A photo of the sign in front of the Temecula Valley Unified School District administration building. (Source: Temecula Valley Unified School District)

The Temecula Valley Unified School District Board of Education Tuesday voted 3-1 in closed session to fire Superintendent Jodi McClay, effective immediately. Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Velez was appointed interim superintendent.

“It’s a tragedy for this district,” Board member Allison Barclay, who voted against the motion, said. “The divide here is deep and the betrayal is strong, and I’m truly, truly disappointed.”

Barclay, who said that she had received emails and phone calls from community members asking her what they could do to help change the board’s mind about its decision to fire McClay, said she was “completely powerless” on the board.

“I was voted into this position just like everyone else who sits up here, and I have zero power, and that is difficult,” she said. “It’s a difficult seat to sit in, especially when it comes to trying to do what is right for this district.”

Barclay also read comments sent to her by Board member Steven Schwartz, who was not able to attend the meeting due to technical difficulties.

“I am vehemently opposed to removing Dr. McClay from her positon,” she read. “She has served our students for many years and has led TVUSD to be one of the best school districts in Riverside. People move to our community for the schools, and the disruption of our district will be felt. Removing her would be a disaster for our district.”

McClay’s evaluation was originally slated to be on the June 27 agenda, but Board President Joseph Komrosky moved the item up by two weeks, before McClay was scheduled to provide her annual report to the board for review. 

Barclay asked for clarity from Komrosky why he moved up the item which had been set for the last six months to take place at the next regularly scheduled board meeting.

“At any day, this can be put on the agenda,” Komrosky said. “At any school district in the state of California, a superintendent can be brought into closed session and dismissed for no cause. That’s your answer, in short.”

Barclay also asked if McClay was given the proper notice as per her contract with the district, to which Komrosky said her contract allowed the board to review her performance at any point during the year, something Barclay pushed back on, prompting Komrosky to call for “order on the board.”

“I’m done answering your question,” he said. “And please keep order on the board. You’re getting into a bickering match with the board president, and I’m just saying keep order. Let’s be professionals.”

During public comment on the item, 14 people were able to speak during the 30-minute time limit imposed by the board. All 14 spoke in support of McClay with many noting her commitment to the district, the students, the staff and the community at large.

“I’m sickened that you board members would consider firing an expert like Dr. McClay,” TVUSD teacher Kelly Maxey said. “People say it takes 10,000 hours of intense practice to become an expert, Dr. McClay has spent over 25 years immersed in every aspect of education. She is undoubtedly an expert and has helped build the stellar schools we have today.”

Along with supporting McClay, speakers took time during the public comment period to announce the effort to recall Komrosky and board members Jen Wiersma and Danny Gonzalez, providing them all with legal notices of the effort.

“You have done a disservice to the students, faculty, staff, parents and community service at the TVUSD with your racialized speech and vile behavior,” TVUSD teacher Deon Hairston said before submitting Komrosky’s notice. “As one who works and attends church in this community, it is disheartening to witness such abhorrent behavior from a person in a position of influence and authority. Our community deserves leaders who are committed to the well being of all of its members regardless of their race, ethnicity or background.”

The organization behind the recall effort, One Temecula Valley PAC, was formed “in response to a very real and dangerous threat to local governance posed by political and religious extremist views,” according to the organization’s website.

“We do not take this step lightly,” Jennee Scharf, a TVUSD teacher and One Temecula Valley PAC co-chair, said. “In fact, we waited longer than some would have liked, holding out hope that these school board members might eventually put the students and the TVUSD community above their own extremist radical agendas.”

Throughout the remainder of the meeting, which included a discussion about seeking proposals from curriculum consultants, comments continued to call for the board to trust the district’s teachers and act in the best interest of the community.

“We are not out to indoctrinate,” teacher Edgar Diaz said. “I ask you to stop implying otherwise, and make it clear that you trust the professionalism of the educators of TVUSD. Simple statement. I trust the educators of Temecula, that’s all you need to say.”

Prior to the meeting, Diaz, who serves as president of the Temecula Valley Educators Association, had submitted an item to be placed on the agenda to discuss the elementary school social studies curriculum since new information and parental feedback had been obtained since the board last rejected it.

Barclay asked why the item was not on the agenda, a question Komrosky originally said he would answer during Diaz’s TVEA presentation, but then decided to answer after Barclay questioned whether the board had the authority to speak on non-agendized items during a presentation.

“You want the answer now,” he said. “Yeah, you’re gonna get it. You pushed really hard. You’re gonna get the answer.”

Komrosky said district attorneys told him that since the item had already been rejected by the board, only one of the board members who voted against it could put it back on the agenda.

“The legal counsel that I consulted does not agree with that,” Barclay said. “I just want the record to show.”

The public again spoke out against the board majority’s desire to bring in an outside curriculum consultant instead of consulting with the district’s own educators, a position echoed by Barclay.

“If you want to talk through another option, why do we need to hire someone to do that,” she said. “Go back to the committee, talk to the teachers, let’s hear what they have to say.”

Wiersma, who accused teachers and the union of “running a false narrative” about the board’s decision not to approve the curriculum, said she has been trying to work on solutions to ensure students have what they need to succeed academically.

“The misinformation that has hit this community is staggering,” she said. “Trust goes both ways. What I want you all to know is in the back room, some discussions that we had, which I can’t share, we’re working out the details and talking.”

Gonzalez, who last month took issue with the lack of parental involvement in the curriculum approval process, on Tuesday called out the parents and other community members in the audience.

“I understand that parents here tonight, people that come up to the podium and want to speak to this issue, enjoy coming up here and making the public spectacle,” he said. “But we have a lot of parents that reached out to us. I’ve heard a lot of feedback from parents.”

Gonzalez said he has been asking for months for a curriculum review, though Barclay pointed out that this was not something he mentioned at last month’s meeting when he, Komrosky and Wiersma voted not to adopt the recommended social studies curriculum.

During the discussion between Barclay and Gonzalez, Komrosky called for a motion to put an end to the discussion, stating that the board was “bickering.” Komrosky then called for a 10-minute recess, cleared the public from the auditorium and resumed the meeting.

Ultimately, the board tabled the discussion about issuing a request for proposals for a curriculum consultant and instead created two subcommittees. 

The first, with Barclay and Wiersma, would work on getting to a place to recommend a viable pathway forward for the elementary school social studies curriculum. The second, with Komrosky and Gonzalez, would work on creating a new process for TVUSD to approve curriculum, with an emphasis on elementary school curriculum.

In other board action: The board in a 3-1 vote tabled items to renew its contract with a consulting firm that has been used to advocate for the district at the state and national level and to renew a contract with a law firm that provides the district specialized legal services. Board member Allison Barclay voted against both.

The full meeting can be watched in three parts on YouTube. The first part, which can be found here, includes the discussion of the agenda. The second part, which can be found here, includes public comment on closed session items. The final part, which can be found here, is the remainder of the meeting.

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Alicia Ramirez is the publisher of TN News and the founder and CEO of its parent company TN News.