All teachers at troubled Sunnyvale elementary school asked to reapply for jobs

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (KTVU) - It was a school so troubled that administrators say they had no choice but to start over.

Now, every person who works at West Valley Elementary School in Sunnyvale will be asked to reapply for their jobs. Some may not get their positions back.

On Monday night, administrators with the Cupertino Union School District held a meeting to introduce the new principal and explain the vision to fix problems at West Valley next year.

Staff was notified about the job situation one hour after school let out for the summer last Thursday.

"I've been physically ill. And I've been so upset and hurt," says Katie Burnette, who had been a 4th grade teacher there for 17 years.

"To have the district come in and basically say that every teacher at that school isn't doing their job, or isn't doing what they need to do is really insulting and very hard for us to take," says Burnette.

The trouble, according to teachers, parents and administrators, ranged from a lack of leadership, to a lack of communication, and low morale. A June 2nd mediation session was apparently unsuccessful.

"The only way we could figure out to do it at this point is to kind of do a restart for the school and for all those adults who are there," says Wendy Gudalewicz, Superintendent of the Cupertino Union School District.

So the end result is that every position at West Valley is considered to be vacant.

Teachers, office staff, and janitors will all be asked to reapply for their jobs. While some will get them, others will be transferred to other schools in the district.

About 250 parents and teachers attended Monday's meeting where the Superintendent explained an unhealthy culture of tension between the past administration, teachers and parents that was making some people uncomfortable.

Many parents left confused and upset the district couldn't provide more details, citing personnel matters that are confidential.

"It would have been nice to know what the problem was because 'tension' is a very vague thing and we don't know what the problem is," said Ruel Parent, who as of this fall will have had four children attend the school.

"I think it's crazy. I don't think they answered any of the questions," said Olga Koutalides. "I'm a parent. My kids loved West Valley. They had a great year. We had a fantastic year so this came as a complete shock."

The Cupertino Education Association thinks this could have been handled differently. The President of the Union says the staffing overhaul is within the contractual limits.

"I was happy to hear the Superintendent admit that she created some of the problem with hiring the administration that was there last year and that she's going to work to resolve the problem," says Dave Villafana, of the Cupertino Education Association.

Burnette is hopeful that she'll get her job back and that the school can rebound from this.

"It's going to take a lot of work from everybody because a lot of trust has been lost, but there's a way back," she said.

The district is already interviewing people who want to keep their jobs. All decisions should be made by June 30th.

Meanwhile, there is a much bigger plan in place for continuing to build the school community throughout next year.

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