Sunday, July 05, 2015

Ron English

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth 
is a revolutionary act.
George Orwell

That is a quote that is at the bottom of e-mails for Assistant General Counsel, Ron Boy.  Never were truer words spoken about an institution.  

First and foremost, I cannot say for certain what the issue is with Ron English, the on-paid-administrative-leave former head of Legal for Seattle Public Schools.  Those of us with a long institutional memory know it could be one of several issues.

Also to note, Mr. English has never been anything but kind and pleasant to me.

I have several public disclosure request documents and they are quite eye-opening.   There were enough clues in them for me to piece together what I believe are the cogent incidents that may have set this in motion.

I can understand that working in a large administrative building that people would naturally be very interested when one of the top members of senior staff is suddenly gone.  But many of the e-mails are gossipy and mostly of the "I knew it" and "I wonder what happened" nature.  (There are also several that are not directly related to English but raise troubling issues about what is happening at JSCEE.  I am going to pass several of them along to the Superintendent and Board for review possible action.) I will have a separate thread about these very troubling issues that came out of this public disclosure request.

One overall action that needs to be taken is that staff should, once again, be warned about their SPS e-mails.  They are in the public domain and yes, could be read by anyone. 

Why is English on Paid Administrative Leave?

What I can surmise is that English's somewhat abrasive and aggressive manner made too many people at the top uncomfortable to the point of asking that something be done.  

(Now can someone be let go for an aggressive and "rude" manner?  That's a question for a lawyer.)

I perceive from the e-mails that there were two main incidents in February 2015.  The two people named in encounters with English are Barbara M. Nahouraii, who is Title IX Coordinator and Sajal Maheshwari, Technology Project Manager.

The first e-mail that hints at a problem was on Feb. 6th from Sue Means, HR Manager, to Geoff Miller, Director, Labor & Employee Relations, and Brent Jones, head of HR;

I think I should share with one or the other of you a conversation I had with Ron English this morning regarding Barbara’s role. Let me know when one of you has a few minutes – I’ll try to keep it quick.

The first e-mail that mentions an issue with English and Nahouraii is dated Feb. 7, 2015 from Geoffrey Miller to Brent Jones, head of HR. Here's a partial excerpt:

I just want to weigh in here. I was in John Cerqui’s office when Barbara approached Ron English on Thursday afternoon with her concerns about the assignment of the case. He was aggressive, rude, and condescending from the moment the interaction began. While I was just a few feet away, as the discussion between the two of them was at a table outside of John’s office, I didn’t hear all of the substance. What I did hear was Barbara firmly, respectfully, and resolutely explaining that the issue she was asked to address is not a Title IX issue. 

English engaged in bombast, with a raised voice(the entire 5-10 minutes I heard—and I left before the interaction ended), telling Barbara what her job was, and that this assignment was within her bailiwick. Please note, even in his communication below, he identifies this as a Title IX issue. It is not. It is clearly does not involve students. It is a Title VII issue, to be sure, if one was to believe it is a sexual harassment claim.

He did this in response to an email Barbara sent him informing English that this was in fact not a Title IX case, and that she was assigning the case to Sue Means. This communication apparently caused him great consternation, such that he felt he needed to challenge it with my front line staff. He is so far over the line in discussing this with Sue, I don’t know where to begin. Even assuming he is correct and that Barbara should be handling the case, Sue is not Barbara’s supervisor—in fact Barbara is her superior, and English has no business going to Sue to tell her what he believes Barbara’s job is—to criticize Barbara.


I am concerned about English’s treatment of Barbara, and frankly, regardless of what her role is or isn’t, want to make it clear that I believe he was disrespectful to her in both the interaction they had on Thursday, and in his discussion with Sue yesterday.


Jones thanks him for the timely report the next day and says he will follow up on Monday, Feb. 9th.

Feb.10th, there was a recap of a meeting called "Blackboard End of Contract" where English, Dianne Navarro, Manager, Procurement and Distribution Services,, Carmen Rahm, head of Technology and Sajal Maheshwari, Project Manager, were in attendance.  It is unclear to me whether Navarro,  or Rahm wrote the narrative but I think it was Rahm. (Charles Wright sent the narrative to Charles Leitch, a founding Principal of Patterson Buchanan Fobes & Leitch, Inc., P.S., on Feb. 18th. You could surmise perhaps the district may have retained PBF&L for legal help on this issue.)

Maheshwari and English had some kind of back and forth over whether teachers would come in over the summer to be trained on new software.

The narrative states, "Every thought that Sajal put on the table seemed to be immediately responded to with a negative comment."

English walks thru the requirements for an RFP (timeline to submit to Board committees, Board meeting, etc.).  

I said that was an aggressive schedule, but if we had to go to the Board so soon, it seemed that an RFP wasn't possible and perhaps an emergency acquisition was warranted.  (This speaks volumes to what the heck actually happened to get the district to such a dire place.)

Then there was a back and forth over English allegedly saying/implying that Rahm was "a liar" or "lying."

There was also back and forth over state contracts and Rahm says that he said "we did this all the time where I previously worked."  

At this point that Ron (sic) looked at me and said (I believe this is an exact quote): "Well if you don't want to do things the SPS way, then perhaps it's time you go somewhere else."

There was a little more back and forth and then English got a note that the Superintendent was waiting for him.

Rahm said he then went to Charles Wright.  Wright was not there so Rahm spoke to Maheshwari about what had happened and if she thought Rahm had done anything to warrant what English said.

I invited Nancy Peterson (Technology?) to join us, as I did not want Sajal to feel pressured or intimidated...not that she ever would.   Maheshwari said the meeting started professionally and felt English was very negative.  She felt English did not have a firm understanding of what they were trying to convey.

Rahm then met with Wright and Wright then sent him onto Brent Jones in HR.

At the end of the narrative, Rahm adds:

This is the exact same type of bullying, ego and negativity that Colleen Halvorson and I encountered with Ron during every step of both the Cleveland STEM Procurement, and the SBAC Laptop Procurement.  During that entire process we kept trying to explain that an RFP was not synonymous with Competition - that you could compete for a best price without having to do a lengthy and unnecessary RFP.  

(I get the feeling that Mr. Rahm is not a fan of RFPs.  Whether this is a good thing or bad thing, I don't know.)

I believe that after all the delays with the STEM purchase, we saved less than $2.00/computer; and I am confident that after all of the obstacles with the SBAC purchase...that we likely saved nothing by doing an RFP when all the products we investigated were available on State Contracts and we could have done a much simpler Competitive Bid for the products we were considering.

On Feb. 11, 2015, the Office of Public Affairs put out Superintendent Nyland's announcement that English is on paid administrative leave.  (It is unclear to me how globally it was meant but it went out to SPS staff.)  He also stated:

Administrative leave is not disciplinary in nature. It is an employer-directed removal of a staff member from the regular work environment for an indefinite period of time. The leave is used to support a fair, timely, and thorough investigation involving employee conduct. When an employee is placed on paid administrative leave, there is to be no contact between the individual and district personnel and/or students and families.

As this is a personnel issue, the district cannot comment publicly on the matter. We encourage staff to do the same in order to respect the rights of the individual on leave as well as protect the integrity of the investigation.


To note, Leah Todd from the Times had been submitting public disclosure requests that apparently were too broad but, at one point, did narrow it down enough for the Public Records office to send her something. Public Records tells Todd on April 10, 2015 that "we spoke with outside counsel" about any responsive records and hope to get something to Todd about April 30th.

What is interesting is that the announcement says:

When an employee is placed on paid administrative leave, there is to be no contact between the individual and district personnel and/or students and families.

However on April 16th, they say:

Just checking in. We are providing courtesy notice today. Mr. English will have until the close of
business on Monday, April 27th, to provide us with an injunction (WAC 44-14-04003(11)). If we do not receive an injunction, I should be able to release the records to you first thing in the morning on
Tuesday, April 28th. 




I checked with a legal eagle and they say it is the District's call whether to notify Mr. English that someone will be receiving pertinent documents about his issue.  Meaning, they legally didn't have to tell English but they did  But there was no injunction filed and Todd did receive the documents on April 28th.



Some of the interesting reactions to the announcement:

Feb. 12th 

From former head of Capital, Don Gillmore to Evelyn Hunter (BEX staff):

Looks like Ron may be "retiring" soon. Sooner or later "they " get everyone. We'll see if his Teflon still works.

From Sue Andersen (who appears to work in another district) to Eva Graefinghoff (Capital Projects):

Did he do something new or is this the final Silas crap.

Fraefinghoff's reply:

Finally!

Kelli Schmidt, Deputy Chief Attorney of the Office for Civil Rights in Seattle writes to Ron Boy in Legal (partial):

I just learned that Ron English is on administrative leave. Will you be the district’s contact on this OCR Title VI discipline compliance review, OCR XXX, while he is out? If so, let me know and I will fill you in on what Ron and I had been discussing last week in terms of the last item in OCR’s data request pertaining to the district’s school climate information.

Additionally, we had scheduled a meeting on March 9, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. to discuss specific schools to conduct file reviews and OCR interviews of staff and, perhaps, students.


Cathy Thompson, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, to Kevin Corrigan, Manager of Grants and Fiscal Compliance:

OMG!  What now?!!

I note that this is the first e-mail - Corrigan's to Thompson, stating that not all staff had received the Superintendent's e-mail.  And so, some staff set off a spat of e-mails when they realized not everyone at JSCEE had seen the announcement.

Indeed, Karen Kodama seems to have not received it until Corrigan passes it along to her as well.  She says, tersely, "Call me tomorrow."

Chair of the BEX Oversight Committee, Steve Goldblatt writes to Richard Best, Director of Capital Projects & Planning, in regard to the story in the Times on English:

Richard, I just read this AM's paper. What an awful surprise. Do you plan to say anything at BEXOC tomorrow? 

Best says no as well as:

No, I too am saddened by this current outcome

Goldblatt agrees to say nothing to the BEX Oversight Committee stating, "There is nothing to say (without any additional information). 

I'm surprised that they would say nothing to committee members.  English had been a part of the committee for years.


From Fran Clifton, Technical Implementations and Support Manager to Robert Shore (SPS who signs his name, Robertotisimo - I cannot find his position at the SPS website):

What’s the scoop with Ron English? Did he finally go over the edge? Ask Pam Wittman, she always knows what’s happening. I am totally curious.

Shore responds (partial):
I’m really wondering about Ron British. How Judy cheered! When I find out I’ll send you the news.

Shore then writes again, the same day:

I immediately went over to Pam’s cube but she’s on vacation until the 17th. Paul Nermo knew nothing,and Theresa Salmon was waiting for Kathy Johnson to come in to see if she had news.

Nancy Pedersen was in her quiet cube and I asked her, and she professed not knowing, either. We did talk about how it wouldn’t be attributed to a single incident or individual, and it may have been building up to a tipping point. Wow. What a tip-over!

We’ll find out soon enough and you’ll be in the know.


Clifton then responds:

LOL - I am sure you will get to the bottom of it. Kathy Johnson will know. You are correct, I am sure it was someone who just got tired of his rude behavior. He has been down right nasty to people and I am glad something is finally happening.

Shore replies (partial):

I think it had something to do with our new superintendent and his intolerance of rude behavior. Hmm. More to come on that.

Feb. 13

Two SPS staffers talk about English in what I believe to be Vietnamese (clever way to hide - at least for awhile - what you are saying.)


Kathie Technow, Accounting Manager, sends the Superintendent's e-mail to Heidi Wiley in the State Auditor's office for Central King county.

An outside lawyer, Jennifer Mackley, offers her services to Charles Wright as an "interim resource."
Feb. 19th

Natasha Chen from KIRO asks SPD:

Just checking to see if you have any open investigation involving Ron English, the general counsel for Seattle Public Schools.

SPD says no.


SPD's Sean Whitcomb then asks Stacy Howard in SPS Communications:

Stacy??

Feb 20th
Tan Harvard (SPS - can't find his title) to Kristin Tan (not SPS) in reference to her email about why English was put on leave:

Legal Counsel is probably under ethics violation investigation. A lot dept with SPS are potentially due for investigation.

Feb. 25th

Eric Sonett, Facilities and Capital Finance Manager to Bob Westgard (head of Transportation) :

I assume you know about this but it does suggest you could have played your cards differently...

Westgard replies (partial):

Did hear, caught me by surprise. I do not think this will be good for procurement as it allows the fox into the hen house. Not sure Pegi will be in a position to keep the wolves away.

Do I know who the fox is and what hen house?  I do not.

69 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow Melissa, that is one hell of a post you put together there! Thanks. I will have to read it a few times, but I have been wondering for awhile what was going on with RE for some time now.

AS

Anonymous said...

Can you explain your motivation in posting excepts of emails from staffers. I can only imagine doing so in this way is going to create a toxic environment for many down at the JSCEE, perhaps that is what you desire. To be fair you should post the original source materials, so we can understand the context and see you're not twisting peoples' words. I would also ask that you not post any OCR case details the district might have inadvertently sent you. Doing so will cause irreparable harm to the families involved. Please delete the case number, they should not have sent that to you.


Concerned Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

My motivation is to explain what the environment was when English left. I find it amusing that you believe I'M creating a toxic atmosphere. That train left the station a long time ago and a lot of us have said the number one thing that needs to change is the culture at JSCEE. The cleansing light of transparency is a good start.

I could make the attempt to post all the e-mails but there are about 400+. I would have to create a document for them and upload them to Scribed. You would then have to slog thru all of them (like I did). Not fun.

I am not twisting anyone's words. In fact, most of the time I say "partial" so that I can protect some issues.

I will delete the OCR case number but again, that's the district's fault for releasing it.

Anonymous said...

You're amused that I think publishing employees comments that could be construed as harmful gossip is toxic? It's clear they never intended the comments for public disclosure and these people are not Mr. English the target of your inquiry. I think some innocent people are going to possibly be harmed in this.

If I were the supervisor of anyone doing the gossiping I would have to reconsider the professionalism of the people sending out the emails. Maybe they deserve it, but the genie can't be put back into the bottle now.

I know in past you have been rightfully reluctant to allow comments containing emails with harmful information about teachers without seeing the original emails, I'm just asking you give us the same courtesy.

Thank you for deleting the case number.


Concerned Parent

Anonymous said...

So his fireable offense? He was rude and pushy? Absurd. Concerned Parent, there's nothing here for anybody to worry about.

Reader

Anonymous said...

So Melissa, you are saying English's situation has nothing to do with the department's failure to institute a culture of lawfulness in regards to special education and respect for our families (including the privacy of our students' records), downtown and in the buildings?

I know, it's too much to ask for.

Another reader

Anonymous said...

Concerned parent, another reader has it correct, that English has been put on administrative leave seemingly for poor interactions with others downtown is insane considering that he has created a cottage industry there of refusing sped families right to proper services and over saw the repeated disclosure of their MEDICAL information. If the district wasn't erroneously protected that HIPAA violation would have been $10,000 x 7,500.

legal budgets grew as did class sizes for sped kids.

Of course there is Silas-gate too.

Of course there GHS fieldtrip-gate too.

Of course there is MOU-signature-gate too.

Funny that he seems to have ruffled feathers of the Ed chiefs over RFPs when he clearly didn't care how the district spent its money concerning his department.

But again if his career closes here for pissing of staff that is telling as he harmed many more families over the years that should have been considered long ago for dismissal.


bye bye


Anonymous said...

If there was ANYTHING substantive in his firing, other than perhaps being a turd, in the eyes of some other bureaucrats, surely there would be 1 peep about it. Those people can't keep their mouths shut. There doesn't appear to be. His big offense? Going around somebody's boss in HR. He should sue.

Sped issues? Not a peep about sped. He would never get fired for that anyway. A culture of denying services.... is exactly what the district wants. And they want sped classes as large as possible. That's really a contract issue. Another reader and Bye bye are dreamers.

Reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

I did not say what you said I'm saying.

I SAID I'm amused you think that I am the one creating a "toxic" atmosphere. At this point for JSCEE, that's a laughable point.

"they never intended these documents for public disclosure" - and again, you miss the point. Every single person in government is told this. The professionalism comes from knowing this and behaving accordingly because it's taxpayer money they are getting paid by and work for.

Again, I don't know the specific reason why he is on leave. That the clues - the dates and actions that came before he was placed on paid administrative leave - seem to point to a couple of incidents may have been the catalyst of a building up of issues.

Also, the reason I don't want links with e-mails put up without me viewing them is because, well, it's my blog and that's our policy.

As well, I sign my name to everything I write and I stand behind it (AND I admit when I get it wrong). Most of you cannot say that so please don't preach to me about what is courteous or not.

mirmac1 said...

It seems many people, on this blog and at JSCEE, don't have a clue about open government and public records.

Melissa, thanks for this information. Rude, aggressive behavior is absolutely a fire-able offense. That is called a hostile work environment. Apparently there is no shortage of witnesses to English's bullying behavior. On what basis can he sue? Because other idiots downtown do it too? "But officer the driver in front of me was going even faster!"

How ironic that English violated Title VII while bullying Nahourii about Title VII. Doh!

I wish we could clone Nahourii.

Anonymous said...

In a number of corporate environments I've worked in, emails of the gossipy nature Melissa posted would not be tolerated. It just didn't happen. And those emails weren't subject to PDC.

Why is it okay at Seattle Schools?

northwesterner

Anonymous said...

Reader, what did I say that was fantasy? I only pointed out what a nightmare English is... And that it is odd that it was internal bickering that put him on PAL when he has clearly not been doing his job to serve the students of SPS. Your assertion is inane. Are you?

bye bye

Anonymous said...

complying to title 9 and IDEA are not dreams they are real. SPS has not done that reader and that should be grounds enough to remove our GC. I would say that if he sues we should fight it with all sps' effort, just like a sped family trying to get a basic education at SPS.

Bye Bye

American Law is an Adversial System said...

The general counsel's job would not be to serve the students of SPS. His or her job would be to advise and represent the school district.

Whether certain specific actions (or inactions) are taken are the reponsiblity of the superintendent and/or the school board.

For example, if the school district wishes to take particular actions or inactions toward a group like the special ed community, the general counsel's job would be to advise the district on the legality of their proposed actions. If the proposed action is close to or potentially over the line, then the general counsel should advise the school district of that and advise them about the potential for legal action and its' possible range of outcomes.

The general counsel would also advise the district about ongoing litigation and whether the matter is being handled in a proper, and economically justifiable manner. The district and school board would chose whether to settle or have matters go to trial.

If you are a family or some that is NOT the school district, then the general counsel is NOT working for you or advising you. You need your OWN lawyer.

Anonymous said...

It all starts with the board and from what I've seen NO board member in the last 10 years has made an effort to force SPS to follow the IDEA. The IDEA is a Federal law. The state basically cloned the IDEA in its RCWs. It is written somewhere that the board members will; Uphold all applicable federal and state laws and regulations.
Hold myself and my colleagues accountable for abiding by this Code of Conduct, Board policy, and law; and
understand that a motion of Censure may be brought for an egregious violation.


What excuses do board members have for SPS not following the IDEA ? Carr is on year 8 yet she openly refuses to follow board policy and uphold Federal and state laws.

I think each school board candidate should be asked directly about the IDEA and SPS. This should be one of the top three issues if not the top.

CCC

Anonymous said...

FWIW, everyone should compose work emails professionally. And assume that deleted messages are stored/backed up on company servers etc (i.e. NOT deleted)... In litigation, during discovery, emails are nearly always collected, reviewed by counsel for responsiveness and produced to the other side if relevant to the issues in the litigation. They are normally produced under a protective order, which can limit their use, but can often be damaging to your case nonetheless. In my career I've reviewed many, many thousands of emails (in both plaintiff and defendant productions) and I'm often surprised by what people put in email.

Basically, if you can't say it to someone's face, or you can't say it in front of your nana, you shouldn't be putting it in an email. Or rephrase it so it meets that bar.

-litigation paralegal

Anonymous said...

To whoever upthread said don't hold your breath, families, the GC's office ain't working for you his clients are JSCEE and Board .... let's back up a second. You are confusing corporations with public education. A public school system exists to serve the public good. Fostering good relationships with families serves the public good. That is what SPS should be doing, and what it should be expecting its legal department to be keeping in view at all times -- how does this action or that one serve our relationships with families. And it is absolutely the case that we should expect activism on behalf of the law and our students' civil rights from the legal department. If they were more out there advocating for the law instead of putting up the gates all the time, special education would look very different for our kids, their teachers, and their families.

2cents

Eric B said...

Interesting timing--I just went through a manager training on maintaining a civil workplace, and I can assure you that a medium to large private company would not stand for repeated treatment as described here. I can't say whether English really said what was ascribed to him, just that a report as described would lead to action from HR.

On releasing the emails, I interned at the City of Bellevue in 1996. Even then, they told me that I shouldn't send anything from the city email address that I wouldn't want to see on the front page of the Seattle Times or explain in front of a city council meeting. With all of the public disclosure requests, you would think that SPS leadership would have already had that conversation with staff.

Anonymous said...

One problem is that the board has no expertise. They depend on staff to inform them. I have worked on volunteer boards where staff would provide unbiased analysis presenting various options to board members. What I observe in SPS is staff manipulating the board by omitting information, giving biased analysis, & even misleading analysis. If the GC is the only expert voice being heard & that voice is adversarial to fulfilling IDEA & ADA, then we need to have a competing expert on staff that informs the board as an expert advocate for students protected by IDEA & ADA.

-HS Parent

Anonymous said...

HS Parent

The compelling experts are;

Millions of dollars each year spent on outside counsel to fight parents.
Millions of dollars paying for outside services and compensatory awards.
Numerous citizens complaints, due process hearings and laws suits.
OSPI findings and SPS audit reports?

For every offense reported by parents, there are hundreds that go unreported.
I've seen the boards emails and I know there have been thousands of emails where parents are asking the board to intervene and force SPS to comply with the law.

No HS Parent there is no excuse for the board, they are complacent in SPS violation of law.

Watching SPS

mirmac1 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Mirmac1,

We do have a clue, but there's a difference between receiving the emails and broadcasting them in your own context for your agenda. I have no idea if that what's happening, because I don't have the original source. Taken out of context things can look much worst than they are. I'm sure there are staffers now wondering what some of these people might be saying about them. This is the toxin I was referring to. I'm wondering in her quest to take down Mr. English she will cause irreparable harm to others that are undeserving. I'm not defending Mr. English I'm aware of his history.


Concerned Parent

Anonymous said...

Let's back up a minute. These emails aren't so illuminating. A bunch of people think Ron English is rude. Is that so unusual? A few report that they think he should be fired. Is that really unusual? Another says "sooner or later they get everyone". Another says - "What an awful surprise." Gee, sounds like he has detractors and supporters, like everyone. Really, this sounds like normal stuff from every workplace. And not so terrible to be disclosed either. Who here works and never is rude (or found rude by OTHERS), or is never spoken ill of at work? Not very many!

As to his role in special ed - his client is the district, not families. Just like HR's role is protecting the district FROM employees. Best that people understand on whose side people work. If the district wanted great special ed - it would be run by a special education expert, not a lawyer. Instead it is run by newbies every year, and usually a collective of them. If general counsel is directing special ed - then it will NEVER be to benefit special education students - only to protect the district FROM special ed families.

If special ed indeed is his role, then his job will be to keep costs down (probably by keeping class sizes up), by doing risk assessment (really, very, very few due process or citizen's complaints are ever filed, and even fewer won), and by basically doing the minimum. So what that there was a big bad audit? A few short months later, after paying several consulting firms to do the usual nothing at all... the district is, voila, compliant and in good standing. That sounds like English was successful as far as sped is concerned. (If you don't like how sped is run - the blame goes elsewhere.)

The really weird thing is.... learning that Nyland can't tolerate rude behavior. And that THIS is the worst thing... incompetence, wrong focus, waste in government, legal snafu's, school climate, unchecked bureaucracy, lawless culture - all OK. But rude behavior? You're out. Seattle-Nice - the expensive way.

There will need to be an explanation though. Even the roasted former sped executive got some mumblings before she got the final boot.

Reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

Please do not make off-topic comments. I appreciate that Mr. English had a hand in many issues in the district including Sped but do not get off track.

"Millions of dollars each year spent on outside counsel to fight parents."

You'd have to show me real figures on that one. I've seen some figures and yes, it's real money but it's not millions.

Concerned, I have taken nothing out of context and, in fact, protected some people from their own words. Also, what's my agenda?

Reader, I think your conclusions are interesting about Nyland.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

Do you know if they are supposed to prevent public disclosure of documents that are used as evidence in current litigation? I have to think there is something more than just rudeness. He's always been rude. And why would rudeness require an investigation? Ask anyone, they'll tell you, Ron English is rude. Case closed. I have to think there is some kind of impropriety, perhaps involving someone who used to work as a subordinate in the department.

--GL

Anonymous said...

"I have to think there is some kind of impropriety, perhaps involving someone who used to work as a subordinate in the department." Do you mean an affair? Yuk

I thought he was sending legal cases to friends? Wasn't there an ethics complaint against the legal dept for conflict of interest? Didn't Nyland pop off and challenge the board to review his litigation management? That was around the time he was put on leave. Are those emails in your PDR reprocess?

McTitle

Anonymous said...

I'm not suggesting an affair. I am suggesting an impropriety of some sort. Rudeness just doesn't suggest the need for an investigation.

--GL

Anonymous said...

If you place your General Counsel on leave, then you better have an investigation. Cripes they do that even when they want to ride a lowly staffer out on a rail.

reality

Melissa Westbrook said...

If there were any other reason stated in e-mails (beyond those that were speculating on his departure), I would have said. There is nothing.

Yes, it does seem that it would need to be something higher level. I'm just putting the timeline together from when the incidents of alleged bullying happened to the day he was put on administrative leave.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating. I'm sure we'll all speculate endlessly until/unless the District decides to just be upfront and tell everyone the reason. And, yes, every civil service employee gets that lecture about how nothing in your email is private if done via work account. Not MW's fault if people are foolish about what they put in print.

I personally think this could be a situation of the "straw that broke the camel's back" - where it was a cumulative bank of behavior/incidents that led to the administrative leave.

Dying to know who the fox and the wolves are though ;o)
reader47

Anonymous said...

Maybe he just died from a thousand cuts? Challenging the board after paying out a $770,000 demand is not very smart. Allowing SPS to fall to level 4 determination even worst.


McTitle

Lisa Evans said...

As one of several individuals who have file PIR's on this matter, and has, I believe, all of the information that Melissa has highlighted herein today, I come away with several thoughts and observations.

The email banter amongst staff as presented by Melissa (and, despite some tsk-tsk's from others reading this blog as to the propriety of publishing this emails) was presented very accurately. The reality is SPS is a public institution and what goes on or through an @seattleschools.org email address is "public" and searchable through PIR's. Information in emails specific to students or protected by FERPA should and would be redacted before release to the PIR applicant. Staff should and does know this. Are they human for having this banter and the "thank gods" expressed amongst (what they naively/negligently think is) themselves? Yes, they are human and, from my seat, besides having a good laugh at some of the comments, I am left with hope that there are many in that fortress downtown that are "human(e)". Will this likely be a learning lesson downtown to watch what you do when you are on the clock? ... certainly, but it would be reminder on what is already known and should be part of the staff on-boarding process.

As many others have said outright or eluded to as to what the G/C is on administrative leave for, and it perhaps being so (almost) non-consequential as "rudeness", when there are so many other significant student specific rights and needs that are being violated/ignored/overlooked/bypassed/you choose your preferred verb... seems outrageous. That being said, and as Mirmac pointed out, there is legislation in Washington State (I believe House Bill 2142 aka Healthy Workplace Bill) as well as Title VII and the Employment Act, that prohibit workplace harassment and discrimination. If this is the grounds that has the G/C on continued paid administrative leave then so be it, BUT W-H-Y is SPS essentially six months in on this investigation and no end? W-H-Y are dollars going towards [we have to assume] an investigation and W-H-Y is it taking six months to find the answers? And, to that end, claims of harassment, discrimination and hostile workplace have been raised many times over by staff at school sites throughout this district, but, at least I have never seen or heard of a similar response of such an extended and seemingly endless leave. It would be lovely to have some teachers/SEA members chime in on this...

Lisa Evans said...

cont.'d

It is also disheartening to not be getting all of the information, and to sense the frustration not only of the parent/family/community but also seemingly through the email banter that of staff as to the system fundamentally being broken from within and that it is not being addressed. Furthermore, I was also deeply disturbed by [my interpretation of] the violation of the terms of SPS administrative leave and "no contact". This was evident when staff at JSCEE contacted Mr. English to disclose that media outlets had filed PIR's and staff wanted to ensure that Mr. English had the opportunity to "file an injunction" .... Does the Board know this? Does the Superintendent? ... well, I guess they do now, but will they hold staff accountable for the selective decision making process to adhere to terms of ANY policy, let alone one that is meant to be a reaction to a "perceived" or "alleged" violation of yet another policy/governance rule/law?

It is maddening... it is insane ... and yet we have to trust and work with this cadre of leaders and staff (and with candor, not all within JSCEE are "intentionally callous", "negligent" or "evasive" and/or "devalue the role of family/community and students") to ensure and demand our children, that all children in Seattle, receive the education that they deserve and are federally mandated to receive.

I can only hope that the next release of information, which continues to be backlogged by "staffing" and "volume of content" reasons, will provide more clarity as to where this will find an end. I hope in the meantime that we continue to press the Board and Superintendent for answers, transparency OR maybe even better this group of individuals will find the resolve on their own.... Maybe one day we can aspire that the work that happens at JSCEE truly is focused on an excellent and world class education for all.

mirmac1 said...

"...if done via work account." slight correction reader47. If one does public work on a private computer or strictly private account, it is considered public record.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
IMHO said...

Couple of thoughts:

1. As the General Counsel, English is an at-will employee. that makes him very different from the average teacher or a para educator who are union staff members who get special right that makes him very different from the average teacher who has an annual employment contract and can only be terminated for cause following a specific process. If the superintendent doesn't like how the General Counsel treats people, he can terminate him. He can terminate the General Counsel if he just doesn't like his style. Basically the only reasons he cannot terminate the General Counsel are for things that are protected class status i.e. age race gender or as retaliation for reporting improper governmental action.

2. Because of that it really doesn't make sense but English is still on leave six months later. Unless there's something else going on.

3. I'm betting that because you got the emails from Mr. Miller and Mr. Rahm, neither of the issues they reported are in fact the reason that Mr. English is on leave. That's because the district can withhold documents that relate to an ongoing investigation. The investigation is still ongoing otherwise there be a final decision with respect English and you would be getting things like the outside investigator's report. Also, information conveyed to an outside attorney doesn't have to be produced under the attorney-client privilege. If this particular issue wasn't the reason that Mr. Leitch was retained, that would explain why it was being produced.

3. It is very common practice to give notice to an employee that they are the subject of the public records act request. Most unions include a provision about that in their collective bargaining agreement, so public records officers pretty much air on the side of caution of giving notice to current employees. I don't think there's anything improper wrong with that.

4. How does this tie into the disappearance of the legal assistant during the midst of all of this? I think that's part of the story that we don't need it now how does this tie into the disappearance of the legal assistant during the midst of all of this? I think that's part of the story that we don't know yet.

Melissa Westbrook said...

IHMO, two things.

First, I think you probably right on all points.

Also, I don't think it's wrong they gave English notice but I wanted to let people know, they didn't have necessarily do so.

Ah, the legal assistant. Yes, she did come up briefly (if it's the person I'm thinking of) when someone asked Communications and they just said that she resigned.

Anonymous said...

That legal assistant also made PRRs after she was gone.

--GL

Anonymous said...

Ms. B was very nice to me. Too bad she released all the SPED data.


AnotherOne BitesTheDust

Anonymous said...

Another funny thing, the lawyer who released the SPED data now works for a law firm representing students.


AnotherOne BitesTheDust

Melissa Westbrook said...

Another One, get a shorter name. Only two-word names allowed.

Anonymous said...

Woops the meeting is Wednesday the 8th not Tuesday.


AOBTD

mirmac1 said...

Let's be clear. The SPS attorney who okayed release of 1Ks of student records to Preg ODonnel still works for the district. The PO paralegal who prepared the records for the due process discovery was fired and went to work for another SPS outside law firm. The former SPS PRO is working for a better employer.

My original thoughts about RE's situation were that it was tied to termination of the exec dire of SpeD and RE's "creative" legal advice, and/or the 7K student records (one of a long string of disingenuous disclosures).

I remember having a board member urge me to give Nyland the info I had on the previous disclosures and their OSPI corrective actions; that this could help build a case for showing him the door. This was in November last year. So I suspect when it comes to Ronny boy, it is death by a thousand cuts.

Melissa Westbrook said...

AOBTD, what meeting?

Anonymous said...

Mirmac,

Your facts are little off. The POG junior attorney (not paralegal) who released the records got let go. She started her own law firm and represents parents now, both on her own and with another long-established parent attorney. Her supervising attorney at POG did jump to another firm recently, that being the Patterson Buchanan firm mentioned above. The ones who were supervising the investigation of Mr. English.

-BTDT

Anonymous said...

And the former legal assistant/PRO is herself a licensed attorney. Her profile on the WSBA website doesn't reflect that she is working as an attorney right now, and her Linkin hasn't been updated since she left SPS.

-BTDT

IMHO said...

Ugg. Reread my comment. Talk to text fail. Let's try this again:

Couple of thoughts:

1. As the General Counsel, English is an at-will employee. That makes him very different from the average teacher who has an annual employment contract and can only be terminated for cause following a specific process. If the Superintendent doesn't like how the General Counsel treats people, he can terminate him. The Superintendent can terminate the General Counsel if he just doesn't like his style. Basically the only reasons the Superintendent cannot terminate the General Counsel for (or can but then would be vulnerable to a lawsuit over) are protected class status i.e. age, race, gender or as retaliation for reporting improper governmental action.

2. Because of that, it really doesn't make sense but English is still on leave six months later. Unless there's something else going on.

3. I'm betting that because you got the emails from Mr. Miller and Mr. Rahm, neither of the issues they reported are in fact the reason that Mr. English is on leave. That's because the district can withhold documents that relate to an ongoing investigation. The investigation is still ongoing otherwise there be a final decision with respect English and you would be getting things like the outside investigator's report. Also, information conveyed to an outside attorney doesn't have to be produced under the attorney-client privilege. If this particular issue wasn't the reason that Mr. Leitch was retained, that would explain why it was being produced.

3. It is very common practice to give notice to an employee that they are the subject of the public records act request. Most unions include a provision about that in their collective bargaining agreement, so most Public Records Officers pretty much air on the side of caution of giving notice to current employees. I don't think there's anything improper wrong with that.

4. How does this tie into the disappearance of the legal assistant/public record officer during the midst of all of this? I think that's part of the story that we don't know yet.

Patrick said...

Couple of thoughts, IMHO, about why English might still be on leave instead of fired: The District might be trying to stay out of court. Yes, he's an at-will employee, but if he could make a plausible case that he was fired as retaliation etc. he could embarrass the District enormously by getting all sorts of things into court. English's case wouldn't have to win in court in order to be very embarrassing.

Second, as an employee, I think the District can still instruct him to keep silent.

Keeping him on leave might be seen as the least hurtful option. When is he eligible for retirement? If it's soon, he might just stay on leave until then.

Anonymous said...



If you are right I hope you are wrong Patrick.

bye bye

IMHO said...

Plausible. He is bound by the attorney-client privilege even after he's fired so there is that. But the last sp ed executive director was given a settlement agreement to go away even after she was caught using personal email to steer contracts to a friend who is reporting back to the district but she was indispensable. So who knows.

mirmac1 said...

Thanks for clarifying BTDT. My source was incorrect. Any idea why Andrea Schiers is still at SPS?

Anonymous said...

Still there.

-BTDT

mirmac1 said...

How is it she gets to keep her job?

Anonymous said...

Uhhh no IMHO, the canned sped director steered gigantic contracts, to do make-work, to Doug Gil's friends, because he wanted her to. Those weren't to her friends. Doug Gil at OSPI has the conflict of interest. Directing the state's sped compliance and making compliance orders .... Vs.... Demanding that the districts that you oversee hire your friends with no-bid contracts. And demanding that these names be specifically in the contract. Who will put Doug Gil on administrative leave? Nobody. Because sped doesn't matter. She also died a thousand paper cuts.... you can only sleep through so many meetings. and screw up so many emails before... you're put on administrative leave to nowhere.

Speddie

Anonymous said...

Speddie, I believe the former executive director of sped had a friend on the TIERS team that Doug Gill wanted SPS to hire. This friendship was not disclosed and the sped executive director was asking this friend for favors in exchange for routing the contract to that friend's firm. But I agree with you, Gill should not have been allowed to get away with this either. And back to the topic of this thread, if the legal dept were not creating such an awful environment for special education through its anti-families culture and its general apathy and low level of understanding of the laws governing special education, outcomes for our kids would be looking a lot different/better. That legal dept seems to think that its job is to protect and defend people who discriminate against our kids either by refusing services or refusing to obtain any basic knowledge of how to give the services in the first place.

reader

Anonymous said...

Perhaps district leadership tired of Ron English steering them with poor advice that hurt financially and caused public embarrassment. You'd expect your well-paid general counsel to know about how Title IX governs a school's response to reported sexual violence. But in the Garfield case, he was completely ignorant of the DoE regulations, which led to an OCR investigation. The victim's parents had to educate him about Title IX!

Put another way, if you hired an attorney for a hefty fee, and he/she gave you wrong advice repeatedly in an area in which they were supposedly competent, would you continue to pay him/her to counsel you?

Rita

Anonymous said...

reader wrote:

That legal dept seems to think that its job is to protect and defend people who discriminate against our kids either by refusing services or refusing to obtain any basic knowledge of how to give the services in the first place.

refusing services is common in too many districts usually because of budget concerns. Follow the money or lack thereof.

Legislature led the way on denial of constitutional rights (McCleary) and continued to have problems because of budget.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Melissa, for presenting this info, doing your homework, and, slogging through 400 pages of email.

Maybe Mr. English was put on leave, and possibly will be fired, because he unreasonably, without provocation, harangued a couple of employees, one in a meeting, and one in a hallway, and, his behavior went way out of bounds, far beyond merely unprofessional. Sure, all of us have bad days now and again, but, how many of us would behave in the way described in Mr. Miller's email from Feb. 7 describing Mr. English yelling at a woman for over 10 minutes. Sad that no one came of out their cubicles and suggested to him that he should take a breather. Fear breeds compliance, but, it sure doesn't breed loyalty, as apparently Mr. English is now finding out. Where are his friends, his supporters, actually? He's been there long enough, you would think he would have a big core group loyal to him if he was any kind of a decent boss. *Crickets*

I understand the impulse to look for something bigger, badder, that may have been the trigger point for this exit, but really, being a huge unapologetic jerk spewing "bombastic" (Mr. Miller's word) hubris ought to be enough to exit an at-will employee. Really. Nobody needs that kind of poison in a work place. It is counter-productive, and can and usually does lead to disaster.

Anyone else notice that fellow employee emails light up in the glass palace upon the news? Seems like this rumor injected glee into the chorus who were singing 'ding-dong, the witch is dead" gleefully in the emails, at least, that is the subtext I read into these exchanges. Which tells me that these 2 incidents were not isolated incidents, but rather, part of a pattern, which meant underlings in the palace were not sorry to see him go, but rather excited.

And, as for the wolf. Director Peaslee? Could it be Mr. English, through the force of his personality and ostensibly "years of experience and institutional knowledge" was able to keep Director Peaslee "at bay" from "mucking" with topics that she has no real strength in, but, LOTS of opinions about (things like facilities maintenance or capital building)? Some staff may have found Mr. English objectionable, but, some staff may also have had equal disdain for the Director. Lesser of 2... That is purely conjecture. But, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...

Scarred and Scared

Anonymous said...

What evidence is there that the former sped exec knew anybody at TIERS? Can you produce that reader? There was plenty of emails indicating Gill knew the TIERs people, and that he insisted they be listed by name in the SPS contract. Since when does OSPI get to dictate who SPS hires, especially when they're required to do it under the oversight of OSPI???? That's about as unethical as it gets, especially considering the quality of their work, which was basically simply a survey monkey result. They didn't even want to write a report for the 75Gs they were paid. (I don't recall the exact amount, but it was a big number for nothing of value. Report essentially said, hire us.)

Speddie

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, I would appreciate if we keep on the topic at hand. It is not directly Special Ed (and we have covered the issue of the last Sped director previously) so please stay on the topic.

Scarred and Scared, interesting thoughts. One thing that struck me when I read the e-mails - especially about the two incidents - was how similar it sounded to when Silas Potter was running his own fiefdom (and apparently did it thru a lot of bombast and hubris).

Anonymous said...

Please stop speculating

Zaklyyah McWllllams Wed, Feb 5, 2014 at 3:22 PM
To: deborah mcknlght
HI Deborahll
I am responding to you from my gmall account as RCW 42.56.230(3) I need your
advise on whether or not to let Seattle know that we know each other. It may give cause to question the RFP process. •
1. Burning Issues:
a). The IT Department handles all SPED data; however, data and state/federal reports are often inaccurate, which
impacts funding. IT should pro"de a seNce/tool - not dictate how departments do their work. SPED needs to
own our own data If we ever expect to be compliant and recelw all funding that we are entitled to.
b) The SPED parents are abusive, out of control and do not trust the district. I can elaborate more on the conference call.
https-J/ml .google.com'rrsil/uJO/?li=2&1~9a93e7c8e7&-A9.Y=~=TIERS&qs:true&saarctr-

Old News

Anonymous said...

Speddie,

Didn't you read the Times article ?


By Leah Todd
Seattle Times staff reporters

Before a special-education consulting firm won a $150,000 contract with Seattle Public Schools earlier this year, the head of the district’s special-education department emailed the group copies of its competitors’ bids, a months-long district probe has concluded.

Zakiyyah McWilliams also used her personal email address in an attempt to skirt public-records laws and avoid co-workers she thought were untrustworthy, investigators hired by the district wrote. The investigators also said McWilliams failed to disclose a friendship with one of the lead consultants on the team that ultimately got the job.


Enough said

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, clearly you did not hear me.

Please do NOT go off topic. That means this topic is about Ron English, no Zakiyyah McWilliams.

Anonymous said...

FBI is involved with RE and several other ex SPS staffers.


Civil Defense

Lynn said...

Hmmm. Maybe it's this: Since KIRO 7 first reported in late July that a former Garfield High School student said she was raped on a 2012 field trip, Seattle Public Schools officials have maintained they were instructed not to investigate it as long as the Federal Bureau of Investigation was looking into the case.
On Wednesday, an FBI spokesperson told KIRO 7 the agency would never ask another organization not to investigate a rape.


http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/fbi-policy-disputes-seattle-schools-version-allege/ng6Mb/

mirmac1 said...

Well Lynn, I would say that, after years of NOTHING with respect to a long-established Federal law, our district continued to ignore/disregard that law - well, the result should be predictably for the scofflaw district.

Nevertheless, RE and Co. continued to subject this child and the family to idiocy (deny, Deny, DENY) until they were slammed and beat down. (But by all means lets blame the child and the family.)

Whether Granny, Santa, or the nail salon down the street "requested" another Org not to investigate a rape: Title IX does not give recipients of Fed funds a pass if "somebody" told someone somehow to NOT investigate. Otherwise it's plausible deniability. Who cares about the alleged victim. Its about he said/she said/it(agency) said.

Lynn, not disagreeing, just using your points to broaden the perspective on the counterpoints offered by district spinmiesters.

Anonymous said...

mirmac1,

You've made some real leaps again in regard to the law. Title IX's applicabilty to sexual violence wasn't law until 4 years ago. It is not a long established federal law.

Title IX, enacted in 1972, prohibits sexual discrimination in education in schools that receive federal money. It wasn't until an April 2011 Dear Colleague letter from the DOE, that the law changed to apply to sexual harassment, and sexual violence as a type of sexual harassment, as a form of sexual discrimination. Seattle Public Schools was right in the middle of the pack when it comes to its null state of enactment of the provisions of that Dear Colleague letter. You and I both know that ignoring Dear Colleague letter is the modus operandii when it comes to Ron English and Seattle Public Schools. That is not an excuse. But ignoring the April 2011 Dear Colleague letter regarding sexual violence and the need to take steps to end sexual harassment and violence on campus is the same mistake made by many universities as well as other school districts, and it is only this year that the DOE is attempting to enforce the letter.

--GL

Anonymous said...

Granted that in the Dear Colleague Letter of April 2011, OCR clarified schools' responsibilities in responding to reported sexual assaults. But OCR published guidance on sexual harassment/violence back in 2001. In the 2011 DCL, OCR states: "This letter supplements the 2001 Guidance by providing additional guidance and practical examples regarding the Title IX requirements as they relate to sexual violence."

OCR investigated complaints of sexual harassment/violence throughout the past decade. There's been a significant increase in the number of complaints submitted to OCR in the last five years.

SPS legal, including Ron English, were ignorant of how Title IX applied to reported sexual assault in the Garfield case. Even the designated Title IX officer at the time knew nothing about his responsibilities.

Rita

mirmac1 said...

Using the words ignorant, Ron English and others at JSCEE in the same sentence gives English the same out he gave himself with Pottergate. If ignorance of the law and "following orders" doesn't work for the common citizen, then it sure as hell can't work for connived like English.