Leadership at high school changed despite protests

By Corey Pride / Cpride@losbanosenterprise.comDecember 27, 2012 

The start of a new school year is usually about the students. How will they adjust to a new school or new classes? Will test scores go up or down? Can the football team make it to the playoffs this year?

The question for many in 2012 at Los Banos High School: Is our principal coming back?

Superintendent Steve Tietjen placed former Los Banos High Principal Dan Martin on administrative leave weeks before the start of the new school year.

On Aug. 9 the board of trustees reassigned Martin to administrator of special projects in a 5-2 vote, following a contentious board meeting in which his supporters said that they felt Tietjen treated the Los Banos High principal badly.

Martin's mother, Charlene, had harsh words for the superintendent.

"Many working under his watch are fearful of his heavy hand with threats and outbursts of anger. He has launched a baseless campaign to oust good people," she said before her son's reassignment.

"Dan has been attacked and harassed with malicious allegations. Our superintendent is an outsider and will one day leave us. Upon his departure the teaching staff will speak of his mistreatment."

Los Banos Vice Principal Dan Sutton was named the interim principal as some past and present high school students posted messages of support for Martin on a Facebook page titled "Reinstate Principal Martin."

As school started some students wore "Team Martin" T-shirts to class as a form of silent protest.

In September Martin broke his silence through a five-page written statement, approved by his attorney, in which he alleged Tietjen was openly hostile toward him, threatened to fire him multiple times and has written him up for minor transgressions. Tietjen was also accused of yelling at Martin while standing over him and jabbing his finger at him.

The letter states that being placed on leave came about because Martin because of questions he asked in an interview for a typist position.

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 pastime?

When asked about Martin's letter, Tietjen responded by email.

"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.

In a unanimous vote by the school board trustees on Sept. 27 Pacheco High School Assistant Principal Ryan Hartsoch was named as the new Los Banos High principal.

School board President Chase Hurley was relieved that the issue was done.

"I think we needed to move forward. We wanted to get him in there so parents and students knew they had a leader," Hurley said.

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