It is not often that I accept a 7 a.m. telephone call, but last Friday the caller stated that Victor Valley Union High School District had fired a long-time associate, Dr. Duneen DeBruhl, from the almost four-year position as Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services and Human Resources for Middle and High School operations. In that dual capacity, her duties and responsibilities from 2006 to 2009 were supervising certificated Human Resources, that included the senior director, his executive assistant and two Human Resource specialists, certificated negotiations, new teacher training and support. That is only a partial list of the full-page description of her job requirements that DeBruhl was responsible for.
That list included all the educational resources in the district that were under her supervision. Dr. DeBruhl told the Precinct Reporter that she was able to partner with Educational Equity to bring in assistance to improve the quality and testing for black and Latino males; both groups are considered chronic at-risk, low educational ability individuals. The test scores improved at the two school sites used by a considerable percentile in reading, arts and math; this trend has continued for three years under her tutelage. She also was able to bring in support from several universities for the small learning centers at the two high schools. These are the ninth grade campuses located on the high school campuses; teacher training was also a part of her duties.
DeBruhl was broadsided last Wednesday. When she was taking another associate to discuss an issue with Victor Valley Union High School District Superintendent Marilu Ryder, the superintendent’s executive assistant told DeBruhl that the superintendent could not meet with both, but wanted to see her.
When she entered the office, she was told that her contract buy-out would be discussed at the board meeting scheduled for Thursday evening. The contract wording most frequently used by the district to purge or ethnically cleanse their rosters is “Government Code Section 54957: Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release/Resignation/Transfer.” That permits termination without cause.
Although DeBruhl has not officially received the written notification, the board action performed by recommendation of the superintendent is binding. DeBruhl was placed on medical leave last Thursday morning by her physician. She has not received a performance evaluation since 2007 under the administration of Julian Weaver
The Precinct Reporter spoke with the only African American member on the Board of Trustees for the District, Barbara Dew, who was the only one who did not vote to terminate DeBruhl’s contract. She was also told they would discuss the termination process of the contract. The dismissal of DeBruhl was not on the agenda, yet sources stated that some things appeared to be obvious that perhaps prior knowledge was evident. When Dew asked for specific reasons, nothing concrete was given. The Superintendent had asked for dismissal on the grounds no one in her section liked her, and that they had laughed at her award given by the Victor Valley African American Chamber of Commerce in 2009; that she was laughed at and would not be recommended for work anywhere in the County of San Bernardino, because none of the principals liked her.
DeBruhl told the Precinct that statement is not true; her work with teachers, principals and associates in the district has been a positive one. She ran against Ryder for the position of superintendent to replace Weaver, she has been a presenter for the San Bernardino Association of California School Administrators’ (ACSA) Principals Institute; and a presenter for Superintendents at the American Association of School Administrators Conference 2009. She was recognized in Cambridge’s “Who’s Who Among Professional Women 2008.”
DeBruhl served as principal for Rio Vista Elementary School in San Bernardino in the nineties. She is no stranger to negative energy. As a ten-year-old mentally gifted minor, a teacher told her she would never amount to anything as a black female (Precinct Reporter, 3-16-95, Dianne Anderson). DeBruhl received an award from the Soroptimists upon graduation, and a four-year scholarship to Scripps Liberal Arts College in Claremont, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies. She received a Master’s degree in Curriculum Instruction in Elementary and Secondary Education from Claremont Graduate University; and a Doctorate in Education Administration from Laverne University. This is her 38th year in education. DeBruhl is tenured in the district, having worked for four years.
She is the latest in a series of terminations without cause that has been used to purge the district of top level African American leaders beginning with Laura Lewis and Peter Chaves in the nineties; Julian Weaver in November 2008, and now Duneen DeBruhl, whose dismissal has sent shock waves of fear throughout the district as others wonder if they are next. One source quoted another African American leader as saying perhaps they should begin looking for another job.
Dr. DeBruhl and her husband Michael have three adult children; they have served as pastors in the Inland Empire; she has a platinum list of accomplishments in the field of education.