San Benito High School Superintendent John Perales is under investigation for an undisclosed reason following Monday’s decision to place him on administrative leave. The reason for the investigation is not being released due to employee confidentiality laws.
While the details for the Perales investigation have not been released, Board Trustee Patty Nehme said after a second closed session on Wednesday, “The district is conducting an investigation by an independent investigator in order to have the utmost objectivity and reliability of the process.”
Following Monday’s action to place Perales on administrative leave, the Board of Trustees held a second special meeting on Wednesday, December 14 to decide the fate of the superintendent and to decide who would take on the role of interim superintendent. Perales was not present at the meeting but staff, students and community members spoke in support of him during public comment. In a press release Thursday, Trustee Steve Delay said Tennenbaum “has a long history in the district,” most recently as the HR director.
“He was recently named the California Human Resources Administrator of the Year by the Association of California Administrators and brings a great deal of experience to the position of interim superintendent,” the release stated. “The board is confident he will provide the district with excellent leadership while serving as interim superintendent.”
Hollister City Councilman and Realtor Karson Klauer spoke at Wednesday evening’s meeting, saying that while Perales can sometimes come across as harsh, he knows how to get things done.
“He can be brash, but he gets things done and that was the biggest takeaway for me in my interactions with him. Maybe interpersonal skills weren’t always the greatest but at a time like this when it seems like there’s not a lot of doers anymore, we need someone who can get the ball rolling,” Klauer said. “I think when people look back on his two years, in the future, they’re going to say he got more done than just about anybody else that has been superintendent. When you look at the two bond measures, when you look at the facility improvements when you look at the agreement between the city, the county, and the school district; if I’m being honest, the only reason that happened was because of him.”
Perales was a vocal advocate for bond Measure U, which voters approved in November. Before the Use Your Voice Forum he told BenitoLink, “This bond measure is absolutely critical to our continued success. We have been very good stewards of our bond monies from Measure G (which voters approved in 2014) and have much to show for it. Measure U will allow us to account for continued student growth and the many desperate needs we face in various areas, i.e. the sciences, special education, social studies and the arts.”
Students who introduced themselves only as Carissa and Mark gave a joint speech at Wednesday’s trustees meeting, saying, “We would just like to speak on behalf of the students here at SBHS. We feel we need to express our gratitude to Superintendent Perales.”
“Mr. Perales has not only given the students, but the teachers and administration the chance to have a healthy relationship,” said Carissa.
She said she’s seen the relationship improve between the students and the administration, adding, “students used to not like the administration and we could never go up to an administrator and be like ‘hey how’s it going?,’ and just have a normal day-to-day conversation with them,” she continued.
“He’s always at students access for whatever we need him. Whether it’s for academics, personal life, clubs or class or just someone we need to talk to, he’s there. He’s visible for the students to see, and he creates a clear path way for all of us to wherever we want to go and what goals we want to set,” said Mark. “He’s instilled the Baler Code in all of us students. That we can take the impact he’s left on us, that we can go on to college or trade school or whatever career we want to take, and we can take being Baler strong forever.”
Community member and parent Jennifer Ostenson said Perales has been very approachable with suggesting programs for her daughter and her incoming son, who struggles academically. She agreed with the students’ comments about offering kids different career options saying, “He has given those kids voice who are not necessarily going on to a four year. He has opened up the pathway and acceptance for those students who are not necessarily U.C. (University of California) bound.”
The board decided to appoint Tennenbaum as interim superintendent by a 5-0 vote.
Shelley Penney, who works for Tennenbaum in the HR office, read a letter submitted by Human Resource Specialist Karla Ornelas during public comment. In the letter, Ornelas expressed her support for Tennenbaum. “When I came on board two years ago, I immediately recognized Shawn was the go-to person here. I have been consistently impressed by his work. He continues to impress me with his vast knowledge of policy, procedures and guidelines and ability to implement all,” she wrote.
Penny seconded Ornelas’ comments, adding, “I’ve been at the high school for over 30 years and he’s very impressive. His commitment to the school is second to none. He has gone above and beyond to hire the best teachers here … I have seen him in a leadership role that I believe would work well to hold our school together while you contemplate the future.”