Op-ed: Open Letter to the Association of Families, Teachers, and Counselors (AFTC), California School for the Deaf in Fremont (CSDF), California Association of the Deaf (CAD), and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000

September 30, 2016

Open Letter to the Association of Families, Teachers, and Counselors (AFTC), California School for the Deaf in Fremont (CSDF), California Association of the Deaf (CAD), and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000

Recently, while browsing the Internet, I came across your petition to remove Dr. Sean Virnig from his position as the first Deaf superintendent (in history) of CSDF. While the petition was active, I checked and saw that you were seeking at least 1,000 signatures. However, as of August 28, 2016, the following link, https://www.change.org/p/take-back-csd/u/17694053 link, shows only 903 signatures, including several duplicate names. Yet, you declared a victory. Really? No. Absolutely not. I completely disagree because your three demands have NOT been met.

Your demands, according to https://www.change.org/p/take-back-csd, are as follows:

1. The removal of Dr. Sean Virnig- as site superintendent

You, along with your petition, DID NOT remove Dr. Virnig. It was California Department of Education’s (CDE) decision to reassign Dr. Virnig to an executive level at their office in Sacramento. Superintendent Tom Torlakson sent out the letter, announcing Dr. Virnig’s new duties, on Friday, September 26, 2016 (Attachment 1). Your petition was closed two days later on September 28, 2016. Under false pretenses, you claimed the victory.

Seeing that CDE took Dr. Virnig out of CSDF, and your petition failed to reach the goal of 1,000 signatures, your first demand was not met.

2. No reprisals for staff involved in actions to remove Dr. Virnig.

This week is the fifth week since CDE reassigned Dr. Virnig, and they still have NOT responded to your second demand. It is my personal opinion that you don’t wholly deserve this demand. Do you really think you can get away with this after what you and your actions have done to not only Dr. Virnig, his wife, their children, and their entire families, but the teachers and staff, who were either neutral or supportive of Dr. Virnig, as well as the students at CSDF??? Furthermore, much to my disbelief, you had the audacity to pull innocent students into your protest! I couldn’t believe how very low you had stooped to do that. Do you know who the victim is really? It is not Dr. Virnig. It is not the teachers and staff. It is not you and your protesters. It is the STUDENTS. They are the VICTIMS. They are suffering the ramifications of your selfish actions.Truthfully, your complaints, which are without merit, are not about, nor for, the students.They are about, and for, each of YOU. Now you are asking to be pardoned for your greed. No. Absolutely not!

With no reply from CDE, your second demand is still not met.

3. Active involvement in the search for the interim and a permanent superintendent (or per California Association of the Deaf’s [CAD] letter which states, “To form a committee to hire a new superintendent”)

Have you read CDE’s site superintendent selection process? Do you actually know how the selection process works? How will you be actively involved in the search? Since I don’t know what your expectations are for the search, I wonder if you are planning to recommend the names of individuals YOU want as the next superintendent of CSDF. If so, you are very much mistaken. The candidates absolutely cannot go through AFTC, CAD, CSD community, and SEIU. They have to submit their applications and/or resumes directly to CDE. In addition, what makes you think you have the power to hire the new superintendent (per CAD’s letter)? No, you don’t have the authority to do so. Only CDE has the jurisdiction to select and hire the superintendent, whether you like it or not. By the way, you already have Scott Kerby as acting superintendent and Ethan Bernstein as assistant superintendent. Therefore, your search for an interim superintendent is moot.

Under California’s law, YOU cannot hire the new superintendent. Your third demand is thereby invalid.

By falsely declaring the victory at the change.org web site, #TAKEBACKCSD Facebook page, and AFTC web site, you amaze and disgust me beyond words. To make things even worse, you practically LIED to everyone, including the social and news media, across the whole country in which you stated, “After five years of trying to work collaboratively, to no avail, with our site superintendent, 80% of staff showed to a vote of no confidence in Dr. Virnig.” You stated the same thing at http://abc7news.com/education/faculty-parents-seek-to-oust-superintendent-of-fremont-school-for-deaf/1477310/, “Virnig referred our request for an interview to the state office of education. Eighty percent of the employees have handed him a vote of no confidence. There is a similar sentence in your August 18, 2016, letter (Attachment 2) to Tom, in which you wrote, “Even with the report made public in January, with the AFTC’s overwhelming vote in April to request CDE to have Dr. Virnig removed, with the union’s vote of no confidence among 80% of its members last May,…” Why did you lie?

You also knowingly LIED to the social and news media that it was Dr. Virnig’s fault that the outreach program was closed, and poor teacher to student ratios have caused enrollment to drop (http://abc7news.com/education/faculty-parents-seek-to-oust-superintendent-of-fremont-school-for-deaf/1477310/). According to CSDF’s web site, the outreach program (http://www.csdeagles.com/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=370854&type=d&pREC_ID=862611) is still in operation under Jac Cook, Laura T. Petersen, Lilly Crisman, and Meta Metal. Why did you lie?

Yes, the declining enrollment is because the parents and families COULD NOT afford to live in the Bay Area anymore. it was THEIR decision to move away. This is certainly NOT Dr. Virnig’s fault. I want to add that you, Elvis Zornoza, told the ABC7 News reporter, “The first year Virnig arrived was five years ago, and we had 250 students in high school, and now we have 120. And that tells me something.” I found that hard to believe so I checked around. A reliable source informed me that the current number is actually 171. Why did you lie?

The reason why I said your complaints are without merit is because you failed to present solid evidence showing damage to the CSDF students, teachers, and staff done by Dr. Virnig due to his ineffective leadership, his refusal to communicate, and not being able to work or collaborate with the staff, parents, families and community members. From what I understand, Tom had again and again asked you for proof, and you continued to fail (or refuse?) to provide such evidence.

I read a letter from Tom, dated August 16, 2016, along with page 2 in regard to CSDF’s partial chronological (Attachment 2). There is a paragraph which states, “As an important part of his fact-finding efforts, Superintendent Tom Torlakson requested to meet with Dr. Virnig together with SEIU representative Sulghi Hong and six CSDF teachers who met with him on June 23, 2016. The invitation to meet was declined by SEIU Sulghi Hong on August 8, 2016. He said he would only meet if the meeting was about Dr. Virnig resigning.” I find this pathetic, childish, and immature. I hope you, Sulghi, are aware that Tom mentioned you in his speech at the rally on August 19, 2016. The transcript shows him explaining, “I had set up what I thought was a very important part of my fact-finding mission to have a meeting where Sean Virnig would meet with Sulghi and others that Sulghi would want to invite to have a direct dialogue about their concerns. So that was a part that I thought was going to be really important for me to size up how these two leaders, Sean Virnig and Sulghi, might work together, or not. The meeting didn’t happen. Sulghi thought it wouldn’t be good to meet unless it was about resignation.” Toward the end of his speech, he again brought up your refusal, “By the way, I had planned two meetings. However, one meeting was cancelled with the SEIU group and with Sean. I was searching for additional meeting opportunities.” Tom and Dr. Virnig had repeatedly tried to work with you all, but to no avail. Isn’t it ironic that YOU are the ones who presented such poor leadership with a refusal to communicate, work, or collaborate with Tom and Dr. Virnig?

In his speech, Tom announced that “Sean is superintendent at this moment.” That clearly indicates to me that the due process was already met. CDE had gone over the white binder. They met with Dr. Virnig. They met with you. They listened to the complaints, concerns, and testimonials from ATFC, CSDF, CAD, SEIU, teachers, staff, and parents. Both the white binder and Dr. Virnig got their due process. CDE made the decision to have Dr. Virnig remain as the superintendent. When Tom mentioned that, all of you should have realized the decision was FINAL. The protest should have ended right there THAT NIGHT, but you didn’t. You chose to continue your protest on Monday, the first day of school, August. 22, 2016. You lost control, manipulated the students to get involved with the protest, took the protest to the streets, turned the teachers and staff against each other, got the social media to believe your lies, tried to hurt Dr. Virnig and his family, called in the news media, set up a petition to request Tom to remove Dr. Virnig effective immediately, and so on. From my perspective, it was clearly a HATE CRIME. The whole Virnig and Counter families across the country were shocked and sickened by your evil actions.

It was really nice of Tom to say that CSDF “is a world-class institution.” However, thanks to you all, I have to vehemently disagree. Nope. Not at all. Not anymore. CSDF’s reputation as a world-class establishment is RUINED. Shattered into pieces. Like Rome, CSDF has fallen. Now I wonder which residential school for the deaf deserves this badge. California School for the Deaf Riverside? Maryland School for the Deaf? Texas School for the Deaf? Indiana School for the Deaf? Model Secondary School for the Deaf?

In summary, how could YOU think you had accomplished such a victory with what had gone on above? Honestly, you lost your protest.

Peggy Virnig Mnich

You can follow Peggy Virnig Mnich and her ongoing battle with leaders and organizations that protested the removal of Dr. Virnig at https://protestatcsdf.wordpress.com/

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