Ex-principal fires back

In 5-page statement, Martin levels intimidation charge against the superintendent

By Corey PrideSeptember 20, 2012 

The former principal of Los Banos High School has released a five-page statement through his lawyer, accusing the superintendent of having a personal vendetta against him and running the school district by using intimidating tactics. In the letter, Dan Martin’s attorney, Kelly L. Borelli, states that Superintendent Steve Tietjen has been openly hostile toward her client, threatened to fire him multiple times and has written him up for minor transgressions. Borelli also states that Tietjen yelled at Martin while standing over him and “jabbing his finger at him.”

On Aug. 2, Tietjen placed Martin, who was the Los Banos High principal at the time, on administrative leave. Martin was subsequently reassigned to administrator of special projects in a 5-2 vote by the school board on Aug. 9.

Questions questioned

Borelli said an interview for a typist position was the reason Tietjen gave for asking the school board to remove Martin as principal.

The questions asked included: What was the last meal you cooked for someone, tell me how you made it?; What main dish would you bring to an office potluck?; What was the last book you read?; What is your favorite store to go to?; and what is your favorite pasttime?

Borelli defended Martin's interview questions, stating that many major companies use "unusual" questions to see how potential employees will respond to an unexpected scenario.

Tietjen was told about the questions by a school administrator, according to Borelli.

"We believe Tietjen had been looking for a way to remove Mr. Martin as principal of LBHS and he seized upon this opportunity to convince the (school) board that Mr. Martin had somehow put the district at significant risk," Borelli stated.

Several school district employees had told Martin that Tietjen was "out to get him" and one administrator at the high school reportedly said he was placed there to watch Martin and report back to Tietjen, Borelli stated.

District staying mum

Tietjen declined to respond to Martin's allegations about his management style.

"It is the district's practice based on advice of counsel to not discuss publicly the reasons for personnel actions. The reason for this is to protect the privacy and reputations of the individuals involved and to protect the district from any potential liability," Tietjen wrote in a news release.

"On August 9, Mr. Martin was provided with a full opportunity to receive in writing all the reasons for the recommended action to reassign him from his principal position. He was allowed to present to the board his own side of the story which included much of the information which is in his attorney's statement and his own. ... While Mr. Martin has apparently felt the need to further discuss the matter publicly, the district will not be doing the same," Tietjen wrote.

Martin, who works from an office at the district's transportation and maintenance facility instead of its main office where Tietjen is located, issued a statement about his time as Los Banos High School's principal.

"I am honored to have worked with the exceptional staff and students at Los Banos High School and would definitely like to return one day if that is what the board of education see in my future," Martin said. "We have made outstanding growth in not only student academics, but also the campus climate ... I feel I have made a positive difference.

"I remain fully committed to Los Banos High School and the Los Banos Unified School District and to working positively with district staff, administrators and the board to provide an excellent academic environment for the students and the community."

Tietjen appreciated the last portion of Martin's statement.

"I am glad to hear that Mr. Martin has pledged to work positively with district staff, administration and the board. This is exactly what we need to ensure student success," Tietjen said.

Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached by phone at 388-6563, or by e-mail at cpride@losbanosenterprise.com.

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