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The Vranesh situation heads to court

Uploaded: Oct 28, 2014
The vexing challenge faced by the Pleasanton school district got more difficult this month when former Walnut Grove Principal Jon Vranesh filed a law suit against the district.
Vranesh was removed as principal in a 4-1 school board vote last December after the administration and three board members decided he was responsible for creating "hostile work environment" and allegedly using vulgar language to refer to female staff members.
After being removed as principal, he was re-assigned as a roving administrator. He told the school board earlier this month that he had been re-assigned as a classroom teacher at Village High School. He then said he was placed on administrative leave and has been receiving $95,000 for doing nothing. He also said that he had been isolated b district administrators.
His legal action asserts that district administrators retaliated against him for filing a complaint last October with the state Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing that accused district leaders of sex/gender discrimination, harassment and retaliation. The 165-page law suit has 14 causes of action.
Let me be clear?I have no inside knowledge about this. I know what I have read and what I have observed and reported on over four decades of newspapering.
That said, this could be one of those cases where the district ends up paying on both sides.
The district's insurance carrier already has settled complaints from two female employees for a total of $490,000 and Vranesh's legal action contends that the district already had paid its legal firm $316,000. In addition to Vranesh's complaints, there are also two other employees who have filed claims related to the investigation.
With the formal legal action now filed, the Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi could not confirm Vranesh's employment status. In his comments to the school board, he said that Bill Faraghan, the assistant superintendent of human resources, put him on administrative leave before he could start at Village. He also said that Faraghan told him that he would receive a "statement of charges" by mid-August and had received nothing to date.
The case is sadly reminiscent of one at the Livermore Police Dept. many years ago when a female officer claimed she was sexually harassed by a lieutenant. After investigating, the city paid a settlement of six figures (around $300k if my memory suffices).
Discussing the settlement, the city attorney let his mouth run ahead of his brain and slandered the police lieutenant who then filed suit. The city ended up settling that action, again in six figures, with the total cost including outside counsel running more than $1 million.
Given actions and expenditures to date, the school district will be fortunate to resolve this without running well beyond that total. .
The situation is inherently difficult because of the state personnel laws, but it is difficult to understand why the district leadership did not move ahead with additional personnel action against Vranesh if they had the proof.
How this situation has been handled should be on voters' minds when they decide on the school trustees. The two incumbents were both in the majority that removed Vranesh.
The irony is that there's been quite a flap over the new calendar?a process that the district handled very well?when this is far more significant.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 28, 2014 at 8:54 am

Both sides are vocal and the discussion consists mostly of pointing fingers.

Expect a scandal and perhaps a few heads will roll?

I have no reason to believe that the truth will prevail.

It's always interesting how a case like this gets resolved!

Posted by EminTen, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 28, 2014 at 9:25 am

What has always intrigued me about this circumstance a small school environment, such as Walnut Grove, how it is that only two FEMALE teachers seemed to hear the supposed daily overwhelming denegration of women and vulgarity that Mr. Vranesh exhibited. I've coached and been around school environments for the past 20+ years, both big and small. Trust me, if what these two women are saying is true, there would have been MALE teachers who would have witnessed it, and been just as disgusted and appalled. Without knowing anything of course, my guess is, these two spectacularly audibly gifted women didn't like the fact that they were asked to do things "outside of their normal jobs", i.e. attending events on school nights, weekends, etc etc....and decided they needed to get Vranesh out to preserve their cushy job lifesyles.

Posted by CarPark, a resident of Birdland,
on Oct 28, 2014 at 11:37 am

You're right. PUSD will be paying both ends for sure. JV stated at a board meeting (I believe it was February) that he was already offered a settlement but refused. What's a career and reputation worth?

What's different about this case from the Livermore incident you quoted is; no one said they were sexually harassed by JV, they said they heard him say bad things about others. And if people feel unsafe in the workplace because they are made to wait until the end of a meeting to ask questions, (as was stated in the FOIA documents) the whole country must feel unsafe because that's the way meetings usually work. Heck, I wonder if I feel "unsafe" because if I ask questions at a public school board meeting I won't ever get an answer? They can't even respond. No wait, that's frustration I feel. If you send an email to the PUSD it must go into some internet black hole because the only two that ever respond are Arkin and Hinzke

My guess is the pay out will be in the millions. The situation was so badly handled by the PUSD one just had to see that by reading the FOIA documents.

What's worrisome is we trust the education of our children to a district who let what was an HR issue blow up into epic proportions that will effect this district for years to come.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 28, 2014 at 12:52 pm

EminTen: How come you capitalized the word "FEMALE"? Does the word "FEMALE"
mean the same thing if it's written in lower case letters?

What have you "coached"? How does the mention of having "coached" and "been around" for years relate to what happened? I don't understand. Are you saying that you're an experienced individual and you're familiar with what occurs in school environments between personnel? What's the implication?

I don't know enough about you to "trust" you EminTen. Are you a friend of Mr. Vranesh? I don't know him. However, I'm interested in the legal arguments.

How can you be so certain that there would have been "MALE" teachers present and "just as appalled?" I don't understand how that could be helpful to Mr. Vranesh?

As a union supporter, I would not support employees working outside of their job descriptions. Did the women have a contractual right to decline Mr. Vranesh's request to engage in activity "outside of their normal jobs"?

It will be very interesting when this case is finally in a court of law. Hopefully, justice will be served.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 28, 2014 at 3:30 pm

I understand that the Department of Fair Employment and Housing does minimal discovery.

DFEH: Web Link

Posted by Jack, a resident of Downtown,
on Oct 28, 2014 at 6:07 pm

Love your column right up until the last line?
How did the current board approve a questionnaire to go out to the public that included 5 calendar options, and then stand by only to be told by the superintendent that they're only allowed to vote on two?
Vranesh and the calendar are equally embarrassing debacles...

Posted by Sue, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 31, 2014 at 8:50 am

I want to be in a union-Highway Patrol Offices sharing photos of women they arrested, sexual harassment by a school principals, incompetent teachers who don't teach. All continue to be paid b/c they are in a union and cannot be fired.

Posted by Peter Kluget, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 31, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Sue, it doesn't come close to being the son of a billionaire:
Web Link

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Oct 31, 2014 at 5:15 pm

I agree. I rest my case.

Posted by Jtjh, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School,
on Nov 1, 2014 at 3:11 pm

It seems to me very significant that a year after the the allegations, and despite very large payouts to those who made the allegations, the district has not fired John Vranesh.

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