Valley Home School Superintendent Thomas Kevin Hart was charged with felony child molestation on Friday, Aug 5 by the Stanislaus District Attorney’s Office, including two counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child, one count of sexual penetration, and one count of a lewd and lascivious act upon a child.
The charges came one month after Hart was arrested by the Oakdale Police Department when he was leaving the Stanislaus Superior Court on an unrelated matter.
Attorney Thomas Hogan of Modesto entered not guilty pleas for Hart in superior court.
On July 19, the Valley Home School Board voted unanimously, 5-0, to place Hart on administrative leave. Hart, 59, who resides in Oakdale, has been the superintendent-principal of the 170-student district since 2008.
On Monday, Aug 8, the Valley Home School District trustee held a special meeting to discuss “public employee discipline/dismissal/release” and “potential employment – interim superintendent/principal.”
Before the closed session of the meeting, Valley Home third grade teacher Sandra Moore read an open letter to Hart supporting his accomplishments while at the school district.
“Cling to that knowledge that you are innocent and trust that there are people like me who would welcome the opportunity to work with you again,” Moore stated.
Outside the library, while the board met in closed session, Moore expanded on her support of Hart.
“He’s uplifting to us and we should be uplifting to him,” Moore said. “He’s part of the reason our scores were so good this year.”
Moore pointed out three Valley Home students had perfect scores during last April’s STAR testing.
After the closed session meeting, Board President Ron Smith announced that former Oakdale Joint Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Wendell Chun would be the interim superintendent for Valley Home, serving on a volunteer basis.
“This is a great opportunity to help a small district,” said Chun, who was present at the meeting. “This (Valley Home community) is part of the greater Oakdale community because it feeds into Oakdale High School.”
Chun said he agreed to volunteer his services because the district is on a tight budget.
“I’ll be here to greet the students when school starts next Wednesday,” said Chun.
Valley Home School District lawyer Chet Quaide on Monday said Hart would be given notice of due process before being put on unpaid leave. The California Education Code requires that when a school district employee is criminally charged with a sex offense, that the employee be placed on a mandatory leave of absence.
Chun also said he was going to work with the school board and Stanislaus County Office of Education to find a long-term replacement.
“There are a few candidates in mind at this point,” said Chun. “I’ll be assisting them with input for the decision.”