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Stephenie Pettit has been placed on administrative leave for requesting massages from students. (See Channel 10 News story below.)
No one, including the police, has found that there was any hint of wrongdoing in Ms. Pettit's classroom--only bad judgment.
(Updated Mar. 14, 2014) But a parent has made me realize that Ms. Pettit's actions could result in serious harm to students in the future because they conditioned children to touch an adult on request. Even worse, kids were given class currency to do the touching. If CVESD used my plan for master teachers, this would not have happened. Our system puts untested teachers in full and solitary control of classrooms right after getting their teaching credentials. There is no close oversight or support to guide them.
Superintendent Francisco Escobedo will need to be careful in this case. A couple of members of his administration have more to hide than a few massages.
Asst. Supt. Sandra Villegas-Zuniga and Human Resources director Peg Myers will want to go easy on Ms. Pettit. They will want to continue the district's policy of avoiding investigations. It's a good policy when the people with the most to hide are not the ones the district is targeting. Ms. Pettit might say more than they want to hear if she were pressed for information.
WHAT KIND OF INVESTIGATIONS DOES CVESD CONDUCT?
Let's compare two situations: kids giving massages in the current case versus a report that a teacher might come to school and shoot everybody in an earlier case involving Peg Myers and Stephenie Pettit. Why was there NO investigation in the earlier case, while the police were called in in the second case? Because no reporters were interested in the earlier case.
The fact is, CVESD doesn't do thorough investigations to keep kids safe. Instead, it tries to protect its reputation. Too often this means covering up truly illegal actions by staff. As soon as as a report of child molestation surfaces in any school, a district administrator runs over to the school and threatens all the teachers that they'd better keep quiet. And they do keep quiet. The public has the right to vote for board members, but clearly does NOT enjoy the right to know what's going on at school districts.
Stephenie Pettit would NOT be the target of any investigation in the earlier case, but she'd be a star witness. She knows the truth about the reports of "fear for their lives" by teachers Jo Ellen Hamilton and Linda Watson when they taught at Castle Park Elementary in 2001. Pettit knows the role that Peg Myers played in the cover-up of crimes by Robin Donlan and other teachers.
And Sandra Villegas-Zuniga and Francisco Escobedo also know, or they should know.
Asst. Supt. Sandra Villegas-Zuniga might want to review her bizarre dealings with Peg Myers.
Peg Myers at her deposition
When Myers was the site representative at Castle Park Elementary School about ten years ago, she kept a tight rein on Stephenie Pettit in order to make sure that illegal actions were kept hidden. Stephenie Pettit was not involved in the original illegal actions, but she did keep her mouth shut after she found out about them. Later, when Myers was President of Chula Vista Educators (CVE), she continued to use her position to cover-up events at Castle Park in 2000-2001.
When she was President of CVE, Myers apparently impressed Villegas-Zuniga as someone who would help the district manipulate teachers. After sitting across from Myers at the bargaining table for a number of years, Villegas-Zuniga convinced Myers to clamber across the table to the other side and accept the job of Director of Human Resources. Obviously, Peg's intimate knowledge of individual teachers, and the workings of the teacher union, have been very helpful to the district in intimidating teachers. [Yes, I know that the district website claims that Myers is in charge of "classified" staff. Don't be fooled. She spends at least some of her time intimidating teachers.]
So here's the problem in the current situation. Stephenie Pettit knows the details of who was involved, and what actions they took, during the years when a large number of violations of civil and criminal laws were committed at Castle Park Elementary School, the district office, and the teachers union. The near-destruction of a school by power-hungry teachers and administrators was just the boost Peg Myers' career needed, and she has catapulted dramatically to higher positions since she was just an ordinary teacher at Castle Park Elementary in 2001.
CASTLE PARK ELEMENTARY
The effects of the decade-long teacher meltdown at Castle Park Elementary--that resulted in the school having 11 principals in 11 years--continue to ripple through the district.
It staggers the imagination to realize how many teachers involved with Castle Park Elementary's descent into a miasma of dysfunction have continued to make news long since the Chula Vista Star-News and San Diego Union-Tribune lost interest in supporting a troublesome group of teachers, parents and administrators that brought the school to its knees during their years of arbitrary power.
Pam Smith and Larry Cunningham
Current Chula Vista Elementary board members Pam Smith and Larry Cunningham oversaw the cover-up of illegal actions by CVESD employees at the school in 2000-2001. (I was a teacher at Castle Park Elementary, with Stephenie Pettit and Peg Myers, at that time.)
Former CVE president Jim Groth wanted a replacement who would continue the teacher versus teacher culture that he had helped create. Peg Myers fit the bill perfectly. See all Jim Groth blog posts.
It should be mentioned that current member of the statewide CTA board of directors Jim Groth played a big role in the concealment of illegal actions. He was then, and still is, a member of the Chula Vista Educators board. I imagine he's already hopped in his car and driven over to the district office to remind the administration that the district and the teachers union need to continue the cover-up.
After the district paid $100,000s of taxpayer dollars in legal fees to lawyers Dan Shinoff and Mark Bresee for their successful efforts to protect teachers and administrators who had committed crimes, the prevailing teachers apparently felt invulnerable. They delighted in their arbitrary power to do whatever they wanted and get away with it. What else could the district expect when it had fired a teacher (me!) simply for demanding an investigation, and for refusing to come back to work until something was done about the relentless harassment of me by teacher thugs.
Kids are being harmed every day in CVESD classrooms by cruel and/or incompetent teachers and administrators as well as those with faulty judgment. The district needs to take steps to prevent and mitigate harm to children.
Former CVE President Gina Boyd. See Gina Boyd's deposition HERE.
Robin Donlan, notorious along with her husband for $7 million Wireless Facilities stock options fraud case. See Robin Donlan's deposition HERE.
The rogue teachers were led by Robin Donlan, a personal friend of both Peg Myers and former CVE president Gina Boyd. Gina Boyd was a member in extremely good standing of the self-styled "Castle Park Family". The self-styled "Castle Park Family" resisted all efforts by a string of principals (averaging one principal per year for 11 years) to get them to settle down and do their jobs. I myself was a target of the ruling teachers. Administrators Libia Gil and Rick Werlin did the bidding of those teachers.
Before my lawsuit was even finished, five teachers were transferred out of the school during the summer of 2004. Stephanie Pettit was one of the "Castle Park Five" group that included the notorious Robin Donlan, Peg Myers, and Nikki Perez.
This district keeps finding that its favored employees have big problems. Perhaps an effective evaluation system for teachers would help? But no, that would interfere with the politics that currently guides employment decisions at the district. And the district wouldn't have hired Peg Myers if it didn't want to keep politics in the forefront of district decisions.
I doubt that the district will try to fire Mrs. Pettit. She knows too much about criminal actions by teachers and administrators. I predict a settlement.
And as far as the parent who says Stephanie should not teach again, I don't see how voluntarily giving a massage to a teacher could seriously harm a child. The situation is no more serious than if Stephanie were rewarding kids to fan her. The problem with the behavior is that the students are being asked to treat the teacher like a queen rather than a professional. The touching was clearly NOT sexual. It's only wrong because kids shouldn't be performing personal services for teachers--like combing hair, cutting hair, shining shoes, etc. Of course, Stephenie used poor judgment, but she's been taught by the district and the teachers union that she and other teachers with political connections are free to indulge any whim without repercussions.
A more important issue is that kids are being damaged by teachers every day in CVESD classrooms. There is psychological damage being done by cruel, rigid teachers who take pleasure in causing pain. Stephanie did not cause pain to the kids who volunteered to give her massages.
It would be interesting to know what else was happening when the kids were giving the teacher a massage. Was she teaching them at the same time? This could very well be the case. But there are so many classrooms where teachers spend huge amounts of time NOT interacting with their students that it would be very dangerous for anyone to criticize Stephanie even if she had not been teaching while receiving a massage. She could easily get plenty of witnesses to talk about the time wasted in classrooms while teachers are doing something other than teaching. I could write a book about it.
Stephanie deserves the due process than she herself helped to deny to me. Lawyer Dan Shinoff of Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz took tax dollars for his successful efforts to keep Stephanie from being deposed in my case. I would be happy to deposed in any case she might file--which is exactly why I think that the district won't try to fire her. Here's my deposition in the current defamation lawsuit against me by Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz. Stutz is quite miffed, it seems, that the Court of Appeal says I have a constitutional right to discuss the lawyers who act on behalf of public schools.
Though I was not able to depose Stephanie, I was able to take the depositions of Castle Park Family members Gina Boyd, Peg Myers and Robin Donlan. (I recommend clicking on these links for these depositions if only to see the hilarious expressions on the faces of teachers who don't like being asked to tell the truth.)
Channel 10 News and San Diego Union-Tribune have covered this story. Let's see if Channel 10 will investigate further the failure of school districts to do meaningful evaluations of teachers. The SDUT has been covering up for CVESD for years. I hope they will start to cover the real stories instead of only the sensationalistic ones.
Researches say that 10% of teachers are doing a bad job, failing to add value to their students' academic abilities. Many teachers have serious personality problems. But the fact is that CVESD really doesn't know its teachers. I never met a principal who really observed and really talked to staff members to find out what they were up to.
It's time that ALL teachers in CVESD were properly evaluated.
Chula Vista teacher removed from job, accused of soliciting massages from studentsTeacher on leave over massage claims
CHULA VISTA, Calif. - Some parents at a South Bay elementary school told 10News they couldn't believe what their kids said went on inside their third-grade classroom.
"This behavior, to my son, has become so normalized that he did not report it to me," said parent Andy Stumph.
Some parents say Salt Creek Elementary School teacher Stephanie Petitt solicited massages from the students during reading time in exchange for $10 in class money. The parents also say Petitt also encouraged the third graders to give each other massages.
"The most children I've heard at any one time that was massaging the teacher was seven -- one on each leg, one on each arm, one on each shoulder, one playing with the hair," Stumph said.
The parents voiced their concerns at a school board meeting Wednesday night but weren't happy with the outcome, so they contacted 10News.
Chula Vista Elementary School District Superintendent Francisco Escobedo said Chula Vista police were called in to investigate but did not find any criminal wrongdoing.
"This behavior is absolutely not acceptable. We have professional standards at Chula Vista," Escobedo said.
Escobedo said Petitt is no longer teaching at the school, but is still employed with the district.
"She's on administrative leave; these allegations we take very seriously and we have to do due process to investigate," Escobedo said.
Parents say that's not enough, and they worry the teacher's actions could have a lasting impact on their kids.
"If there's a goal to be had ... Mrs. Petit would never be able to teach again," parent Samantha Trickey said.
Three parents pulled their children out of the school, 10News learned.
The district says a long-term substitute will replace the teacher.
U‑T San Diego
Feb. 14, 2014 - She reported back to work Monday and taught her class after investigations by the Chula Vista Elementary School District and the Chula Vista ...