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Deputy defamed


Paso Robles Daily News and KPRL falsely claim inquiry into a criminal charge against deputy superintendent

KPRL and Paso Robles Daily News are in hot water following inaccurate reporting regarding the discussion topics of a Jan. 30 board meeting, including an alleged board inquiry into the criminal referral of Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Gaviola.

On Jan. 28, Paso Robles Daily News posted an article entitled, “Paso Robles School Board meets Saturday to respond to Grand Jury report,” which included incorrect statements that were quickly repeated in a KPRL article posted a day later.

Both articles mistakenly claimed that board president Chris Arend recommended that the board inquire with San Luis Obispo County’s District Attorney Dan Dow as to whether or not the district has enough evidence to press charges against former superintendent Chris Williams and Deputy Superintendent Gaviola.

The claim has possible negative career implications for Gaviola who still works in the district and possibly falls under the definition of libel — a false statement that has been published and has content damaging to someone’s reputation. In spite of this, Gaviola was clear that she was most concerned with how these claims may impact employees and students of PRJUSD.

(photo provided by Jennifer Gaviola)

“My main concern regarding the false claims (including slander and defamation of character) around my professional actions is that it creates a negative and unsettling culture for employees and takes away from the focus on caring for students. Navigating this pandemic and school closures is a great challenge, and nothing should take away from our work to support students and staff,” Gaviola said.

As of Feb. 11, Gaviola has received one written retraction from a press agent.

“I feel that we can grow as a community and larger society to focus more on the facts of a situation and less on unfounded rumors. I’d like to thank all of the teachers, administrators, parents, students, and staff members who spoke out in support of my leadership, character, and dedication to our district,” Gaviola added.

Additionally, both articles claimed that the board would discuss, “an illegal gift,” of taxpayer funds from district officials to the now former superintendent Chris Williams alongside, “numerous alleged Brown Act violations including secret meetings.” Both claims originate from the Grand Jury report, although are misrepresented through the articles’ diction.

The “illegal gift,” claim refers to the former superintendent’s severance package, which the Grand Jury report at no point denotes as criminal. In actuality, the severance package was unnecessary as, according to the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education (SLOCOE), the district was not obligated to give one to Chris Williams as he did not meet the requirements of his contract that entitled him to it. The initial negotiation was done without the required SLOCOE monitor and a new agreement had to be negotiated by the County Supervisor.

Paso Robles Daily News have updated their terminology, now referring to it as, “a misuse of funds,” after a Jan. 29 response letter from district officials referred to that description as inaccurate. 

The claim of, “numerous alleged Brown Act violations including secret meetings,” refers to a single sentence on page six of the Grand Jury report. There was not any further mention of these allegations in the report’s findings therefore it was not planned as a part of the district’s response and was inaccurately reported as a part of the agenda.

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