Special Education Director Pleads Her Case to Board of Trustees
PALM SPRINGS — With her voice quivering, Victoria Parkinson, director of special education since June of 2017 for the Palm Springs Unified School District, on April 18 during public comments, asked the Board of Trustees what they are going to do about the manner in which a foster student was treated, her demotion and pay cut.
She was met with silence.
It was a customary response as trustees do not address public comments, only comments made on agenda items.
“I’m operating under the assumption that you know nothing about how I’ve been treated,” Parkinson told trustees. “Because knowing the mission and the belief statements of this board, which are posted in this very room, you would not stand by and let this happen.”
In August of this year, I was advocating for a foster student who also had a disability, Parkinson said. The student had only been in our district 20 days or so. The student was a challenge, as some students who have experienced significant trauma can be, but that doesn’t matter because as agents of the school board, it is our duty to uphold the board’s mission and be united in our commitment to equity based on fairness, dignity, and democracy to foster student success, she said.
We are to honor students no matter their ethnicity, language, physical and mental ability, gender, and family structure, and so forth, Parkinson said.
“I was not doing anything special. I was only doing the job you hired me to do. Yet, I was met with vicious resistance by other district employees who interacted with this student on a day-to-day basis. I was told, ‘This student doesn’t belong at this school.’ Another educator described this student as an intentional non-learner and waste of space,” Parkinson claimed.
Knowing this kind of resistance could be troublesome for the district, Parkinson said the District’s special education attorney to research California case law so that she could understand the level of liability the district could face if a complaint was filed.
“I reported up the chain of command, and to my horror, I was told, ‘Drop it.’ ”
Two or three days later, Parkinson said her mother was placed on in-home hospice. She requested a leave of absence so that she could remain with her mother “during her remaining days on this earth.”
When Parkinson returned to work, she claimed that for the first time in her 34-year career, she began to get disciplined. She said she was moved out of the district administrative center and placed on a school campus. Parkinson said she was given a “scathing writeup,” which painted a picture of her as a “defiant, aggressive, underperforming administrator” which is now in her personnel file.
“I have now been reassigned to a teaching position with a significant pay cut,” Parkinson said. “I’ve been asking myself for months, how after 34 years in public education, did I become a bad administrator in the six weeks I was on leave taking care of my dying mother and grieving for her loss? You may want to ask yourself the same question I did. My answer: I did not.”
Parkinson’s salary as director of special education is $190,309 plus a $1,500 doctorate stipend.
Salary as a teacher will be $128,197 plus a $1,500 doctorate stipend plus a $1,966 Special Education stipend, according to Joan L. Boiko, coordinator of communications and community outreach. Her salary will not be adjusted to teacher salary until July 1. Parkinson is currently still receiving her director salary.
“I think we can all agree that this is a bad look,” Parkinson told Trustees. “I think we can also agree this is just wrong. We may even agree that this is illegal. So now you know. … what are you going to do about it?”
Boiko said she could not comment on who demoted Parkinson, why and whether the allegations Parkinson made about the foster student were true. They are “confidential personnel matters,” Boiko said.
Efforts to reach Parkinson outside of her public comments have been unsuccessful.
Members of the Board of Trustees are John Gerardi, president; Sergio Espericueta, clerk; Karen Cornett; Madonna Gerrell; and Charlie J Ervin Jr.
- Victoria Parkinson: PSUSD
- Demoted: Shutterstock