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September 26, 2022

Fired PVUSD chief: Board president used unofficial Zoom account for private meeting

WATSONVILLE—Before Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board President Georgia Acosta called for a vote to oust Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez, she sent a non-district authorized Zoom link to her fellow board members for the closed-session meeting.

Rodriguez, who also received the link, said in a text to this newspaper Sunday morning that she expressed concerns about security issues, to no avail.

Later, Acosta denied requests from Rodriguez to join the meeting, during which the trustees voted 4-3 to terminate her contract early.

“When closed session began, I requested and was denied access multiple times,” Rodriguez stated. “I was not permitted to ever speak to the other Board Members in closed session on Wednesday night.”

Trustee Kim De Serpa says that she wanted the meeting to be held on the district’s Zoom account.

Acosta has declined multiple requests for comment. She did not comment on Sunday.                  

Rodriguez says the official PVUSD Zoom account is Executive level, which offers additional security features and is linked to the district’s double fire wall. The use of an outside link—which PVUSD spokeswoman Alicia Jimenez says bore a CSU Monterey Bay logo—could have allowed others to access the meeting, Rodriguez said.

“By doing so she ensured that she was the only one that had the permission to allow me into the meeting,” Rodriguez stated.

Rodriguez’s termination has created a firestorm of controversy in the district, with a late-night meeting Friday garnering roughly 200 public comments from county supervisors, former trustees, teachers and concerned parents, among others—the vast majority were in opposition of the firing. 

Acosta tried unsuccessfully to stop the comments from being read, saying that they were not specifically related to the meeting agenda, which was appointing an interim superintendent. 

On Saturday, nine superintendents from Santa Cruz County school districts offered their support for Rodriguez in a letter to the PVUSD board obtained by this newspaper.

“Over the last four and a half years, we have benefitted from our collaboration with Dr. Rodriguez, the leader of the largest and most complex district in the County,” the letter read. “During Dr. Rodriguez’s tenure, we have been witness to the intelligence, professionalism, innovation, vision, resilience and relentless student-centered advocacy that  she brings to her work each day.” 

The superintendents also expressed concern that Rodriguez’s departure will further destabilize the district at a time of ongoing turmoil.

“As district leaders, we also know the importance of consistency and stability in leadership for every learning community,” the letter says. “This is particularly critical as we navigate the impossible conditions and relentless shifts presented by the pandemic.”

The letter written by nine county superintendents in support of Michelle Rodriguez.

The MAIA Foundation on Sunday sent a letter to this newspaper showing support for Rodriguez’s work. The letter touched on the district’s focus on multilingual families, and on its response to the Covid-19 crisis.

“Dr. Michelle Rodriquez’ leadership has brought about significant progress and invaluable service to the community,” the letter reads. 

The trustees will meet today at 3pm to discuss rescinding Rodriguez’s termination.

If they do, Rodriguez says she will come back.

“I am still committed to PVUSD and the students and families we serve,” she said.

Signees:

  • Laurie Bruton, Superintendent San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District
  • Lorie Chamberland, Superintendent Live Oak School District
  • Eric Gross, Superintendent Pacific Elementary School District
  • Mike Heffner, Superintendent Bonny Doon Elementary School District
  • Tanya Krause, Superintendent Scotts Valley Unified School District
  • Michelle McKinny, Superintendent Happy Valley Elementary School District
  • Diane Morgenstern, Superintendent Mountain Elementary School District
  • Kris Munro, Superintendent Santa Cruz City Schools
  • Scott Turnbull, Superintendent Soquel Union School District

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