Anonymous Email Sent to John Baldwin Parents Creates Public Rift

In reaction to the email, parents and teachers filled the Board of Education meeting room to express their support and their concerns with the leadership at John Baldwin Elementary.

At the moment, all is not well at .

An unknown staffer at the school sent out an anonymous email to a larger portion of the school's parents. The email listed Baldwin teachers by name who had allegedly requested transfers due to issues with the school's leadership, mainly principal Darlene Hale.

And this email, which district officials say contains inaccurate information, has caused quite a ripple in the Baldwin community.

"(The email) had some misinformation in it. (It said) teachers were filing for transfers due to the working environment created by the principal," San Ramon Valley Unified School District Community Relations Director Terry Koehne said. "It stirred people up."

Koehne said that a few teachers at Baldwin had explored transfers but when the district offered to grant them, the teachers had changed their minds.

The anonymous email also stated that the culture and climate had reached a stressful boiling point, he said.

The anonymous email spurred parents and teachers to attend Tuesday's Board of Education meeting to speak about the incident and the issues facing Baldwin school.

Airing out in public

Testimony during public comment appeared to be on both sides of this issue regarding the leadership of Baldwin. Some were in support of Hale, while others appeared to be wary of her and school leadership.

"I'm a parent of two at John Baldwin and have been a room mom for multiple years and I'm concerned about the state of the school, the children, and the teachers," Melissa Candy told the board Tuesday. "The tension at John Baldwin has grown over the years. I've written the school board and superintendent twice in the last two years. ... This situation far exceeds the standard school dispute."

Other parents also spoke during public comment, depicting an environment of fear and questioned the leadership of the school.

"I am concerned, I'm stressed," one parent told the board. "I've been afraid to speak up over the last three years."

On the other side, one parent said these issues stem from only a few parents and staff who are "bitter" and upset with Hale.

"I urge the board to look deeper at what is going on at our school," parent Maria Vandarakis said. "Because of a mob mentality that has surfaced at our school, I'm fearful that the few against Mrs. Hale will overshadow the rest of us."

Donna Kenyon, 2011-12 district teacher of the year and a finalist for the Contra Costa County's teacher of the year, spoke in support of Hale.

"I'm shocked to be here tonight, speaking in defense of our appointed administrator of the year. ... I'm embarrassed that our parents were asked to be here to represent our staff as a whole," she said, reading a statement.

"Darlene Hale is by far the strongest principal in which I've worked under," she added.

Mark Thornton is a Baldwin parent of three. He also supports Hale.

"I strongly support Darlene Hale," he said. "Everyone can improve, and I'm sure she can improve, too."

After the public comments, outside of the meeting room, Kenyon maintained that the issue has not affected instruction at all.

Superintendent's response

Superintendent Steve Enoch, in response to the anonymous email, sent an email out to Baldwin parents on Monday.

"Some of you may have received an anonymous email last week that was basically critical of your principal, Ms. Hale," Enoch begins. "Regardless of whether the concerns in the email have merit or not, it is totally unacceptable that a person’s career and reputation can be potentially damaged by an anonymous email."

Enoch also discussed the inaccuracies in the anonymous email but didn't go into detail. He stated: "As for that email, please know that there were serious errors contained in it including the fact that no grievances have been filed by John Baldwin teachers. Some other aspects of the email are also incorrect, but I am limited on what I can say because I need to respect the privacy of employees."

Last Friday, Enoch met with staff after school and has talked with some Baldwin parent leaders. He goes on to say that disputes exist in workplaces but are usually solved internally.

"I am convinced that everyone at John Baldwin wants the very best for the students and is deeply committed to the community," he concludes.

The issues, however, will not be ignored.

An outside facilitator is on the way

Koehne said an outside facilitator would be brought in to sort out what's happening at Baldwin and recommend solutions.

"The issues will be resolved internally," Koehne said. "(The facilitator) will meet before the end of the school year with administration and staff at Baldwin to get at the heart of the issues."

He added that the district was disappointed that the issues were aired out in public. "Really disappointed it was made so public. These are false and real damaging assertions. They could be damaging to a career," he said.

Most of the board stayed quiet on the issue. Though, Board President Greg Marvel affirmed to the audience that a facilitator would be brought in.

Member Paul Gardner, however, was more vocal.

"I'm disappointed at the way the John Baldwin issue has gone. I have my own feelings about the issue, but I'm very disappointed in staff and disappointed in everybody," he said.

Does your child go to John Baldwin? What do you think of the school?

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Mark Thornton as a teacher at John Baldwin Elementary. This version corrects that error.

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Ace Rothstein May 25, 2012 at 05:18 AM
PART 1 Where there’s smoke, there’s fire… I’ve lived in Danville for 12 years and two of my children have attended John Baldwin while Darlene was their principal. I feel that as a parent and a member of the community the school has seen better days and at this point the district is attempting to cover up an incompetent principal and a teaching staff who has been divided. I myself am a corporate manager and know first hand how important it is to have your team behind you. I also know first hand how important it is to support your employees and not to pit them against each other (such as the case with John Baldwin). The cannibalization of the once proud teaching community at John Baldwin has been put in a very hard spot. We have great teachers who have worked together for years and prior to Darlene’s arrival, have consistently raised test scores and improved all of our children’s education. Now all of a sudden out of the blue, there are rogue emails being sent to parents by John Baldwin staffers. No doubt that some of the information within the email was not correct, but let’s look deeper. Let’s not focus on the misinformation within the email, let’s look at the entire staff at John Baldwin as a whole to find out what’s really wrong. PLEASE CONTINUE WITH PART 2...
Ace Rothstein May 25, 2012 at 05:20 AM
PART 2 First of all you have a divided staff. Ask any teacher, even Donna Kenyon. Next you have a principal who has never actually taught anything outside of music so she does not understand the intricacies of teaching. That’s like hiring a pilot to fly you and your family who has only flown the toy planes at Super Franks. Communication within the school is siloed and controlled by the principal herself and when the staff does speak up to challenge some of the suggestions/actions of the principal or the teachers who support her (Donna Kenyon and a few others) they’re immediately dismissed as being confrontational or “not with the program.” As a result, you have a staff that becomes “muted” and begins to shut down. PLEASE CONTINUE WITH PART 3 (FINAL)
Ace Rothstein May 25, 2012 at 05:22 AM
PART 3 Over time you have teachers who leave not only in 2012, but also in prior years under Darlene’s regime. At some point all the internalized frustration over the years begins to show itself by the way of teachers threatening to leave and emails being distributed to the parent community just because of the caustic environment that has been created since Darlene’s arrival. Finally, the once communal teaching environment is now pitted against each other and there is a deep sense of resentment between Darlene’s supports and those who were mentioned in the email. From what I’ve heard, there is a strong sense of “you watch my back and I’ll watch yours” between Darlene and her supports. For those parents wanting details…good luck. Outside of what I have been able to glean, the district and the principal will continue to control all distributed communication about this issue.
John May 25, 2012 at 06:10 AM
Well Terry you have tried all day to engage and get readers to tell more. Now we have “Ace” pipe in with his or her opinion. In my opinion, here is our situation at Baldwin. In general there are 2 types of teachers. This is not a “Baldwin” unique situation. This is in general, the state of our education system. There are teachers and staff that are passionate about learning and teaching. These individuals are what they call “lifetime learners”. They will spend their time trying to make changes that improve education. There are also teachers and staff that enjoy education; however, they are not willing to change. They wish to teach the same curriculum year after year because it is easy. In the case of JB this is the case! The conflict really comes down to change and improvement. John Baldwin has extremes. There are some teachers that are considered “best of the best” Early adopters, lifetime learners etc. They live to teach. That is why some teachers are JB are considered “coaches” to other teachers. They are regularly observed by other teachers in our district. They are admired. The staff (principal) is one of them. This environment fosters other top teachers to want to come to JB. The teachers that “Ace” refers to were terrible. The good news is that when they left, others came to JB and other top teachers want to come. JB has no shortage of passionate great educators that want to teach at JB. SEE NEXT......
John May 25, 2012 at 06:13 AM
NEXT>>> The other teachers, are well liked, they are popular with folks like “Ace”. At the end of the day they are concerned about what is easy for them. These are the same teachers that want teacher aides over technology or any other worthwhile benefit to our kid’s education. God forbid they are asked to change to a different grade level. This occurred at JB 2 years ago and there was another “outrage – witch hunt”. Rather than adopt to change or transfer to a less progressive school or district, these teachers instead resort to crying on a few parents’ shoulders that they know will strike up the torches. JB has a history of this as recently as 2 years ago. Same cast different play. They claim to be leaving JB and claim that the entire staff is ready to revolt. The naïve parents take up the pitch forks and write letters, some anonymously (KO & KM). Funny thing is when they are granted their wish to move, they don’t! I guess it is always a bluff.
John May 25, 2012 at 06:14 AM
Baldwin is a great school. Look at the fact. Scores of our students, progressive programs (JBTV), science etc. Look at what school has, “Teacher of the Year” and ironically JB l has the “Principal of the year” (not sure what the exact title she won honored with). JB was also the Affiliate of the Year recently. Is there really a problem at this school? The real answer is YES….assuming you are a teacher that wants to teach the same grade, with the same material, the same way and not be challenged. The absolute shame is the damage that is done to Darlene Hale. Whether you like her personally or not, the witch hunt campaign by the minority is terrible! How cruel to treat any individual this way forgetting about the fact THIS individual has dedicated her life to educating our kids. One speaker on Wednesday was very kind when she referred to the authors of the anonymous email (KM & KO) as “be confident”. Those were kind words as I would have used “cowards”. It was amazing to me there were many parents that showed up for Wednesday’s meeting, pitch forks in hand, but yet were silent when it came to speaking. There were only a couple speakers on either side and I respect those that had the guts to speak their mind. The others standing in the back, go back to watching some reality TV show!
John May 25, 2012 at 06:15 AM
JB is a great school. JB has and will continue to prepare our children for the next levels. If teachers don’t like the principal’s way of doing business, leave or step up to leadership yourself. You have that right. If parents have a real problem with the principal, try talking to her. If that doesn’t work, go to the district privately. If that doesn’t work (you may have other problems), go to another school. Now we have it. Our dirty laundry is now aired. Some teachers and the principal have had their life dragged through the mud by cowards. The witch hunt parents will move on to their end of the year parties, summer vacations and other “Danville injustice”. In a year or two this kind of thing will come up again at JB, assuming the same teachers are going to try the same kind of attack. The good news is that this is a parent issue and our kids will still get a great education regardless of how hard some of us try and screw it up.
Terry Parris Jr. May 25, 2012 at 06:48 AM
John and Ace: I appreciate the thorough comments.
Baldwin Parent May 25, 2012 at 06:51 AM
Way to stir the pot, John. You've just insulted numerous parents with you comments. You didn't think parents might just show up at the meeting out of concern for their children and in hopes of hearing truths first hand? That some were neutral or maybe may have even felt the same as you? You assumed that all those in the back were standing "pitch forks in hand". That's a shame. Secondly, in your second entry you describe a segment of teachers who are "reluctant to change" and concerned about what is "easy for them". Are comparing this segment to the list of unhappy teachers in the anonymous letter? If so, I have to ask if your children have ever been taught by the teachers listed. Out of the 8 names listed I am honored to have had 6 of those amazing women teach my children. Each one was passionate about teaching and gave 110% to their students. One teacher in particular uses a reward system and at the end of the month students get to turn in their points for trinkets. But in this class students work extra hard to earn a lot of points so they can earn what they consider the best prize of all...lunch with their teacher. This gesture speaks louder than words. I want a teacher who is passionate, who the kids hang on her every word because she inspires them. Yes, technology is important but if a teacher can not engage her students, technology is as good as garbage. You are stirring the pot. Why not contribute to a solution instead of creating a bigger problem?
Baldwin Parent of 2 May 25, 2012 at 07:14 AM
John - Ponder this....Happy wife, happy house. At the end of the day John Baldwin doesn't have a happy house. Most everyone realized this now. This rests on DH and she is responsible for this. The School board praised the principal at Golden View for being a great leader. DH is CLEARLY NOT a leader by any stretch.
Ace Rothstein May 25, 2012 at 02:34 PM
John, Don’t let the teacher of the year or administrator of the year awards fool you. The recipients of these honors just so happened to be in cahoots with each other and are perfect examples of the “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” mentality within DH’s circle. Guess who wrote the nomination for the teacher of the year, that’s correct DH, not her peers. Also, guess who wrote the nomination for DH’s administrator of the year, DK, not her peers. As for programs like JBTV, I would agree that having our children involved with such programs is great and really adds a positive dimension to their overall education, but at the end of the day the lack of progressiveness that you mentioned is not the underlying issue because there are plenty of teachers at JB who take additional steps to increase their teaching skills and attend outside classes and schools. The issue remains DH and her inability to foster a collaborative environment, partner with her staff and establish trust throughout the school. I’ve worked with managers like DH in the past and from what I have been able to gather, DH is someone who manages up instead of down. This means that DH is more concerned with how her peers and bosses see her than how her team is doing. So the mentality of this type of person is if you’re not on board with me, then you are against me. If that happens, teachers will leave and the morale of the team suffers, thus impacting the students.
Baldwin Parent of 2 May 25, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Terry – Ace is dead on. Unfortunately DH and DK and their inner circle live in ONE very small social environment. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing it just is what it is. They are smart, intelligent ad bright people. Other teachers that are having issues with DH is because it’s DH way or the highway. Once again the common denominator, she isn’t a leader and shouldn’t be leading a team. She should be working behind the scenes in a different capacity. This doesn’t mean that DH is an outright terrible person. She is just playing out of position. People like John need to get the blinders off and see and understand this. It’s not personal it’s a reality that needs to be addressed. The concern today is that Superintendent Steve Enoch is leaving and he won’t want to upset the apple cart. I’m afraid he mind set is status quo. Mark my words on this one. The District will slow down the process. To quote Terry “An outside facilitator is on the way. Koehne said an outside facilitator would be brought in”. Watch this grow, as of yesterday the facilitator is nowhere to be found. Maybe he or she is on vacation in Hawaii. Koehne quoted the following, "The issues will be resolved internally," Koehne said. "(The facilitator) will meet before the end of the school year with administration and staff at Baldwin to get at the heart of the issues." Now this rests on the shoulders of Koehne.
Danville Resident May 25, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Anonymous emails are rarely an effective tool for change as there is no accountability and this approach by passes the hard work required to go through the normal process to achieve the change you want. For instance, the principal has a boss who this teacher could have brought their concerns to or any other member of the district office and this probably would have been a more effective route to change. If this staff member truly had the students and schools best interests at heart, they would engage in a responsible adult conversation with both the principal and district office. Instead sending out a critical anonymous mass emails speaks volumes about their true character and true values.
Danville mom May 25, 2012 at 04:01 PM
It's unfortunate that these recent events have cast a shadow on an amazing school with a fabulous reputation. Anyone who thinks that these activities have not affected our children's education at the end of the school year, is kidding themselves. People tend to be very reactionary when it involves their children, creating volatility in what should be an internal issue. I am confident that JB will weather this storm, and come out of it stronger, wiser, and with a team of individuals committed to educating our children.
Marilyn C Lucey May 25, 2012 at 04:03 PM
I feel sad for all sides involved. My children are not at JB but attend another district school and I'm sure every school has its challenges - but an anonymous email can be very destructive. Whether it is feedback via letter, email, or survey, when I've been in volunteer leadership positions, I always appreciate the people who sign their name - ESPECIALLY when I don't like or agree their opinion. We all hope our reaction is to begin a dialogue instead of derision, dismissal or demonizing of the stated opinion or the opinion giver, so that a culture of constructive feedback can be achieved. Hopefully the JB community can heal, keep students' well being as the focus, and something positive will come out of this situation.
Harry Jenkins May 25, 2012 at 04:07 PM
It was probably written by a student. Now that would be funny.
Another Danville Resident May 25, 2012 at 04:41 PM
For people (JOHN) to point fingers at other parents is totally inappropriate. He does not have any clue where it came from as we are only told it came from someone on the Baldwin staff. Parents were too quick to respond and to forward info that was not yet validated, I agree, but if you are a parent yourself you realize that when something affects your kids you do tend to react differently. At this point it does not even matter where it came from but that it now is something we all need to repair as a community at Baldwin to bring JB back to a happy and nice place to be for all. The teachers, administrators, parents and especially the kids. It should have never been brought to the parents for help and should have been handled through the proper channels but now the parents just want to see it resolved so they can finish out the school year and be excited to start again in the fall with a good strong staff all the way around. There are many of us Danville parents who are committed to volunteering our hearts out to help our schools be the best they can be with auctions, carnivals, cookie dough sales, bake sales, wrapping paper sales and countless hours on campus and in classrooms to work along side the entire school staff as a team. A team that is doing it all for the kids and our community. This is a very sad issue indeed. JB has always had a full staff of amazing teachers and hope that it is able to continue with that for many years to come.
Carol Johnson May 26, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Anonynimity is the cowardly way to complain. Someone with integrity and concern enough to constructively dialogue for change should.never fear for using their name and voice in times of conflict. Those who can't stand up and be open to this exposure are nothing more than whiners who get off on stirring the pot to incite conflict. Stand up and use your voice or sit back and keep your mouth shut.
Artsyone May 26, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Everything I've read is anecdotal rhetoric. We are impressed with John Baldwin, and I always enjoy volunteering there.
parent May 26, 2012 at 09:32 PM
The heart of a lot of these problems and how it is being handled is that the district has no effective way for staff or parents to evaluate principals and to share concerns in a way that they feel they are being heard when things are not going well.
Concerned Parent May 26, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Prior to John Baldwin, Darlene Hale was Principal at Wildwood Elementary in Thousand Oaks, CA. I recommend informing yourself by Googling the outcome there.
Danville Resident May 27, 2012 at 06:02 PM
To Concerned Parent - another anonymous comment that is not helpful to the situation, perhaps you would like to give us your real name so we can google you? Anonymous critical comments speak volumes about true character and values of the person making them. Are you really trying to do what is best for the school and operating out of the best side of yourself?
Jim Coleman May 28, 2012 at 05:51 AM
The results I saw were very favorable towards Dalene Hale as a well loved and progressive administrator. Probably, she is one who would demand not keeping the status quo on teching techniques and curriculum. She seemed to demand evolution in the classroom and quality execution of new techniques. Today's educators must try to meet the needs of today's children as the evolving world changes what they must do to lead the future world. Principals demand that of teachers as bosses demand that of employees. Few statements have been presented in this forum on what the specific issue(s) is(are) at John Baldwin and there far too many unidentifiable commentors hiding for some reason. Why?
CAgirl May 31, 2012 at 02:13 AM
I don't know all of the details of what's going on, but I do know that Ms. Hale could use some classes in how to communicate and interact with parents. Her attitude often rubs me as "I'm busy, I don't care what you have to say." The only time I see her is when she is walking from her car to the office, and vice versa...and ignoring the parked cars in the drive-through lane. It would be nice to view her as a person and not just a figure-head.
msvenezia May 31, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Everyone with kids at public schools such as Baldwin ought to join and consult with Studentsfirst.org
Sam Clemens May 31, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Msvenezia I've been told by the district spokesman that the district will not consider spinning off some public charter schools as supported by studentsfirst.org. The spokesman said that charters were "systemic" and nothing the district should consider. So.... There u have it, Teachers Union trump card. (if citizens allow it)
Susan Gutierrez June 12, 2012 at 06:45 AM
Here are specifics and accountability. On a random day when my mother was visiting from Fla., we decided to show up at Baldwin to observe recess. We arrived to find practically the entire school outside without any adult supervision. Chaos. I walked around the entire perimeter looking for one adult. None. The bell sounded. Darlene appeared. I asked her why there were no adults outside supervising the children. She did not look at me and kept walking away. I followed her and repeated myself. She answered, without looking at me- " We have a lot of substitute teachers and I guess they didn't know they were supposed to be out here." Her tone was flippant. I tried to ask her again and she continued to walk away. This attitude was unsettling to me. She did not seem to take this seriously. I contacted the Superintendents office and told of the unsupervised playground. They assured me they would look into it. Darlene called me at home that evening. She was angry asking, " Did you call the Superindendents' office? I thought we already discussed this." She proceeded to speak in an intimidating manner and I felt as though I was dealing with someone who could retaliate against me for having voiced my concerns. Why are people afraid to sign there names? FEAR. Why are her supporters signing their names? No mystery there. Susan Gutierrez
CAgirl June 12, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Any follow up to this story? I'm sure there are plenty of Baldwin parents who would like to know what's going on as the school year closes and what to expect for next year.
Terry Parris Jr. June 12, 2012 at 09:47 PM
No follow up story yet. I'll post it here as soon as I have something.
Tom June 12, 2012 at 09:52 PM
There were some issues at her previous school as seen on a google search but cant tell who is right or wrong there. These places like to protect privacy and sometimes that helps to hide and ugly truth, sometimes it is only fair to all. Look at test scores as a good place to start. http://www.greatschools.org/?google_pid=gsenter1&s_cid=brand1


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