Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Kangaroo Court

This morning, former school board member Yvonne Mayer sent us a public comment and links to photos and a Request for Review she filed with the Board of Education.  She requested that we publish them as a free standing post.  As Concerned Parents, after listening to last night's board meeting and hearing the Kangaroo Court proceeding on the Policy 8:030 Complaint Ms. Mayer filed, we are very concerned about the message that the majority of the Board sent -- both by disregarding the protections Policy 8:030 is intended to provide persons while on school property, but also in their obvious condoning of the assault.  Are these really the sorts of individuals we want serving our community?  Ms. Mayer deserved more, and while the outcome won't change, we agree that she should be heard.  The following, therefore, is her public comment on the outcome of last night's meeting.

Ms. Mayer's Comment:

Last night the Board of Education voted 4 to 2 to uphold Dr.Schuster’s “Decision” on the Policy 8:030 complaint I filed against a former board member who assaulted me.  Members Heneghan and Garg voted no, stating that I should be allowed a hearing. 

Member Heneghan stated publicly that he had seen the water bottle hit me.  He also disclosed that between $8000 and $9000 was spent on the “investigation.”  

Board Members Nelson, Clarin, Turek and Vorobiev voted to uphold the “Decision.”  Ms. Vorobiev claimed that there were “inconsistencies” in the fact finding report and that Dr. Schuster was allowed to impose a written reprimand on the former board member.  She further stated that in the future, such claims should be filed in a timely manner.

I am disappointed, disgusted and deeply offended by the actions of the board majority last night.  They conducted the worst kind of Kangaroo Court.

A kangaroo court is "a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted". Merriam-Webster: Dictionary (online).

That is exactly what happened last night.

First, the majority of the Board denied me a hearing, where I could have publicly explained the reasons why Dr. Schuster’s “Decision” should be amended to impose the sanctions as specified in Policy 8:030.  Second, they ignored the evidence I submitted in the written Request for Review that I sent them almost one month ago.  (Click to open Request for Review.) Third, their actions proved that they condoned the assault.  Fourth, their decision undermined the intent and purpose of Policy 8:030.

Looking at the evidence, there are NO meaningful inconsistencies.  The fact finding report pointed out that  I and another board member said the bottle hit my arm.  The only “inconsistency” is that Mr. Heneghan recalled a different part of my arm, than the part I told the fact finder about.  The board has PHOTOS of my arm.  Now you can see them too.

For Ms. Vorobiev to assert that there are inconsistencies, means that she has chosen to believe Dr. Schuster’s accusation that I marked up my own arm.  It is absurd to believe that in the split seconds after the bottle hit my arm, that I fabricated a story and created the red mark.  Ms. Vorobiev is a lawyer.  Lawyers are trained to review all the facts and evidence and reach logical conclusions.  Only  paid lawyers will twist facts in order to reach a pre-determined outcome for their client, as was done last night.  An elected official, who is sworn to uphold their duties as a board member should not act as a paid attorney who is hired to reach the outcome the superintendent desired.  It is illogical to believe that the bottle did not strike me.  In my opinion, last night Ms. Vorobiev did not act as an objective public official and did not act with the integrity we should expect from our elected officials.

But even if any person wants to believe that the bottle did not hit me, it is irrelevant.  Dr. Schuster found that the former board member violated Policy 8:030. But having found that fact, she chose to ignore the enforcement mechanism as articulated in Policy 8:030 and crafted her own sanction – a written reprimand.  Such a sanction is meaningless when obviously created to allow Dr. Schuster to keep the former board member on the Superintendent’s Finance Committee, an appointment she made AFTER the bottle incident and in complete disregard of Policy 8:030. Her actions have made a mockery out of the prohibited behaviors listed in Policy 8:030.

More importantly, last night the Board majority chose to completely ignore that Dr. Schuster has wielded Policy 8:030 against parents who have not violated it.  She was not involved in either of the issues surrounding the two parents, yet Dr. Schuster contacted both parents and made them feel threatened with Policy 8:030.   She chose to ignore Policy 8:030 in this case. 

That is what Ms. Vorobiev should have focused on, rather than assert that somehow my complaint was not timely.  Ms. Vorobiev should have asked Dr. Schuster why she failed to implement Policy 8:030 back in April and why I was the one who had to make the claim months later AFTER I learned about the existence of the policy.

Further, I am shocked that between $8000 and $9000 were spent on addressing my complaint  There was no reason to hire a lawyer to prepare the fact finding report. The district has 3 complaint managers – the Assistant Superintendents of Learning, Business and Human Resources – who could have been assigned to investigate the Policy 8:030 complaint.  Dr. Schuster chose to hire a lawyer rather than assign one of them.  Why would she do that in this case, but not in the Donoroo case?  This action speaks volumes on BOTH situations.  Draw your own conclusions on why she did this. 

Finally, I would address Mr. Nelson who participated only by phone.  Listen to the podcast tape and you will clearly hear his demeanor. He’d already stated publicly at an earlier meeting that the 8:030 Complaint was a monumental waste of time.   So it came as no surprise that when he was asked last night if he wanted to say anything during the discussion, that he said no.  However, his snide and nasty tone and demeanor  -- clearly directed at me – were utterly disrespectful and truly saddened me.


Anonymous said...

Whether or not the bottle hit Ms. Mayer is completely irrelevant to this discussion. For the Board to continue to discuss this point shows that they do not understand, or are choosing to ignore, the policy which states very clearly that it applies to any situation where a board member is "threatened, harassed or intimidated". Throwing a plastic water bottle, which, by the way, must have been at least halfway full in order to actually be able to make it across a table, is a threatening, harassing and intimidating act. Period, end of discussion. The only inconsistency in this decision is the fact that Dr. Schuster chose to threaten two community members with invoking this policy but chose not to do so on behalf of Ms. Mayer. If Ms. Mayer's complaint was not timely because she was unaware of the policy, so be it, but Dr. Schuster WAS obviously aware of it and chose to apply it (or not) inconsistently. As a taxpayer, I am DISGUSTED that $9,000 of my and my children's tax dollars have been wasted on this "investigation" instead of just removing from the Finance Committee the woman who threw the bottle. Her behavior was clearly in violation of not only the policy but completely unacceptable by any measure. In my opinion, a policy isn't even necessary to cause her to be removed. It's a criminal act which should not merely be addressed by a written reprimand. Why would Dr. Schuster waste so much of the Board's and Administration's time and the district's money fighting to keep this member on the Finance Committee? Weren't there over 30 other applicants who could have filled this position? And, even if there weren't, this behavior should not be condoned. My guess is that if Ms. Mayer had thrown a water bottle at Dr. Schuster, Mrs. Mayer would be in jail now.

Anonymous said...

Schuster has no loyalty to the parents, children or taxpayers in the district because she is already retired and milking us for everything we've got. It's so obvious. If she really cared about the community, she would have selected someone other than the person who committed an assault. But Schuster knows full well she has her cronies: Turek, Yaeger, Nelsin, Clarin and now Virobiev in her back pocket. She can do no wrong in the board's eyes. The election of 2015 can't come soon enough.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Schuster spent $9000 of taxpayers money when all she needed to do was not choose someone for the finance committee who assaulted a board member?
Board members--your employee is out of control.
Please step up to the plate!

Anonymous said...

Ms. Lewensohn's behavior as a prior board member is shocking but the inaction on the part of Dr. Schuster and subsequent finance committee appointment is even more concerning since this is the person who is in charge of our children's safety and education. The district should not be used to further her own agenda and make her own rules for when she will enforce the policy. This was a waste of our tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

What happens now if child throws something at school and is expelled? If I were the parents, I would run right to Court to say that it is discriminatory.

Even if you did not want to be punitive, why reward this type of behavior? Really, if I were to thow a water bottle at Schuster she would then appoint me to a committee? Really?

Jill V, if I throw a water bottle at you, will it be OK or will I end up in jail? Perhaps next time I want a committee appointment I can hurl some Jamba Juice at the board. Is this the new application process?

Also, what type of law firm charges $9,000 to figure out if somebody who admits throwing a water bottle threw a water bottle. The water bottle was thrown, in front of people, and hit someone somehwere. You can figure that out before $9,000 is frittered away.

Anonymous said...

The board has set a HORRIBLE precedent! How could they have done this. Now, whenever an assault takes place on school grounds, assailants can point to the lack of sanctions, and expect the same treatment. Board, what have you done?

Anonymous said...

Can the bloggers somehow create a "thumbs up" option, so people can "like" your blog on their Facebook accounts? This is entertaining stuff!

Anonymous said...

I feel very badly for Ms. Mayer. What happened to her was awful and Dr. Schuster handled the situation horribly. I am sickened that we spent so much time and money on this. However, four hours of important issues relating to our kids was discussed on Monday night. I don't want this issue to overshadow the big mess that we are currently in. I think we need to move on - as awful as it was.

Anonymous said...

I agree that we need to move on. But this is an important peek into the character of Dr. Schuster and some of the board members. At the meeting on Monday, a huge sign was hanging on the wall over the head of Dr. Schuster. It said, "Character is doing the right thing....when no one is looking." What does this tell you about how she and the board will deal with issues concerning our children?
It is easy to change your story, but not so easy to change your character.

Anonymous said...

"Francis Howell Superintendent Renee Schuster said the district has timeout rooms in most of its elementary and middle schools. Teachers use the rooms only when a student's "explosive" behavior creates a danger to himself or others, she said. The padding is intended to protect the child, Schuster said. One or two adults watch the child at all times, she said. Sometimes they stand in the open doorway. Other times, they close the door and watch through the window, she said.

"The whole purpose is to calm the child down," Schuster said. "We keep them safe while they are angry and acting out."

Oh...so maybe the board needs timeout rooms in the event of "explosive behavior."

Anonymous said...

Just had a chance to review the SELAS vision for the district, you know, the anti-bullying rules. You are supposed to have a "safe and caring environment", be "self aware and manage....emotions" and look for informal "teachable moments." Perhaps this teachable moment for Jill V and other apparently sane board members is that a "safe and caring environment" does not include people who cannot "manage their emotions." Thanks Jill, and others, for providing a teaching moment about what you think about violence.

Anonymous said...

These comments are all ridiculous. This blog seems to serve as a spot to bash the school administration and board (not the original intent I'm sure). Please volunteer to help the community with your time rather than wasting it hurling accusations at people actually trying to make a difference.

Anonymous said...

I just read the last comment. I can't tell if it is serious as the commentator referred to "hurling" in a post about a board member throwing a water bottle. Assuming this was just careless phrasing, I guess the commentator is serious as they defend people "trying to make a difference" --the administration? Here is a serious response.

I read this blog and read the facts directly cited in the blog.

Whenever one of the adminstration's supporters logs on and criticizes the blog it is always in the most general of terms. In this case, the commentator says to "volunteer" somehow and not pick on the "difference makers." Thoughtful people don't use cliches to express views.

What differences is this commentator supportiing? Are the supporting the Learning for All plan? If so, what do they like about it. What facts can the cite they show it is or will be a success? Do they support the administration's differentiation plan? If so why? If the supporter of the "difference makers" is so sure the differences should be supported, what do they expect to have happen. Did the commentator pick a cliche because they have no clear idea of what is going well or poorly in the district?

We all know, based on the facts, that one of the differences being made is a drop in test scores and rankings even as our sister schools and high schools rise up. Is this the difference we want.

And, bringing up "hurling" allegations, how do they know that people commentating have not 'volunteered"? The blog and commentators have lots of infomation. It sure seems as though the bloggers and commentators are involved in the school system.

One of the purposes of any blog is to provide a forum for an intelligent exchange so readers can evaluate different points of view based on facts. This "hurler" of accusations shoudl re-post and provide us all with a clear, concise factual explanation of why we all should support the "difference makers" that are "making a difference" for our children.

I look forward to such a careful thoughtful explanation from the commentator

Anonymous said...

Whoever wrote the post above is living in their own delusional bubble. Everyone who complains on this post is "volunteering" their own, unpaid time to more clearly inform the community about the egregious events going on in D181. We are ALL taking the time to point out what any qualified, $235,000 + benefits superintendent should have already known: that there are many, many problems in our chools that NEED to be corrected. Rather than consider it "bashing", you should look at it with a more"positive, optimistic" perspective, and realize that we are simply "shining the light" on some of the issues that thae administration needs to deal with. Consider it a no charge consultation.

Anonymous said...

I 100% agree with the serious response above. I also fully support this blog. It provides an enormous service to the community by clearly laying out the facts - something the administration refuses to do. We need this blog if we are going to clean up the huge mess we are in. Also, we need more community members to follow the blog. However, I think that this blog looses credibility with the larger public when we make catty and "funny" commentary, as was done yesterday. It just serves to give our critics material to work against us. I think we need to keep our comments serious and factual if we want to remain a credible source.

Anonymous said...

I don’t think this blog has any credibility as a majority of the last board meeting was dedicated to curriculum yet most of the comments here are in support of someone named Yvonne Mayer. From reading I can presume this is the former board member that caused more problems than solutions? This shows this blog is nothing more than Mayer’s last attempt to grand stand and is only supported by her few friends. What you fail to realize is that this group is doing an enormous amount of damage to this district. You should be embarrassed and ashamed! “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do” Benjamin Franklin and Dale Carnegie P 36 “How to Win Friends and Influence People”

D181 Parent

Yvonne Mayer, D181 Parent and Former Board of Education Member said...

Yes, I am a former board member. It is unfortunate you have such a low opinion of me. But all Board Members are elected officials and are subject to both positive and negative opinions by the voting constituency, so you are certainly entitled to your opinion. I would say, however, that this blog is not an attempt by me to "grand stand." I have proudly published my name on what I have written and have pointed out the problems that I have seen. This blog provides a safe forum for people to discuss the issues that the majority of the board and administration refuse to discuss publicly or even acknowledge. But facts -- data, test scores, parents stepping up to painfully and publicly discuss the problems their students have experienced under the ALP or Learning for All Plan -- don't lie. I didn't make up these facts, nor did the others who have brought them forward. Finally, sorry if you don't like that I went public with the physical assault I was subjected to and the cover up that followed it, along with Dr. Schuster picking and choosing when to threaten parents with Policy 8:030. I would hope that no matter what your opinion of me, that you would not relish in the fact that I was assaulted and my arm bruised by the out of control behavior of a person while on school grounds. If so, then you join the ranks of Dr. Schuster and the Board members who didn't care.

Anonymous said...

Once again, this last commentator, claiming to be a parent, shows the importance of this blog. The commentator simply makes things up to attack people rather than dealing in facts.

The parent said: "I don’t think this blog has any credibility as a majority of the last board meeting was dedicated to curriculum yet most of the comments here are in support of someone named Yvonne Mayer."

How could anyone say that with a straight face. The entire blog is devoted to curriculum issues and detailed and careful analysis of those issues. The curriculum issues as the board meeting that the commentator says were not analyzed were exhaustively analyzed. It seems as though they just logged on to hurl insults and then logged off. The entire blog cites to board docs and test results. I don't think this blog has anything to do with anyting but curriculum. Are they reading the same blog as everyone else? If they disagree with the facts they can cite other facts.

As noted by others, the blog (not the commentators) focuses on the children and the impact and data. The purported "parent" focuses on grown people fighting. I am for the children and support the blog. I don't agree with all of it but unlike the Board and District, I can look up the facts they rely upon and form my own conclusions.

Frankly, I don't know what to think about a lot of this on the curriculum. I am not an education expert. I want to read factual dissenting viewpoints. If the "parent" can set out some facts in support of the curriculum changes, I would love to read them.

Anonymous said...

It is disappointing that a board comprised of seemingly well educated and successful community members thinks it is okay for one board member to assault another board member. They also feel it is okay for the leader of this district to pretend that it never happened. How can we trust the board to make the right decision in any matter for our children when they failed to vote fairly on a matter that was pretty straightforward? Is the moral of the story that the board only looks out for people they like. If the D181 parent (if they are a parent) is aware of what was discussed at the last board meeting, they are well aware of who Mrs. Mayer is. You may not like Mrs. Mayer but she is respected by many community members and teachers for her service as a board member. Obviously you must know that there was no data for this experimental program that our district is being subjected to. Isn't this bottle really like a hammer being thrown at someone for not being in agreement with the other party for whatever reason. Are these quotes to be followed by the taxpayers but not by the people in positions of power? Wonder who the fool is in the end.

Anonymous said...

In today's Suburban Life Schuster is quoted as follows regarding the bottle throwing incident, "I try to make all my decisions based upon what will help us move toward greater mutual respect." What? Is she kidding?

Anonymous said...

Not only did Dr. Schuster use our tax dollars to keep her friend on the committee it seems but she also used her highly paid time to work with the lawyer. With all of the changes she has made, this is what she chose to waste her time on(which we pay for including 30 vacation days it seems) and the lawyer's time. She showed a complete lack of respect for Mrs. Mayer personal safety. She should be embarrassed and ashamed of her actions. How can we trust her around our children and to make sure she doesn't cover up other situations which involve such basic moral values?

Anonymous said...

Yvonne Mayer was an outspoken advocate for our children, for careful scrutiny of curricular changes, and in her relentless pursuit of the best for D181 was not afraid to go against the grain in public forums. For those who want facts and not emotions or bashing on this blog, the fact I can contribute is that not only did Yvonne Mayer read the letter I VOLUNTEERED [ref. to the "volunteer blogger'] to write to the BOE (in which I offered my professional concerns about the Learning for All Plan, as well as my children's failed RTI/ILP whatever-they-are-called meetings), she actually called me at home to discuss my concerns and to reach out to an unknown parent in the community. She objectively related my "story" and took risks and faced opposition without looking backward. I was shocked to read about this bottle-throwing mess that ensued for such a strong woman who went out of her way to stand up for the kids in our district and did not buy into the party line. No one deserves such treatment particularly after unfaltering support of the children in D181: it is a travesty.