Another setback has struck students in the acclaimed Maria Carrillo High culinary program formerly run by Mary Schiller.
Schiller, you’ll recall, was reprimanded and placed on leave following a pair of incidents that began with her opening up Santa Rosa Schools’ new food truck to people displaced or in other ways impacted by the October fires. She subsequently resigned from teaching and now manages the cafe at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena.
For two years, career chef and restaurateur Steve Rose went into the Carrillo kitchen to help prepare Schiller’s students for the rigorous culinary division of the SkillsUSA competitions. In judging last year at the state showcase of teens’ technical and vocational skills, Carrillo students swept their division.
“I love being part of it,” said classroom volunteer Rose, who, with his wife, Colleen, operated the former Vineyards Inn near Kenwood for 35 years.
BUT NOW, Rose said, he has been told by a county schools official it is best that he no longer volunteer in the Maria Carrillo kitchen.
What happened, Rose said, was that one day in December he went into the kitchen used by Carrillo students for instruction and for caterings, and he was startled by what a mess it was.
The sink was full of dirty dishes, he said. Food had been left on the prep surfaces and scraps littered the floor mats.
“The kitchen was just a disaster,” Rose said.
In the kitchen at the time, he said, were about six students, a substitute teacher and Stephen Jackson, who oversees the program as director of the Sonoma County Office of Education’s College and Career Readiness Services department.
ROSE SPOKE UP. He said he declared there in the kitchen that for the career-prep work space to have been left in that condition following the cooking of a catered meal was unacceptable.
He said students remarked that had Schiller still been there, she wouldn’t have stood for everyone going home before the kitchen was thoroughly cleaned.
Days later, Rose said, he received a phone call from Stephen Jackson. He said Jackson told him it was inappropriate for him to have criticized the condition of the kitchen in front of the students and the substitute teacher.
“I said, ‘Do you not want me?’” He said Jackson said it would be best if he no longer volunteered in the kitchen.
Rose said it feels to him that the officials who supervise the culinary skills program have lost sight of why it exists. “They’re supposed to be there for the benefit of the students, and they’re not,” he said.
The chef added, “For me to be asked to leave, I don’t think is right.”
Rose said he plans to continue coaching Maria Carrillo students for the SkillsUSA competitions, but to do it off-campus.
THE SUPERINTENDENT of Sonoma County’s Office of Education, Steve Herrington, told me in an email exchange there’s not much he can say about personnel issues.
In regard to Rose being asked to no longer come to the Carrillo kitchen, Herrington wrote:
“We appreciate the willingness of people to volunteer in classrooms. However, volunteers may not always be a good fit for a given classroom for a number of reasons. Our role is to ensure that volunteers are a good match for the teacher, students, and program.”