Santa Clara County Board of Education Set to Censure Joseph Di Salvo for Sexist Behavior

The Santa Clara County Board of Education is expected to censure board member Joseph Di Salvo Wednesday after investigators found he engaged in sexist behavior.

Two county employees and two board members filed complaints against Di Salvo in January, saying he engaged in gender and racial harassment. An independent investigator, hired by Superintendent Mary Ann Dewan, found Di Salvo demeaned some women, but not that he racially harassed people.

“Board Member Di Salvo’s individual behavior at board meetings consisted of making negative, critical, disrespectful, dismissive, demeaning and heated comments and behavior when challenging women who he perceived were not doing what he wanted,” the resolution stated.

But Di Salvo said the investigation lacked evidence and is nothing more than an attempt “to distract voters from the important issues affecting students.” “I have always sought to treat staff and fellow board members with respect and sincere admiration for the work they do,” he said. “The board faces many contentious decisions and I have engaged in heated debates, apologizing if comments were worded too harshly.”

Di Salvo gave the investigators a similar statement, but it wasn’t enough to convince them as the report stated that his behavior went “beyond professional discourse, and instead represents a subtle bias against women who disagree with or challenge him.”

Board member Claudia Rossi told Fly that DiSalvo’s behavior “created a very difficult working environment” at times.

Rossi cited a 2017 board meeting about a charter school opening where Di Salvo was argumentative. At the next meeting, his wife read an apology letter on his behalf. “I felt a great deal of sympathy for his spouse to be in a position to make her way to a very public meeting to issue an apology on behalf of her husband,” Rossi said. “Part of the apology basically said that he was passionately advocating for his point of view. The apology seemed more of an excuse rather than a heartfelt introspective statement of wrongdoing.”

Board member Grace Mah, however, defended Di Salvo.

“For over 12 years, I have watched Joseph Di Salvo serve alongside me on the board with integrity and respect for all staff and board members, including women,” she said. “The accusations lack clear evidence and appear to be politically driven as this is arising four months before a major election.”

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4 Comments

  1. Let’s see what we have here. Complaints are filed based on the perceptions of two employees and two board members. An independent investigator is hired to determine whether their perceptions are valid or invalid. The investigator concludes that one half of the complaint was invalid (that involving the ruinous charge of racial harassment) while the other half was valid (that involving the extremely vague charge of demeaning conduct). In other words, the investigator’s most significant finding was that some or all of the complainants are not only subject to misinterpreting behavior, but also incapable of failing to properly reconsider their interpretations, and more than willing to forge ahead with ruinous intent.

    The question that needs to be asked is this: what is more intolerable in a professional environment, an employee who is occasionally arrogant and rude or one who is so delusional and venomous as to seek to destroy her coworkers?

    I suggest that for a solution the county look to nature and install rattles on these vipers.

  2. This is nothing but a political ploy by board president Claudia Rossi and a power grab for the PAC she helped create. With all of the decisive political moves coming from the Trump administration it is a shame we are getting more of the same at our Santa Clara County Office of Education! Her timing is perfect in an attempt to sway the election.

    I was at the Promise Academy meeting that she claimed harassment against DiSalvo, and as a mother felt she was the disrespectful one to us as a community. Claudia Rossi was dismissive and condescending of the many parents at the Promise Academy hearing.

    This decision for censure was rushed through so quickly! Every serious matter that comes before the board has legal counsel present for the person/group dealing with the board, even during the meeting for representation. Rossi referred numerous times to the County’s lawyers but didn’t see the need for DiSalvo to be shown the same privilege!

    Nancy Albarran from SJUSD spoke about trust. But she and her team literally waited until 5 days before our new Charter School Promise Academy was to open before telling over 100 families that we would no longer have a school site. How did her and her staff show us in her community we could trust them??

    DiSalvo has always met with community groups and supported high performing schools. Our community district schools have been failing our minority communities for DECADES! Joe has been an advocate for change and is now paying the price.

    At one point during this censure meeting Peter Ortiz acknowledged that this was being rushed but instead of tabling it, chose to go ahead with the vote. So disappointing!

    This was a shameful action.

  3. This vote to silence Di Salvo was a vote to silence his constituents, many whom are parents of students at Title I schools. Di Salvo has always been a champion of educational equity, no matter the school – private, charter, traditional. His character was being judged for a moment in time at a board meeting that I believe was mismanaged by the Board President. I urge you all to either talk to Promise Academy parents or read the transcript or find a video if one exists! SCCOE encourages schools to use restorative justice practices and move away from the zero-tolerance behavior policies that criminalize students. It is clear that the Board President does not practice what she preaches. Denying Di Salvo the opportunity to delay the vote to have his lawyer present is absolutely un-American. As leaders you are models of behavior for schools and this board meeting made me sad for the future of our students in Santa Clara County.

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