By Raiza Giorgi

Newly hired Superintendent/Principal Vicky Dudek of Los Olivos Elementary School was placed on paid administrative leave on Tuesday, Nov. 12, while the district’s school board investigates complaints it received from the school’s entire staff.

During the public portion of a special closed session for Dudek’s performance evaluation, teachers, staff and parents spoke to the board, alleging Dudek has shown unprofessional and erratic behavior and lack of leadership. 

Dudek attended the meeting but did not speak; she only wrote notes while public comment was taking place. She could not be reached for comment after the meeting. 

Before the meeting, Dudek sent out a message on the ParentSquare system telling the school community that teachers were upset about contract negotiations. 

“The California Teachers Association (CTA) has asked Ms. (Heather) Blanchard and Ms. (Sharla) Branquinho to bring parents to the meeting (and they threatened me with this in negotiations if I did not agree to what they wanted), even though parents may not have any issues at all. They want the Board to believe there are an abnormal amount of issues, but it is really a union tactic and the board is aware of this,” Dudek wrote. 

In the message, she went on to say that she will always do what is best for the kids and she has no intentions of increasing class sizes, creating combo classes or accepting more transfers. 

“There is nothing that you can’t call and talk to me about, so please don’t be manipulated and feel as though you have to attend a board meeting to be heard,” Dudek said. 

“I was completely shocked to receive this accusation about asking parents to this meeting because Heather (Blanchard) and I were upset about contract language we did not get,” Branquinho said at the meeting. “CTA did not ask us to have parents at this meeting as a ‘union tactic.’ This had absolutely nothing to do with negotiations at all. We accepted the agreement and are supporting it to our members. Our grievances only have to do with the unprofessional conduct, dishonesty, and erratic behavior of our current admin.”

Branquinho added the threat of their jobs have been looming over teachers since the beginning of the school year. Teachers have been told three of them will be dismissed in favor of new blood at the end of the year and they had been told by Dudek to not exercise their rights to representation when they were upset about program changes, as it may result in disciplinary action. 

Several teachers also referred to a staff meeting on Halloween where Dudek allegedly berated teachers in front of their colleagues and scolded them with a list of offenses. 

“There is no repairing this relationship, which presents glaring concerns for safety if she will not communicate,” said Teacher Amy Willis. 

“In my 24 years here at the school we have had many different administrators and never have I ever filed a complaint, but I am compelled to speak because we have had no protocols in place in emergency situations until an email sent today,” said teacher Heather Blanchard. 

Parents who came said they were concerned with the safety of their children and their children’s education, as they see their teachers stress and anxiety levels. 

“We came to this school because of the excellence of these teachers, and my children who were slipping through the cracks are now excelling. If it were just a few there might be room to work on this, but for every staff member to file a grievance says there is something very wrong,” said Camene Haws. 

Parent Laura DeJohn said that Dudek has complained about teachers to her while she was volunteering.

“Criticizing your staff in public is not something that an administrator should be doing,” DeJohn said. 

Parent Lisa Miller said she attended Los Olivos School and her dad was a teacher for many years there. When Dudek was first hired, she said, she hoped for a positive change and new opportunities for her children to learn. 

“The morale is so low with staff and teachers, this is so distracting to positive and effective learning for my children,” Miller said. ‘

By contrast, one parent said that Dudek had helped her family when she was having an issue with a teacher, so that hearing complaints came out of left field. However, she urged the board to investigate. 

Staff member Cathy Garley said staff members didn’t need to be torn down to be built up; they needed to be respected, and an administrator needs to be respectful at all times. She said she also saw Dudek vaping in her office even though no one is allowed to vape on school grounds. The chief administrator should be a role model for the kids, she said.

“She is not delivering on promises, and I have already heard that longstanding teachers tell me they will leave if she stays,” Garley added. 

School board said they have named a “teacher in charge” and will be interviewing interim superintendents until they reach a conclusion about Dudek’s performance.