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March 27, 2023

PVUSD trustees to vote on rescinding Superintendent’s termination

WATSONVILLE—The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees late Friday night tabled an effort to appoint an interim superintendent after a trustee reconsidered an earlier vote to fire district Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez.

The trustees will likely meet again on Sunday to consider rescinding the decision to invoke the early termination clause in Rodriguez’s contract. Trustees Kim De Serpa, Maria Orozco, Jennifer Holm and Daniel Dodge, Jr. voted in favor of the motion along with trustee Jennifer Schacher, who made the motion.

In a brief statement, Schacher apologized to the community and to Rodriguez for voting in favor of firing her at Wednesday’s meeting.

Schacher, along with the rest of the trustees, have declined to talk about their reasons behind the decision, citing personnel confidentiality.

Still, Schacher said her vote was “difficult and complicated.”

“I can and will learn from my mistakes,” she said. “I believe that my grievances could have been handled differently in the light of the fragility of our current times.”

Her motion came after more than four hours of public comment—from more than 200 people in all—the vast majority of which spoke in favor of reinstating Rodriguez.

This included former PVUSD board members Leslie De Rose and Karen Osmundson, along with Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zach Friend and Watsonville City Councilman Francisco Estrada. In addition, actor Edward James Olmos, whose Youth Cinema Project recently partnered with the PVUSD, sent in a video in support of keeping Rodriguez.

She was fired Wednesday night in a 4-3 vote during a closed session meeting. Board President Georgia Acosta and Vice President Oscar Soto along with Dodge and Schacher approved Rodriguez’s termination. De Serpa, Orozco and Holm dissented.

The move sent shock waves through the community, with a petition on to rescind the termination garnering more than 1,600 signatures as of Friday.

The meeting started off with tension and an unprecedented bout of fighting.

At issue was whether public comments could be read that were not specifically related to the agenda items, which in this case was the selection of Rodriguez’s replacement.

Acosta repeatedly stopped district spokeswoman Alicia Jimenez from reading public comments, saying they were not related.

But Jimenez argued they were related, as Rodriguez’s termination was intertwined to the appointment of her replacement. Trustees De Serpa, Orozco and Holm agreed. 

The fighting was so pronounced that the meeting was called into closed session less than five minutes after it began.

Legal counsel Matthew Paul Juhl-Darlington—brought in by Acosta to represent the board in this issue—appeared to back Acosta.

But the fighting continued when the meeting reconvened, and Acosta eventually backed down, warning that by allowing the comments the district would be swimming in questionable legal waters.

Acosta did not respond to a request for comment.

This is a developing story. It will be updated. 


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