The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Tempers Flare at Laurelwood School Meeting

The already-heated dispute over the appointment of a new principal for Laurelwood Elementary School reached a fever pitch Tuesday when parents and teachers turned out to voice their anger about Santa Clara Unified School District Superintendent Stella Kemp’s evident decision not to appoint the school’s popular Assistant Principal, Paul Fuller, to the post. 

Although there is no official confirmation, some believe that Kemp originally intended to appoint someone from outside SCUSD, despite the community’s overwhelming preference for Fuller.

The nearly two-hour meeting — characterized by bouts of applause, cheers and the occasional catcall — saw a lot of commentary about Fuller’s qualifications for the post, criticism of the Superintendent, demands to know what was leaked as well as by what authority Kemp started an investigation into it. However, none of these questions got specific answers. 


Kemp pulled the appointment from the April 7 SCUSD Board meeting agenda because, she said, “the integrity of the process may have been compromised” and was “tainted.” She then re-started the appointment, initially saying that the former applicants couldn’t apply and then saying they could. 

The Superintendent and the Board have refused to say what was leaked to “taint” the appointment and continued to refuse to answer that question Tuesday night. 

“What information was shared that you believe is lawfully protected?” asked parent Lizzy Smith.  We simply found out you have not hired Mr. Fuller and we’re understandably upset and angry. So, what’s different about us knowing when he [Fuller] didn’t get hired?”

Parents repeatedly pointed to Fuller’s rapport with staff, students and parents, as well as his extensive experience at Laurelwood and knowledge of its operations, begging the question: why isn’t he a slam dunk for the job? 

Kemp offered no reasons, only saying the district had to “make sure that we are following the established either labor laws and code…and to make sure we’re following our board policy. We have a framework and plan and process for a personnel appointment.”

This answer, however, failed to satisfy anyone. 

“I hire engineers, so I’m very familiar with the process of having criteria that you have to have,” said one parent. “I wish I could get the performance reviews of a candidate that I’m going to hire. So, what I’m hearing you saying is that we have performance review data like you have got,” she said, Kemp was forced nonetheless to, in essence, go through a hiring procedure as if there were no candidates. 

What raised the most ire Tuesday night, however, was a letter sent to members of the selection committee informing them of their “document preservation duties.” This came from a lawyer, Gregory Rolen of Haight Brown and Bonesteel, whom Kemp appears to have hired unilaterally* to “investigate certain matters regarding Laurelwood.” 

Board President Jodi Muirhead received a copy of the letter when it was sent out, but other Board Members say they found out about it when a parent published it on Facebook.

Characterized by some as “bullying,” this letter frightened some. One committee member’s son said that his mother has been “afraid to talk to anyone.” Others noted that in the countries that some parents come from, a letter like that “would mean that your family could disappear.” 

Kemp said that the letter was a routine precaution to preserve records, something that would be done in any SCUSD investigation regardless of the matter.  

* There is some question about whether Kemp exceeded her authority in hiring an attorney without a Board action. Ironically, one attorney who says she doesn’t have that authority is Rolen himself, who wrote on the subject a year ago for the California Policy Center. 


  1. Aida 2 years ago

    Thank you Carolyn for the reporting. What happened at this meeting at Laurelwood Elementary on Tuesday is a case study on what not to do. The audio of this meeting was recorded and it is pretty evident the need for new leadership (cabinet included!) in this district.

  2. LW parent 2 years ago

    What clear is that the superintendent has no concern for the kids of this community. What the school needs is consistency in a leadership team that has made Laurelwood a successful school. What Dr Kemp wants is someone she can put in from outside the district and control. good for these parents who are standing up for what is best for their community. I listened to the board meeting and I don’t like that more and more people are now coming forward with the same stories…. It also the same thing she did in San Bruno apparently – Where there’s smoke there’s fire – we need a new superintendent!!!!

    To the reporter of this article – thankyou for going the extra effort to uncover that part about her own lawyer boasting about the case he won in Orange County school district where he declares that superintendents don’t have the right to unilaterally hire attorneys for school district matters.

  3. Anonymous Teacher 2 years ago

    I’m so glad the SCVV updated this article between Friday afternoon and Friday night. This second version more accurately reflects Thursday night’s board meeting. It’s important to note that the boardroom was filled to capacity to the point of overflowing. Comments were made from teachers from various sites, not just from one school, as this is a pervasive problem across all levels of our district. The District leadership would have the community believe that collaboration is alive and well here in SCUSD, but the reality is that it started dying the day the current administration took office. It is now just this side of nonexistent. Unless, of course, you agree with the leadership. The rest of us just keep our heads down, hoping not to get noticed for fear of retaliation. I’m not sure how much longer THIS highly qualified teacher will stay in SCUSD and be the recipient of such a high level of toxicity.

  4. Email the Board 2 years ago

    Email the board members demand that they get Dr Kemp to resign.

  5. Anonymous staff 2 years ago

    Santa Clara Unified is a district of 29 schools, not one. The 3 Board members have become obsessed with pandering to one community of staff and parents. The role of the Board is to oversee the Superintendent, not make hiring decisions. The Board also has an obligation to follow their own civility policy, and the Board President is required to enforce the civility policy on the Board and public making comments. The past few Board meetings, this has not happened. The 3 Board members are engaging in inciting the public, bullying staff members and creating a hostile environment that is not conducive to education. Policy 1310.1 states in part, ” a safe harassment-free workplace for our students and staff”. Community members and 3 Board members are bullying staff in public and private creating an environment of fear. For example, 3 Board members were questioned and harrassed a staff member about the Open Enrollment process SOLEY because of Laurelwood parents that Trustee Lieberman ran her preschool business. This is not a Board that is looking our for ALL of our students. They are only speaking out about the issues that affect their reelection and their friends. THIS is not the “Santa Clara” way!

    • SCUSD Retiree 2 years ago

      Questioning does not equal harassment.

      “We get wise by asking questions, and even if these are not answered, we get wise, for a well-packed question carries its answer on its back as a snail carries its shell.” – James Stephens

    • Anonymous Parent 2 years ago

      I don’t understand the accusation. Board members asked questions about open enrollment because there have been concerns about open enrollment. I know this because I am one of the parents who brought my concerns to board members. My child has been on a waitlist for a school all year even though we having declining enrollment. The avoidance of the questions was discouraging to me. If the board can’t get answers, who can?

    • AlexR 2 years ago

      People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones! This “anonymous staff” ‘s comment is eerily familiar to what Trustee Ryan said at the May 4th meeting. Is Trustee Ryan pandering to Kemp and trying to save her job? Time for new leadership in this district that cares for ALL STUDENTS.

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