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Concerns about the Ripon Unified superintendent’s student meeting

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POSTED April 21, 2017 1:43 a.m.

Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

The following is a copy of a letter sent to the Ripon Unified School District board on March 1.

Regarding the Superintendent for Lunch meeting incident (Feb. 21, 2017) and phone call (Feb. 23, 2017).

Board Members,

My name is Jimmy Lan (Graduated Ripon High 1992).  I am a longstanding resident of Ripon and father of Brendan Lan (Ripon Elementary student body president).  Brendan was one of the students in the room during the incident where the superintendent engaged in a 30 minute heated argument with the high school student body president about salary negotiations.

I filed an in-person complaint against the superintendent to Chad Huskey on Feb 24, 2017.  

I would like to file a written complaint in order to document this incident, and make sure that every member of the board understands how displeased I am about the superintendent choosing to engage a student in salary negotiation talks, in that setting.  It was clearly bad judgment on the part of the superintendent.  It was not the place, time, or audience for this subject, and could have easily been avoided by saying “let’s talk privately or at another time”.  

After my meeting with Chad Friday afternoon, I asked my son to recall deeper detail into the meeting and discovered two points that I found disturbing.  1) My son said that the door was open, but shortly after the superintendent got into the subject of salary negotiations, she leaned over and shut the door.  My son describes a feeling that “she was hiding something or didn’t want people to hear about what was being said”.  2) Midway through the 30 minute heated salary negotiation discussion, she told the students “Students shouldn’t talk about this at school”.  I asked what he thought “this” meant, and he said salary negotiations.  Then she said “Teachers shouldn’t talk about this at school”.  A student asked her what about at home.  She said they could say what they want at home.  Brendan thought to himself, “You just told us students and teachers are not supposed to talk about this at school.  So why are YOU talking about this at school”.

Secondly, the superintendent called me around 8:30 p.m. Thursday night.  Instead of apologizing for discussing an inappropriate topic in the lunch meeting and getting off the phone with me, she began talking to me about salary negotiations, therefore confirming to me that she did, in fact, discuss this topic with the students in the lunch meeting.   She did not “really” apologize to me.  I lead her to a “mumbled not real apology”  by repeating periodically five times in this 30 minute phone call “1) You called me 2) We both agree you used bad judgment in discussing that topic in that meeting 3) You apologized (which she really didn’t) 4) I accepted your apology 5) We can end the call anytime, now”. 

 She did not even believe she did something wrong and instead was inferring that my son may have not understood what she was trying to do by talking about salary negotiations.  What is amazing is that she called me, so she knew she did something wrong, but was not able to admit making a mistake, apologize, and get off the phone.  Her phone call made an almond orchard fire into a forest fire.  

I asked Mr. Larson that for future superintendent lunch meetings either a parent/district employee should be present or this meeting should be discontinued.

The junior high/high school experience is supposed to be positive, fun, and a base for future learning.  It shouldn’t be a place where students are not comfortable meeting alone with their superintendent/administrator/teacher, and not a place where a parent feels uncomfortable to leave their child alone with a superintendent/administrator/teacher.

I ask the board to do 2 things:

uInvestigate how many high school students present in that meeting feel uncomfortable to meet with the superintendent alone after this incident

uInvestigate how many parents’ of junior high kids present in that meeting feel uncomfortable leaving their child alone with the superintendent after this incident

I also request a short meeting with Mr. Ernie Tyhurst, Mrs. Caroline Hutto, Mrs. Christina Orlando, and Dr. Kit Oase, individually. I will also be reaching out to you over the next week.  In the short meeting, I’d like to get to know each other a little bit, understand your thoughts about our school district and where it’s going, and voice my opinion about the lunch meeting incident. 

Short Info About Myself:  Moved to Ripon in 1984, My family (Vicky Lan & Phillip Lan) and I have lived in Ripon most of our lives, Attended Ripon Elementary & Ripon High School.  Please call me (Or, I may have already reached out to you).  I’d like to get to know you and understand your thoughts.

A parent and resident of Ripon that is looking out for the best interest of our schools, community, and kids — Thank You.

Jimmy Lan

Ripon

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