UPDATE: Jackson Elementary principal resigns, takes early retirement incentive

UPDATE: Jackson Elementary principal resigns, takes early retirement incentive

Garry Dudley’s last day as Jackson Elementary principal was
Tuesday after his request to retire was unanimously approved by the
Morgan Hill Unified school board of trustees in closed session
later that night. Because he chose to retire before the end of the
calendar year, Dudley’s contract will not be paid out in full.
Garry Dudley’s last day as Jackson Elementary principal was Tuesday after his request to retire was unanimously approved by the Morgan Hill Unified school board of trustees in closed session later that night.

Because he chose to retire before the end of the calendar year, Dudley’s contract will not be paid out in full. He will be paid for the sick days he accrued since his hire by former Superintendent Alan Nishino in August 2007.

The news of his resignation came in front of a standing-room only crowd at the school board meeting, including several Jackson parents and teachers who learned of the decision Tuesday morning on campus.

“He came to me and said ‘I’d like to take advantage of retiring,'” Superintendent Wes Smith said.

Smith said Dudley, 61, was eligible to take advantage of the early retirement incentive – $25,000 – that has been offered by the district to offset the layoffs of newer teachers and employees.

“The point of this is he won’t be at Jackson anymore,” Smith said.

The school board, per the California Education Code, must approve resignations in closed session and generally they are approved unanimously as Dudley’s was Tuesday with a 7-0 vote.

“If they are eligible to retire, we let them retire. (The board) doesn’t questions things,” Smith said when asked why Dudley retired.

Smith said the board does not inquire about retirement motives due to the possibility of personal reasons.

By Thursday, Smith hopes to introduce an interim principal to lead Jackson through the rest of the year before he hires a replacement. He said the district will not hire someone midterm and wants to utilize the time to find the right person for the job.

“We will get someone with experience in there … who has a really good track record of bringing people together,” Smith said.

The announcement of Dudley’s resignation comes on the heels of a Sept. 3 story that reported 18 complaints filed against Dudley in the past two years alleging sexual harassment to verbal abuse of students. Eleven of those claims were found to have merit.

Smith said he did not know specifically why Dudley wanted to retire, but Dudley did mention he wanted to return to aviation instruction. Previous to entering education as an administrator 16 years ago, Dudley served as a colonel in the United States Air Force and was a flight instructor.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Jackson parent Kathlyn Greubel said she has concerns for Jackson, the only school this year in Morgan Hill Unified School District whose Academic Performance Index scores fell.

“This school district has failed the students at Jackson,” Greubel said. “There is a lack of leadership. I am holding the school board accountable for big changes at Jackson and going into year six (of Program Improvement) is not an acceptable option.”

Greubel’s prepared statement was met with applause.

The struggling school is in its fifth year of Program Improvement after test scores were released Monday showing a 24-point drop in the annual Academic Performance Index. API measures every school’s progress based on standardized test scores.

The district has since hired a “Program Improvement specialist.”

Ernie Zermeno, former Gilroy High School principal, will help guide Jackson out of PI and act as a liaison between the district, the school and parents with a focus on the Hispanic community.

Zermeno will have an office at Jackson and has been meeting with parents, teachers and staff in the past week.

Dudley has refused to comment and deferred all questions to Jay Totter, MHUSD assistant superintendent of human resources.

Totter and Smith would not comment on the complaints levied against Dudley because they said it is a personnel matter.

Smith did say the district takes the complaints seriously and “is dealing with them.”

He said the school board of trustees has also heard and reviewed the complaints and “they value and are responsive to the concerns of the community.”

Board president Bart Fisher declined to comment.

In the complaints acquired through the California Public Records Act, Dudley is accused of sexually harassing staff members, verbally abusing students, sharing confidential information, failing to address the needs of the Hispanic community, not complying with Jackson’s site plan and California Education codes and making inappropriate comments to parents and employees.

One complaint released by the act included Dudley calling two Hispanic students “little banditos.”

No complaints were filed while Dudley worked as a principal at Turlock Unified School District.

He also worked one year in Oregon for the St. Helens School District as director of curriculum and federal programs beginning in 2004.

Superintendent Patricia Adams declined to provide information on whether any complaints were filed against Dudley.

Dudley’s one-year contract with MHUSD was renewed June 30 for the 2010-11 school year.

In 2008-09 he earned $112,860.

Dudley is married to a retired educator and the father of three grown children. He has worked in education for 16 years, though never as a credentialed teacher.

The bulk of complaints against Dudley began in April about the same time some Jackson parents and teachers were most vocal about their dissatisfaction with Jackson leadership.

Besides complaints about the progress of Jackson in PI, two sexual harassment complaints were filed with the district against Dudley in early 2008, marking the beginning of the accusations against Dudley.

According to the Jackson teacher who filed the complaint, Dudley made her feel uncomfortable when he talked quietly behind her while she was sitting in a chair in January 2008.

According to the employee, he then laid his head sideways on her shoulder “so that his chin was angled next to my neck and his forehead was toward my shoulder. He looked up at me and batted his eyelids several time while still looking up at me.”

The employee said her personal space was violated and she felt trapped and extremely embarrassed.

A second incident occurred between a teacher and Dudley in August 2008 in front of a classroom full of students. The teacher said she quietly told Dudley that only three of her students had given a correct an answer on a math problem. Dudley allegedly responded, “My training officer said to me on my wedding night, you’re going to do it tonight and then you’re going to keep on doing it until you get it right,” the complaint read.

“He came in like a steamroller and turned the entire school upside down,” said Nola Martini, whose two oldest children attended Jackson Elementary.

She was Home & School Club president for two years and was a substitute teacher who worked exclusively at Jackson for five years.

Martini said the first year Dudley became principal was “the most disappointing, hellish year of school” and “I never thought in my wildest dreams, I would pull (my child) out of their home school,” Martini said.

In 2007, Martini knew of at least five families that left the school because of Dudley, including her own daughter.

Martini said some teachers at Jackson felt oppressed by Dudley’s actions.

“That’s wrong. Whether he does it or not, if that’s a feeling that people have that’s not a principal you want at any school, or a person you want to have any connection to a child.”

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