News

Emails, board report paint picture of Nelson's offending behavior

MV Whisman trustee faces censure vote

Judging from email exchanges between Mountain View Whisman School District trustee Steven Nelson and his colleagues on the board and members of district staff, frustration has been building over Nelson's behavior -- both in private and in public meetings -- since he took office late last year.

The emails, obtained by the Voice through a state Public Records Act request, and evidence compiled by Bill Lambert, one of Nelson's colleagues on the board, paint a picture of a trustee quick to make serious, and often inaccurate, accusations. They show a pattern of threatening and insulting district staff members and attempts by Nelson to use his position on the board to gain political leverage over Superintendent Craig Goldman.

As of the Voice's Oct. 2 press deadline, the school board was scheduled to vote to censure Nelson at its Oct. 3 meeting.

In his own defense, Nelson prepared a point-by-point response to the accusations compiled by Lambert, and emailed the response to the Voice in advance of the meeting. Though the trustee admitted that many of the accusations levied against him were true and problematic, he argued that some of the items listed under the "Evidence" section of the "Statement in Support of the Resolution to Censure of Trustee Steven Nelson" were either inaccurate or were not deserving of reprimand.

Nelson fully admits he crossed the line when it comes to the most egregious incident reported in Lambert's packet.

During a one-on-one meeting between Nelson and Goldman on March 28, Goldman wrote that Nelson "accused me of resisting a Bay Area News Group request for earnings information and falsely claimed responsibility for getting the District to provide the requested information. I both defended myself against these allegations and expressed my belief that he (Nelson) did not care about the students."

At this point in the conversation, Nelson reportedly yelled at the superintendent, "You are full of sh--," before leaving the room and proclaiming in a raised voice to a number of district employees, "If Craig Goldman says I don't care about kids, he is full of sh--."

Nelson told the Voice that when he shouted at Goldman, he was awaiting word on a cancer biopsy. "It was a very stressful time," he said, noting that the uncertainty may have contributed to the incident.

Nelson's profane outburst is merely one example of his bad behavior, according to Lambert's packet.

According to the supplemental materials attached to the board's Oct. 3 agenda, Nelson has threatened Goldman by saying he wouldn't support the superintendent's contract renewal unless he supported one of the trustee's "personal initiatives;" Nelson has violated board policy by sending emails directly to district staff instead of sending those communications through the superintendent; and in his emails to staff, Nelson has been "confrontational, threatening, insulting demeaning, and/or offensive."

In an email sent on Aug. 1, Nelson claimed that the board would be breaking the law if it went forward with a planed special meeting with multiple items on the agenda. "The law is pretty darn clear," Nelson wrote, "only one item may be on a special meeting agenda."

After Goldman responded, stating he had never heard of the rule, Nelson returned his email:

"Probably MY BAD," he wrote. "In a two minute search - I cannot find that limitation."

Later in the month, Goldman wrote an email to trustee Chris Chiang about Nelson overstepping lines and making false accusations, only to backpedal with an apology. "I believe that patterns of abuse are not rectified by repeated apologies," he wrote. Chiang responded with an email in which he intimated that he believed censuring Nelson might be in order.

Reflecting on many of the incidents outlined in Lambert's information packet, Nelson said he believes he should be censured.

However, in a conversation with the Voice, the trustee said there were a number of incidents described in the statement supporting his censure that are inaccurate or trivial.

He strongly denied that he used his position on the board to push pet projects or that he willfully fed "mischaracterizing information concerning the district to the media" two accusations made in Lambert's packet.

If those items were removed from the list of charges he is facing, he said he would gladly vote to censure himself. "I stepped over that line," he said.

A detailed list of alleged offenses can be found on the district website in informational materials that accompany the board's Oct. 3 agenda.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by member
a resident of Whisman Station
on Oct 3, 2013 at 2:26 pm

It's nice to have an independent mind on the board who doesn't simply nods at whatever the Superintendent proposes. Unfortunately, this one is too crazy to be effective.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ReallyTiredofThis
a resident of Whisman Station
on Oct 3, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Yawn! I'm so tired of hearing about this. Sounds to me more like a low-class reality show on MTV then a respected group of adults working together to better our school district.

Everyone needs to grow up or grow a pair. Nelson needs to quit or be fired, or the others need to put up with him, fire him or ask him to resign.

Let's get back to being grown-ups shall we?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 3, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I'm also getting tired of this. It seems like the Voice is just bent on making hay out of nothing.

So Goldman is upset because Nelson was asking about his inflated salary? Does he mean the one that keeps going up while teacher salaries are flat?

I'm still trying to find what the real, heavy issues are here. So Nelson said the S-word. So what? It seems appropriate if he notices the superintendent's salary going through the roof while the school district is always complaining there's no money with its hand always out to parents asking for donations! From my reading here, it also would appear that Goldman threw out the first punch by accusing Nelson of not caring about the children. That would get the S-word from me too!

Let's remember, Nelson doesn't get paid for any of this. All the whining public employees do. So what if they can't take a little criticism. They should try working in the private sector. They wouldn't last a day. A $200,000 plus salary demands you put up with a lot and deal with it and solve the problem, not go whining for some one to cry foul


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Oct 3, 2013 at 4:23 pm

So Goldman said something inappropriate to Nelson and then Nelson said something inappropriate back? And that's the worst case here? It sounds like they think that Goldman can say anything he wants and it's OK but Nelson can't do the same.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Andrew
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Oct 3, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Nelson's personal style is unfortunate and apparently unproductive, but his point that the board needs to challenge the administration more is absolutely correct. For many years, superintendents have basically done what they want with what amounts to rubber stamps by whatever board was in office at the time. Each superintendent has sponsored their own sweeping initiative, which was then superseded by the next superintendent's grand vision (the current one is EDI). Of course, each change of course brings new consultants, materials, training, etc. Meanwhile, fundamental issues go unaddressed. For example, what is the administration doing to monitor the performance of its principals and address problems where they occur? You can have all the initiatives you want, but a school without a good principal has a big problem--and that problem definitely occurs in the MV-Whisman school district.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Whatever
a resident of North Whisman
on Oct 3, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Before you draw conclusions and make judgments based on a single article, I suggest you attend several board meetings yourself and draw your own conclusions.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Adult Behavior
a resident of Bailey Park
on Oct 3, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Its a single article based on an entire history of offending behavior. Yah, don't judge him on how he's behaved all the way up until now, judge him while he's on his good behavior.

Nope. Sorry, time to take responsibility for your actions Mr. Nelson. A great lesson for our kids I should think.

Some people don't it. Disruption like this is not progress, its stagnation. Simply banging a pot and screaming at people because you disagree shuts things down entirely. Nelson is simply another sick part of the sick board that needs fixing. There's no good that comes from his crybaby theater/no self control antics.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Oct 3, 2013 at 6:53 pm

I second what Andrew says. Nelson is standing up to a dysfunctional bureaucracy designed first and foremost to perpetuate itself. I mean, when was the last time an administrator or principal resigned because their school wasn't progressing? They'd rather blame it on the teachers they are failing to support. It's no wonder. Many administrators in this district haven't been in front of a classroom for years, some for decades or more, yet they are the self-proclaimed experts on how to teach. In fact, most wouldn't last a day in the classroom they are so out-dated. Most can only spew the party line and are out-dated in their practice with limited depth of knowledge in the field. By comparison if they had to compete in Silicon Valley high tech industry with such an out-dated skill-set they would quickly be passed over. And then there's EDI, a joke designed only to push up test scores. We need innovation in the district, not more gimmicks rammed down the throats of teachers by the dinosaurs in charge. I say continue to shake things up Mr. Nelson. You've obviously stirred the hornet's nest.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by @ Parent
a resident of Gemello
on Oct 3, 2013 at 7:46 pm

I second the suggestion by "Whatever". Try going to a meeting or two...try working with him. You can say what you want about Superintendents, but Mr. Nelson is acting a bit like Congress. The Board can not get things done (FOR THE STUDENTS) because of his interruptions, false allegations, talking over other Board members, etc.

@ReallyTiredOfThis: They are actually handling it like adults. Adults don't just quit when things get hard, adults don't just fire someone when they don't like their attitude. They try to make it work. Firing/Quitting is the last step for adults.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 3, 2013 at 9:11 pm

San Francisco had its Chris Daly. Mountain View has its Steven Nelson.

There is no reason the public has to deal with these losers. Dump him, and let him go deal with his problems on his own time.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent of behaved child
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 4, 2013 at 6:07 am

The message the district is trying to send Mr. Nelson is the exact same mesage I have to deliver to my 5 year old at times: No matter what your point is, no matter how valid and correct you might be, you cannot speak to people in such disrespectful tones, and you can't throw a temper tantrum when you get frustrated and thing don't go your way.
My 5 year old has really begun to show progress in this area...did I mention she's 5 years old?!

The message to Mr Nelson is clear, its the same message we try to teach our children: Got a grown up idea? Present it in a grown up fashion. If something doesn't go your way, that's life, deal with it with dignity, take away any lessons for the future and focus on the next goal.

Nobody is telling Mr. Nelson to "Shut up" What they're trying to tell him is GROW UP!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by reader
a resident of Waverly Park
on Oct 4, 2013 at 11:31 am

And lost in all this conversation are the cuts, yes CUTS, to programs for our students.

For the first time in recent MVWSD history, 5th graders have to Choose either art OR music, not both.

5th grade science camp used to be a full week, it's now 4 days.

And our kids still go to school for only 4-1/2 days per week!

But we have money to give Goldman a pay raise. And we have money to train teachers in "explicit direct instruction" which is a fancy name for what every good teacher learned during their teacher training. And plans for scraping and rebuilding the district office may not be at the top of the list, but they are certainly on the list of construction projects.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by GSB
a resident of Rex Manor
on Oct 4, 2013 at 12:53 pm

So, what was the outcome at last night's meeting?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 7, 2013 at 9:35 am

Unproductive is a rather harsh indictment of a politician, who ran on some particular platform points. We have had only two meetings that went to near 11 PM, and both of those had to do with $50 million in public spending on the middle schools. I haven't timed with a stopwatch, but I only spoke about 1/4 of the time at each of those.
Nov 2012 Ballot statement "Issues: First - formal community involvement to the standards of our City! ... Trustee subcommittees on Compensation and Facilities." The majority of the Board eventually saw the need for a new Board Facilities Committee- and 11 community volunteers thought this new idea was likely to be worth their time! It should start meeting next month. It includes the two candidates for Board who were not elected.
- Now - how to proceed with less rudeness on my part.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by @ Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 7, 2013 at 12:51 pm

How about proceeding with NO rudeness on your part, not just less? Your behavior is also abusive and insulting. I see no mention of that in your comment. Are you going to work on that, too?


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Early Decision Blues
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 2,220 views

One night only: ‘Occupy the Farm’ screening in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 2,112 views

Death with Dignity
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,318 views

With a Perspective....
By Ms. Jenson | 0 comments | 465 views

10 Tried and True Ways to Increase Happiness
By Caroline Fleck | 2 comments | 454 views