On June 12, 2018, at the CCUSD School Board meeting, members of the El Rincon Elementary (ERE) school community were expected to make public comments regarding school board member Kathy Paspalis’ shocking public condemnation of El Rincon Principal Dr. Cassandra Ziskind at the May 22, 2018 school board meeting.
Community Denunciation of School Board Statements
As anticipated, a group of El Rincon parents spoke in support of Ziskind, including El Rincon PTA President Maya Chason, and El Rincon PTA Board Member Mara Bushansky, along with ERE parents, Li Yin Tang, Candice Hive and Adrian Parra.
They expressed views regarding “the positive and transformative” effect Ziskind has had on ERE, in particular, for the support she has extended towards Special Ed students and their families. They denounced Paspalis’ accusations and demanded a public apology.
Tang expressed feeling “uneasy, disturbed and disgusted” by the May 22 school board meeting. Then noting her own personal experience, she added, “The process that I endured with the special education department was a nightmare. Dr. Z not only listened to me, but she was compassionate about it. This is exactly what the Special Ed Department is lacking big time. The fact that you admonished Dr. Ziskind publically was not only hurtful to us, and to her, but it hurts our school as well.”
When it was Chason’s turn to speak, she stated, “I actually left before the shenanigans. I left feeling really happy…I felt that we, the parents, were speaking as a unified school district.” Referring to Paspalis’ statements, Chason continued, “It was so hurtful and disrespectful to disregard that. I felt like that the whole movement…was totally disregarded…[because] you chose to attack our principal.”
Bushansky passionately exclaimed,“Equity is not something we are whining about. Equity is something that we are demanding,” in a response to an alleged comment made by School Board President Anne Allaire regarding her “fatigue with the community whining about equity” (allegedly made in a heated exchange during recess at the last board meeting).
President of the Association of Classified Employees Debbie Hamme, in her public comment, reminded the board of the tenets of the CCUSD partnership between governing bodies and the community: “We do not discredit or denigrate each other inappropriately in public forums. We do not discuss personnel issues in open session, nor do we protect and support those that do.” Hamme equated what transpired to “bullying” when she stated, “As adults, it is time to model the behavior we expect from our students. Speak out against this type of behavior and practice what we preach.”
CCUSD School Board Issues Across the Board Apologies
When it was time for the board to share their reports, apologies were issued by all members, with, unsurprisingly, Paspalis’ as the most anticipated. She read the following prepared statement,
“My comments tonight are on just one topic. An apology to the El Rincon community. Both parents and staff, and also to Principal Dr. Ziskind for my inappropriate comments at our last regular board meeting. My comments, to the extent they should’ve been voiced at all, most certainly should have been made in private and not in a public setting.
In addition, I was incorrect to assert that there was no response to the misguided social media post that circulated earlier that day and the prior evening because Dr. Ziskind had sent out an email to the El Rincon community at 1:45 on Tuesday afternoon.
I also want to apologize more broadly to the El Rincon and the other Special Ed parents that attended that evening and our executive cabinet members for my comments as they subsequently pulled us far away from our intended focus.
We are as a district committed to inclusion for our Special Education students. The work is deliberate, thoughtful, and on a timeline. This is not a maybe. This is our commitment to the CCUSD community. We are here for the kids first and foremost. I’m human. I made a mistake, and I hope we can move forward collaboratively from here. I also very much look forward to the graduations and promotions occurring later this week.”
El Rincon Parent Reports on Meeting to El Rincon Community
El Rincon and Special Ed parent, Adrian Parra (who made public comments at the past three school board meetings) provided the following statement shared in El Rincon’s Facebook group, in response to the School Board apologies:
“Last night’s School Board Meeting was fairly well attended by El Rincon parents and staff. Dr. Ziskind (Dr. Z.) along with several of the Special Ed. and Gen. Ed. teachers were there to support their principal.
Like at the last meeting, we waited patiently for the public comments agenda item to express our discontent over the unprofessional accusations leveled at Dr. Z. by Board member Kathy Paspalis at the previous Board meetings.
Several of us spoke in Dr. Z.’s defense and several of us also mentioned her staunch support of the special education staff at ER. A couple of parents of children with special needs felt compelled to speak, and their comments were quite moving. The current PTA president, Maya Chason, also voiced her dismay, at the way in which the entire El Rincon community was disrespected at the previous meeting.
When it was their turn to speak, the Board Members offered their apologies for any disrespect perceived by the ER community, either directly or indirectly due to their inaction when the first accusations were made.
For instance, Steve Levin was very apologetic about not having confronted his fellow board member, Kathy Paspalis, initially. He also mentioned the success of the MTSS workshop that they attended and during the recess encouraged me to reach out to the superintendent and the Assistant Superintendent of curriculum in order to get more workshops on the calendar.
I believe that we parents should continue to pursue the hiring of an inclusion specialist in a letter-writing campaign directed at both the Board and the district administration.
I believe that, overall, the El Rincon community was satisfied with the outcome of last night’s meeting. However, I encourage everyone to view that portion of the meeting online once it’s made available. Other than that, nothing substantial regarding Special Education was discussed.”