| 7 min read | by Lonnie Huhman, firstname.lastname@example.org |
The grievance made by the Dexter Administrator’s Association about school board trustee Barbara Read’s behavior was denied by the Dexter Community Schools Board of Education at an Oct. 14 hearing that saw Dexter High School principal Kit Moran and Anchor Elementary School principal Craig McCalla, representing the DAA, going before the board.
In the grievance letter sent to DCS Superintendent Chris Timmis by the DAA last month, it stated the group of administrators was grieving, “the behavior of Dexter Community Schools Board Trustee Barbara Read. Over the last school year and up through the present, Trustee Read has violated Article IV Paragraph A of the DAA Master Agreement. The language cited is specifically:
ARTICLE IV PROTECTION OF ADMINISTRATORS A. The parties recognize that administrators have responsibility for developing a respectful environment while maintaining control and discipline in the school to which the administrator is assigned. The Board recognizes its responsibility to provide support and assistance to administrators in the discharge of their duties, so long as such duties are discharged in conformity with Board policy and applicable statutes. The Board will not arbitrarily or capriciously overturn or countermand decisions, or otherwise interfere in the administration of school programs, so long as appropriate policies and statutes are followed, except in such cases as it is deemed appropriate after a Board hearing which examines all appropriate evidence.
“Based on the language above and by her actions, she interfered with DAA administrators negatively affecting their ability to lead their buildings,” the grievance states. “For example, she communicated with DEA members about Mr. McCalla’s involvement and intent while the district was going through the process of naming the new elementary building complex. These actions undermined the trust Mr. McCalla has with his staff and misrepresented his leadership and intentions.”
Another part of the grievance had Moran citing some concerns felt at DHS following the 2019 Dexter High School commencement ceremonies, when he said Read posted on Facebook her thoughts on commencement and invited other community members to comment.
The grievance stated, “Though she considers these posts to contain personal opinions and comments, she is a board trustee and the community considers her posts to be different than those of other community members. This action complicated a process of examining the venue for DHS commencement by the DHS administration. District decisions are made through thoughtful dialogue, set procedures and collaboration, and are not based on social media conversations and opinion-taking.”
From the middle school, the grievance stated, “Through posts on social media, (in particular Facebook), she used this forum to express personal opinions about the Personal Learning Platform (PLP) in use at Mill Creek Middle School. As a board member, her opinions about a school instructional model should have been expressed to Superintendent Timmis and he should then share these with the building administration. To directly undermine the administrator’s ability to implement a particular instructional model with fidelity, was a violation of the DAA contract.”
“It seems to be a regular occurrence for Trustee Read to share information and opinions on Facebook,” the grievance states. “In effect, the Friends of Dexter Community Schools Facebook account she posts to has become a forum for her and people that are allowed on this site to share information about Dexter Schools. Administrators cannot be expected to lead their buildings without feeling the full support of Superintendent Timmis and the Board of Education. Her continued actions have undermined the trust administrators have with the Board. Decisions made by DCS administrators are being subjected to second guessing and interference in a community forum to which many do not have access.”
The DAA requested Read cease and desist her posts to social media immediately and that she apologizes to the individuals of the DAA cited above and that she not discuss ongoing internal Dexter Community School issues on a social media platform.
The grievance hearing ended with school board vice president Julie Schumaker making a motion that that the board of education deny DAA grievance #01-2019 and disavow the statements and actions of trustee Barbara Read as outlined in the grievance,and acknowledge the resulting negative consequences (of those statements and actions) on the district and on the DAA’s ability to lead the district’s buildings.
The motion carried 6 to 0 with Read abstaining.
There was deliberation by the school board.
Board trustee Daryl Kipke said he had sympathy for the grievance and that it’s important the school communicates effectively. He said the district needs to see its administrators energized not drawn down.
School board treasurer Dick Lundy said the grievance was unprecedented in his 40 years on the board and he worries that it has had a negative impact.
Schumaker said the administrators’ jobs are already challenging and apologized for the complications.
In summing up the logic of the denial, and some of the sentiment of the board, school board president Michael Wendorf made the recommendation to deny after stating his view of the situation and how to move forward.
The following is the outline Wendorf worked from in stating his reasoning:
“The Dexter Administrator’s Association (DAA), which represents every building principal and director in our District, has filed this grievance over the behavior of Trustee Barbara Read over the entire 2018-19 school year and through the present.
“At issue is whether the actions and statements of Barbara Read, which are not disputed, interfered with our administrators thereby negatively affecting their ability to lead their respective buildings by, among other things, misrepresenting their intentions, publicly posting and emailing incomplete, wrong, or other confusing information lacking appropriate context, complicating and circumventing established procedures, undermining collaboration and eroding trust.
“There is little doubt that the actions, statements and misstatements of Trustee Barbara Read over the past school year and up to the present have resulted in all of these negative consequences grieved by our administrators. But the actions and statements of Barbara Read, however grievous, do not, in my opinion, constitute Board action which could violate Article IV, Section A and be actionable. To the contrary, Trustee Barbara Read’s actions and statements were made by her as an individual in open and flagrant violation of this Board’s agreed upon norms and commitments. Norms and commitments which Trustee Read herself agreed to abide by but chooses to ignore.
“Trustee Barbara Read has in the past repeatedly justified her actions and statements which harm our administrators and violate our agreed upon norms and commitments as well as the resulting negative consequences by cloaking herself in the protections of the First Amendment to our Constitution. I believe her reliance is overly broad and her conduct to be inconsistent with her duties as a trustee of our District.
“Nonetheless, the grievance before us is framed citing Barbara Read’s individual actions and statements. The statements referenced in the grievance do not allege that her interference and statements were based on confidential information she had resulting solely from her position as a trustee. Where that to be the case, even the Constitution would not protect her. In the end, these individual actions and statements, however grievous, do not constitute a violation of Article IV, Section A of the Master Agreement. But that is simply because as I read Article IV, Section A Board only actions are actionable under the Master Agreement. Since the actions and statements referenced in the grievance and documented this evening were made by Barbara Read individually I do not believe we can uphold the grievance as framed.
“I sincerely hope that Trustee Barbara Read will step back and consider the very substantial damage she has caused and continues to cause in our District and within our buildings. That she would voluntarily cease and desist from interfering with ongoing internal DCS issues on social media and cause no further disruption to the culture of our buildings or the ability of our administrators to lead their buildings. That she would listen to our administrators and her colleagues and work within our long established procedures and norms, all based on collaboration, that have served our District so well for so long. The DAA has indicated they are willing to meet and look to working with Board to resolve this matter. I am more than willing to help facilitate such a resolution as appropriate. My hope is that we can move forward positively and provide the support and assistance to our administrators that they deserve.”
In response to the hearing and its outcome, Read said, “I always value feedback and will strive to be the best board member I can be while also fulfilling the duties I was elected to perform.”
“Those duties include taking time to interact with and listen to the people who elected me,” she said. “Getting community feedback on school matters is part of my job. My door is open if anyone wants to bring concerns to me whether it is from the community or school district.”
She further said, “Unfortunately, the grievance letter was the first I heard of the specific concerns, and I did not have the opportunity to sit down with the administrators and hear more about it due to DAA guidelines. But if a method for further conversation opens up, I would make myself available. I care very much about the administrators and the work that they do.”