Tensions ran high at Wednesday night’s Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District board meeting, where critics slammed the continued employment of Tenaya Elementary School Principal Susan Moffitt.
Moffitt was put on paid administrative leave last week at a special board meeting, as previously demanded by a group of parents in uproar about Moffitt’s apparent failure to report to police claims of sexual abuse by a teacher at a Tracy school where she previously worked as a principal.
Darrell Golden, a former fourth-grade teacher at Anthony Traina Elementary, was charged in August with 33 counts of sexual abuse of at least a dozen victims in his classroom. He has pleaded not guilty.
Moffitt told the investigating grand jury that she had consulted with school district authorities and confronted Golden about claims of inappropriate touching as early as 2006, but didn’t report the suspicion to police as required by law.
The San Joaquin County District Attorney has said it will not pursue charges on failing to report because the statute of limitations has passed.
Moffitt has since been named in a lawsuit filed by an alleged victim’s parents. The suit uses some of Moffitt’s own testimony in arguing she was partially responsible for the continued abuse of children at the school.
A group of parents — possibly as many as 60 — had demanded Moffitt be put on leave. But none at Wednesday’s meeting seemed satisfied.
Benjamin Denson, grandfather of a student, suggested she should be put on leave until her contract is up, then the board should not renew it.
Four parents in the crowd of about 20 spoke at the meeting to share similar concerns.
One said she was disgusted with the way Moffitt had vehemently defended herself at the special meeting, and another with an autistic son said that this concerned her deeply because her son relies on adults at school to speak for him.
Patricia Pollock, a community member, defended Moffitt.
“We’re persecuting an innocent woman” Pollock said.
She said she thinks because the controversy happened elsewhere and in the past, releasing her would be without cause and could open the district up to a lawsuit.
In the meantime, keeping Moffitt on paid leave wastes money that could be spent on student programs, she said.
Moffitt was not present at the meeting, but her husband, Tom, told the crowd he had worked with abused kids in the past. He said seeing what it did to them was horrible and that he and his wife weren’t naive to the issue.
After some back-and-forth comments from the audience, board President Ian Morcott banged his gavel and said the hostility directed at the board upset him to no end. He said it’s been very frustrating being on the board, getting to know more of the facts in closed sessions, but not being able to say more.
Superintendent Dave Urquhart said the district is analyzing its position, and will continue for now with an interim president — longtime teacher Rob Egger.
In other business Wednesday night, the board:
• reelected Morcott as board president.
• reviewed the 2013-14 budget, which showed the district capable of meeting all financial responsibilities and maintaining a surplus balance.
• approved several hundred thousand dollars-worth of replacements and repairs for school infrastructure such as ramps and new desks and computers.