We encourage our readers to read the documents produced to Channel 7 because they establish that all the while teachers and staff complained about the obvious mold problem, it appears their concerns were not given the necessary attention. There were potential health issues brought to Dr. Schuster's attention, and while she did send one "Assorted Notes" to the board, and short email to HMS parents, in August 2012 explaining that some mold had been found, remediated and that there was no danger to students or staff, there does not appear to be any more information provided to the board. There also doesn't seem to have been any board discussion regarding these concerns after this information was provided to them. We have reviewed the agendas and Superintendent's reports found on Board Docs for the meetings over the next several months after the mold concerns were raised in the summer of 2012 and there is nothing regarding mold. Even the Summer Facilities Work report provided to the board on August 27, 2012 that lists the summer work done at each school is silent regarding any of the mold work done. (Click to open 2012 summer facilities report.) So it does not appear that the board was ever asked by Dr. Schuster to discuss "next steps" in order to ensure that the mold did not return to the building (assuming it was entirely eradicated that summer). This is relevant because one of the emails from an HMS administrator that was forwarded to Dr. Schuster in February 2012 specifically identified the potential for a "huge" mold issue in the building. The email states:
"This is a picture of visible mold in the ceiling in the hallway directly above Room 120 at HMS. The teacher in the room has been told by her doctor that she has mold in her system. This is what's visible; I cannot vouch for what may be up in the ceiling out of view. I will call both Troy and Jim later this morning, but this issue, which is not unique to this specific room, has the potential to be a huge problem. Multiple requests have been made, and concerns have been raised prior to today, and I am extremely concerned. If we need to shut down this space in order to do repairs, we are willing to do so. I will call later today to confirm receipt."
Shortly after this complaint, Hygieneering, the company that had been doing "spot" mold remediation work for the district was contracted to address this concern, but even their proposal stated that:
"Due to the process of mold growth and the fact that Hygieneering has no control over the moisture sources at the facility that can cause mold proliferation, Hygieneering, Inc. cannot guarantee that mold will not return within the facility."
This sentence should have put the district on notice that it needed to address the "moisture sources at the facility" or mold proliferation could return. In our opinion, in light of several "spot jobs" that Hygieneering did over the last few years to remediate mold as it was discovered, this continuing issue and the health concerns should have been brought to the full board's attention in order that they could discuss whether a more thorough inspection should have been conducted to discover and fix the "moisture sources."
So, after viewing the ABC news segment, documents they obtained from D181 and looking back on board meeting agendas, we now have the following questions:
- Schuster told Reporter Goudie her, “resignation was planned weeks prior to the mold problem surfaced.” What? Did the entire board know Schuster was planning on resigning weeks ago? If that is the case, why has the board not begun the superintendent search process for her replacement yet? What have they been waiting for?
- Why didn't Schuster inform the entire board about the health concerns brought to her attention over the years?
- In light of Hygieneering's reports and refusal to guarantee their work since they were not responsible for finding or addressing the "moisture sources," why hadn’t Dr. Schuster addressed these building concerns with the Board and community in a public meeting?
- When parent Dr. Norton, an environmental engineer who was also featured in the news report, offered his assistance in working with staff on the remediation efforts, why wasn’t he contacted? Why didn’t the board follow through, as was suggested by Marty Turek?
This is wrong*.
*Stay tuned for our next two posts that will be published prior to next Monday's board meeting. The posts will address Drs. Moon and Friedman's February 24th "visit" to D181's classrooms followed by their presentation to the BOE that night at Elm School (7 p.m.).