‘Much like a failing grade’: Teacher’s union blasts superintendent, HR director; school board comes to their defense

The Tahoe Truckee Education Association on Wednesday announced it had “overwhelmingly” given votes of no confidence to Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Superintendent Carmen Ghysels and Director of Human Resources Joan Zappettini.

“Our current superintendent has failed to operate in the best interest of students and teachers in managing our district,” said Jess DeLallo, Tahoe Truckee Education Association president, in Wednesday’s news release. “During one of the most difficult teaching years in our careers, we have had to navigate a relationship with district leadership that was underhanded, disrespectful and unnecessarily combative. Our students and school community deserve better than this. Much like a failing grade, this vote of no confidence is a way of showing how significantly concerned we are for the future of our district and that improvement is essential.”

The vote of no confidence comes on the heels of the union and district reaching a settlement last month.

Under the settlement, teachers in the union received a 2% ongoing salary increase, which is retroactive to July 1, 2020. Additionally, teachers will receive a $2,500 one-time payment, which will be funded primarily with In-Person Instruction Grants. The total cost of the agreement, according to the district, will be $1,389,339 for fiscal year 2020-21. That amount includes the cost of the one-time payments. The agreement for fiscal year 2021-22 is projected to cost $602,895, increasing to $623,117 for fiscal year 2022-23.

“After the disruption that the community has been through due to COVID-19 and the uncertainties of a fluctuating real estate market, which has driven the cost of everything from milk to gas to lumber through the roof, the idea of putting our members and the community through three to five months of fact-finding through the summer was not what was best for them,” DeLallo said during last month’s school board meeting.

“To be very clear, we don’t think that this settlement values our work, and it is less than what we think TTUSD can afford. But we do think that it is the best that we are able to get this year.”

In its letter Wednesday, the union expressed it would like to see improvement in collaborative decision making, bargaining in good faith, and acknowledgment of its contributions.


“I’m in the same sort of disbelief in the sense that the word ‘collaboration’ has come out. I really know that this is a tough time for all of us and we’ve all tried to dig deep to try to be on the same page, and the bottom line is our kids … I’m struggling with all of this,” said Board Member Diana Driller during Wednesday’s board meeting.

“Right now we’re in this dark, dark space going into a spiral that’s so not right,” continued Driller. “I’m extremely frustrated and saddened that this is the way that the leadership of your organization is going and I’m not sure if all of the members are in support of it.”

Board President Kim Szczurek also lent support to Superintendent Carmen Ghysels during Wednesday’s meeting.

“I’m really sorry to say that your association’s actions actually, for me, don’t represent a collaborative relationship in any way,” Szczurek said. “Continuing to degrade our district leadership hurts everyone, most of all the reason we are here, which is our kids. I’m so saddened by your association’s need to continue on this course … Saying that this does not reflect on the board — which you said in your email to the board today — who hired and supports the chief learning officer is disingenuous at best. Superintendent Ghysels was brought to TTUSD in a nearly impossible situation, one neither you or anyone in your association has experienced. None of you and none of many folks have ever tried to lead a very complex organization through a period of pandemic. Treating others with respect and compassion and standing in their shoes is something we should teach our kids and something which I wish your association would also consider.”

Board Clerk Gaylan Larson also gave support to Ghysels during the meeting, while criticizing the letter sent out by the union.

“I believe the union is so myopic they’re blind to what’s been happening,” said Larson. “I’m very disappointed today with humanity and their primal glee at causing dissension and their need to identify an enemy. It’s disgusting. That’s the stuff we’re supposed to be teaching our kids not to do, but that’s what we’re demonstrating. You can see it makes me angry.”

The Tahoe Truckee Education Association and California School Employees Association will begin negotiations again with the district in early fall to address any ongoing and or one-time pay amounts that would presumably be effective retroactively to July 1, 2021.

“A year from now, we hope to say we are in a better place with district leadership, that teachers have felt respected for the education experts that they are and that they feel fairly compensated for the hard work they do,” concluded DeLallo in Wednesday’s letter. “As we look toward what is a two-year negotiating process for us, we need our district leadership to commit to a collaborative, positive and respectful relationship with teachers for the benefit of our students and school community. As educators, it is our responsibility to hold Superintendent Ghysels and Director of Human Resources, Joan Zappettini, accountable for their poor performance and help them direct a plan to become the leaders our TTUSD community needs and deserves.”

The district responded further to the teacher’s union letter in an email sent to the Sierra Sun on Thursday.

“Every single member of our Leadership Team is part of TTUSD because of the kids. Regardless of the challenges they face, they are incredibly committed to serve our students and make a positive difference in their lives. We are ALL here to serve the kids of Tahoe Truckee,” said Szczurek. “This past year during COVID-19 brought immense challenges for all of us – challenges for our students, our staff members, our leadership team, our parents, our board members, and our community at large.

“We ALL worked tirelessly to do the best we could for students while keeping students and staff safe during a global pandemic. No one could have foreseen the challenges presented to us, and nothing was easy about this past year. We are here for the kids, and every step of the way, we put kids first. We made tough decisions based on the best information available at the time, while conditions and directives changed constantly. We all balanced the demands of work and life. We have a new school year ahead of us – one where we can all ‘reset’ and recalibrate in a more ‘normal’ environment than we’ve known in the last 16 months. To best serve our students, it’s essential that we all pull together and move forward together in a collaborative, constructive, and unified manner.“

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at or 530-550-2643

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