to find someone who would build relations with teachers as well as establish systems for communicating, school safety and parent involvement" he said, adding it was also important to find someone who is "a strong instructional leader with experience."  He expressed confidence teachers at Anna Yates will come to respect and support Principal Mesfun after they get to know him.

With the still emerging story of Mr Mesfun's checkered past threatening to overtake the Superintendent as he prepares the district for the beginning of a new school year later in the month, he questioned the value of Mr Mesfun's employment record as revealed by the internet , "I don't believe everything I read on the internet including information from the Lodi [School District] lawsuit and the interactions I have had with him so far have been very positive."  He noted superintendents from other school districts Mr Mesfun has worked for have also been positive, "Every Superintendent going back has told us he's a strong instructional leader".

Mr Rubio noted that Mr Mesfun's positive impressions at the first Emery interview panel contained a majority of teachers and District staff (as opposed to District administrators) a point that would tend to show even greater support of the Mesfun choice at Emery.  However one of the teachers on the panel told the Tattler that Mr Mesfun's past problems at the other districts was not revealed to the panel by the District, a fact that might have netted a different judgement regarding the hiring of Mr Mesfun.  Superintendent Rubio concurred, stating "We didn't know about his past at that point".

Readers may peruse some of the alegations against Mr Mesfun:
Fillmore Unified School District  HERE & HERE
Lodi Unified School District HERE
Oakland Unified School District HERE & HERE


  1. We met with Dr. Rubio on Sunday and I have to say I really like him and see that he is working very hard getting up to speed. I will also say that he is on top of many underlying issues that concern me so I am optimistic there. Given that, I am also seriously concerned he staked his reputation on a hire that was seemingly made in desperation. I hope he realizes that that the real risk is being born by the students, teachers, staff and community. They are the ones who will suffer the most if we become like the last schools Dr. Mesfun principled. I have had faculty from past schools find our home number and call me personally to tell me stories about Dr. Mesfun. These are not crazy internet people mind you, but concerned and credible educators that feel VERY strongly that Mesfun and Nishino are a problem. Yes Dr. Rubio admitted that Nishino was among the recommendations. I have also had prominent members of the Emeryville community tell me that they completely agree. I really can't understand this decision and it makes my head explode that Dr. Rubio would double down on this decision; a decision he clearly made without the proper background information. I really like him but really question his judgement here. I hope, no I pray to God that I am wrong. I will be the first one to stand in the public square and eat a big fat crow.
    Thank you Mr. Patz for your vote. Melodi, Miguel and Joy I don't know what the hell you are thinking.

  2. Thank you Henry Family for voicing your concerns.

    Trying to comprehend "we didn't know about his past at that point" leads one to think: when did the school board and the committee know about Mesfun's past? Shouldn't the time to know the "past" be before a selection is made?

    You might want to check the attendance/roll call of school board meetings for the past six months.

  3. I think Nishino did the same thing at the last district. Brought Mesfun in and no one knew of his past until it was too late.

  4. As a teacher at FHS, I am truly saddened to hear that this man has again been put in charge of another school. In my opinion, this is what you need to watch out for: he will always find a way to blame others for his failures (he knows nothing about budgets, master schedules, IEPs, deadlines, etc.); he will always find a way to take credit for the accomplishments of others (start listening for "I personally did this" and other "I" statements...he can't make a single speech without making it about himself); he wants TOTAL authority and he will find a way to punish those who question or disagree with him, no matter how professional your behavior is (you will find yourself written up for offences that magically appear, he will be inspecting your classroom every day, school events like dances will be cancelled at the last minute). Good luck, Anna Yates teachers. You certainly need it.

    1. As a staff member with the district, I appreciate getting feedback from FHS teachers seeing how the superintendent, school board, or other district personnel have said nothing to the staff. Talk is cheap. We've heard enough talking, it's time for actions. The school board has the authority to support staff and parents. With this hire, it's saying, "We don't care about the students, the families, or the staff at EUSD." I hope Dr. Mesfun will be a good fit, but as they say, the proof is in the pudding. I would love to hear more from FHS teachers seeing how that staff was the most recent to deal with this nonsense. We've had enough drama with this district, we don't need anymore.

    2. Try

  5. The statements about Mesfun's bad record are true and are documented by sources other than just the internet. The lawsuit Case. CV 034869 [3 names] vs. Lodi Unified School District and Russom Mesfun, the record of the $250,000 out of court settlement, and Mesfun's deposition in the lawsuit are all public record. Other sources include sworn statements in the lawsuit, articles published in several newspapers, letters to the editor, video and audio recordings of public school board meetings and other school events, and personal eyewitness accounts.

    What is Nishino's motivation go give Mesfun a favorable, if not glowing, recommendation? An understanding of Nishino's past is key to answering the question. Mesfun worked for Nishino at Morgan Hill USD in 2006. In his deposition for the Lodi lawsuit against him, Mesfun revealed that Nishino and Mesfun together met with the Lodi school board interviewer at a Starbuck's. Has anyone heard of a job interview for a senior position being held at a coffee shop with the candidate being present? It is not a far stretch to surmise Nishino was trying to gloss over the problems Mesfun had at Morgan Hill.

    Mesfun's hiring at Fillmore is a clear case of cronyism. Mesfun applied for the principal position after the application deadline but Nishino waved the requirement. Mesfun was not the top rated candidate by interview committee. FUSD school board members have stated they did not know about the Lodi lawsuit against Mesfun until after they approved hiring him. Nishino buried it.

    Is Nishino's word in support of Mesfun to be trusted? Would he really admit he was responsible for hiring a principal with such a bad record? Common sense says no. At one point in his career, Nishino was the Superintendent at Castaic USD. Former Castaic School Board member Greg Farrier told The Tacoma News Tribune, “We questioned his judgment on a lot of things. There was a question on his veracity.” (The News Tribune, Tacoma, WA, April 11, 2008)

    Had Mesfun's record been fully, carefully, and objectively scrutinized he would not have been hired at Lodi, Fillmore, or Emeryville.

    What is a school board's place in situations like this? A school board has final responsibility in school district affairs. Notice that the first named defendant in the Lodi lawsuit is the Lodi Unified School District. School board bylaws state, “The Board of Education has been elected by the community to provide leadership and citizen oversight of the district. Board of Education recognizes its responsibility to ensure accountability to the public for the performance of district schools. The Board shall regularly review the effectiveness of the district's programs, personnel, and fiscal operations, with a focus on the district's effectiveness in improving student achievement.”

    Our sympathy to the students, parents, teachers, and staff at Anna Yates School.

  6. Thank you. Sometimes It feels like nobody besides 3 of us give a damn in Emeryville. The silence from my community is deafening. Its a shame and telling how this happens in small communities. Apathy may be diluted in the Big City, but it's a killer of small towns like ours.

  7. Superintendent Rubio,
    Are you kidding me? What part of the internet readings do you not believe? The man is a peacock! All show and no go.He decimated a school that was successful. Over the 2 years he was principal, test scores, moral and community plummeted. As he did not know his job, he delegated all duties and responsibilities, shirked his supervisory assignments and felt that his sole responsibility was to be an over paid figure head - showing up for photo opts more readily than to a meeting. How much clearer can we make it? At the end of his first year he stood in front of us and said, "I have over 400 books on my kindle that I will read to learn how to be a principal." Shouldn't that have happened in August when he was hired? Or before he applied. Dr Rubio, if you have been snowed by his interviewing skills, you will soon see that there is nothing behind it. Stand up for your staff, they have been through thick and thin with your district. Don't subject them to his unprofessional whims.

  8. In Mesfun's defense, he said he had "over 200 books on my Kindle." Pretty sure none of them had to do with running a school.

  9. As a teacher at Fillmore High School, can someone at the Emeryville Tattler assure me that what I would like to post is and will remain anonymous? Thanks.

    1. Yes, anonymous comments are anonymous, without the possibility of compromise.

    2. okay then, here goes...
      I am a teacher at Fillmore High School - and I would like to tell you that the past two years with Mr. Mesfun as Principal has been the most horrific experience of my professional life. I was not "targeted" by Mr. Mesfun - he did not blatantly go after me - but I was deeply by his actions and incompetence. I was just fallout – and just one of many people who happened to suffer fallout from horrible decision-making, no decision-making, militant leadership and/or backroom deals. Mr. Mesfun is all about ego and show. He has no ability to humble himself, roll up his sleeves and do the work that needs to be done. Yes, he will talk about how hard he works, how respect is the top priority. However, he will throw all the respect stuff out the window when anything happens that he perceives as making him look bad. It was shocking to witness how he spoke to some employees and students who “stepped out of line.” Mr. Mesfun has some definite ideas about things that are “beneath him.” He never came out and said this, it just became apparent in his actions – in what he would and would not do. Mr. Mesfun will talk forever about how he was raised in disadvantaged circumstances – but this does not make him sympathetic/empathetic towards others – sadly, it makes him feel he has earned the right to be “above” others. It’s as if he “did his time working in a factory” and thus he never has to look back or “lower himself” to any of that again. If you are a woman, you might get the sense that, while Mr. Mesfun has learned his lesson from past repercussions, he considers women second-class citizens, certainly lower than men – and is almost insulted that he not only has to work with women, but actually has to treat them as equals. Most male teachers at Fillmore High would agree with that statement by the way.
      I'm not a psychological-medical professional who can diagnose people - but, after dealing with Mr. Mesfun for a while - I read tons of books on "work bullies" - all depressing stuff. From what I read, Mr. Mesfun has some very classic characteristics of a sociopath and a narcissist. These terms are thrown around all the time, in daily language, but, if one reads up on them, it is quite scary. And, sadly, quite fitting. What makes Mr. Mesfun different than just some clueless principal is that he is VERY intelligent. Please, teachers, keep your cards close to your vest. This man zeros right in on your weak spot. It's not a matter of "why ME?" - it's all a matter of "WHEN me?" He's an "equal opportunity abuser" - does not care who the person is. I don’t think he targets people as much as he simply does not care who he needs to destroy for his personal gain. And his personal gain could be just merely fixing “appearances” in his mind – yet he gives no second thought as to what or who he needs to bring down in order to achieve his twisted vision.
      My final thought returns to your school and how Mr. Rubbio said that Mr. Mesfun outshined all other candidates by far. How is it that a person with absolutely NO experience in an elementary school outshines all other candidates? How is it that your school board and Mr. Rubbio did not decide - as school districts can - that no stellar applications came forward and thus extended the application deadline? You are just at the beginning of what appears to be the same thing we went through. Some sort of deal on the part of the superintendent that secured Mr. Mesfun’s hire (meaning you will have to acknowledge there exists corruption) and a School Board who didn’t properly vet the candidate OR were/are also in on the deal.
      I applaud you "Henry Family" - for speaking out and raising concerns. It's going to be a long and/or painful battle - please don't give up. As I said, Mr. Mesfun is no dummy, he will dial it way down - but this is the man we dealt with (and suffered through). Even if you don't "see" it, can't put your finger on it - you will feel it. It has been a nightmare for us.