Monday, October 04, 2021

Final Investigation Report on the Behavior Of Chandra Hampson and Zachary DeWolf

The district did finally send me the final investigation report by an independent law firm over allegations of harassment and/or intimidation and/or bullying by Directors Hampson and DeWolf against two SPS senior staffers of color, Dr. Keisha Scarlett and Manal Al-ansi.  I will do a full post on what it said but, after reading it twice, I just shake my head at the whole situation. But if you would like to read it, here's a link.

This is the report that the Board itself voted to accept at their last Board meeting. Without having the report available to the public and voting to also excuse themselves from their own Board policy that says that any agenda item must have its documentation attached. 

Those two paragraphs alone, with a finding of HIB against two Board members AND the entire Board voting to pause their own policies AND withholding information that the public paid for and has a right to see, that should tell you ALL you need to know about the current state of the Seattle School Board. 

I had opined at my last post on this subject - the Board meeting where this was voted on - that I think the Board should vote to remove Hampson as Board president. She is clearly unworthy of the role and, after reading the report, I think it possible that she has abused that role

If you worked at JSCEE and had to work with Board members, what would you think if the Board does nothing about Hampson and/or DeWolf? Especially if you were a staffer of color?  Hampson and DeWolf were found not to have acted in a racist fashion.)

My Reflections

1. None of this had to happen. I'm not sure I do believe it was ever really about race but I think it was very much about ego and and power-grabbing and attention-seeking on the part of Hampson and DeWolf as well as them trying to silence these two women. I also think that uneasy relationships between Board members and some senior staff members previous to this situation did not help. 

2. Even the complainants could have thought more about going down this road in the first place. (I'll explain that in the next post but there were other choices they could have made in trying to draw attention to this issue. I absolutely support their right to speak up because there appears to be some very unpleasant behavior on the part of Hampson and DeWolf against these women.) Scarlett felt the investigation" is an act of retaliation and will hurt their careers."

3. The word "orchestrated" gets used several times in the both the complaint letter and the report and it appears some of the HIB-type action was organized by Hampson and DeWolf. That is truly stunning. 

4. Scarlett and Al-ansi said that besides HIB-type action that the two directors had done "anti-black discrimination" and "intersectional racism" (gender and race) against them. Neither of those two charges were upheld although the investigation seemed to not be able to conclusively say that there was no gender issue with DeWolf.  From the language used in the complaint, it is clear that both woman firmly believed the issues that Hampson and DeWolf had with them was very much about race. The language used in both the letter of the complaint and in the interviews in the investigation of both women makes it appear that they felt great pain, even trauma, from the entire situation. 

5. The two complainants say in their letter that despite the public face that Hampson and DeWolf have presented on black needs and issues in SPS, they seem to believe that for Hampson and DeWolf it was less about doing and more about talking. Anyone who has ever listened to Hampson and DeWolf can certainly testify that they do love to talk on and on. (I did find it amusing when Hampson tried to put a two-minute rule on Board member comments and yet, she never seems to stop herself.) 

6. On the other hand, DeWolf and Hampson go out of their way in the interviews to say how much they care about the black community and have been involved in efforts for it.

7. One key player - Manuela Slye who, at the time, was the Seattle Council PTSA president. There's a lot to unpack here on the role of the PTSA in this drama and it seems Slye may have been pulled in two directions. I'd love to hear the backstory on that. 

8. Another finding to unpack that I think has a LOT to do with some of the tension at JSCEE (bold mine):

One witness who had worked with Hampson and the complaintants was convinced the conflict with them was not related to race. This same witness also made an observation reflecting a critical source of conflict that has not been directly called out. She pointed out that the original version of 0040 was intended to address all types of racism, not just anti-black racism. The EPE (Equity, Partnerships and Engagement) version entitled “Pro-Black, Pro-Indigenous” appears to have been offensive to some in that it leaves out other people of color. SCPTSA president (Latinx) makes this point in the November 9, 2020 work session when she states the title of the new policy is “Anti-Racism Policy.”

That Latinx SCPTSA president was Manuela Slye. 

I believe there is a flaw to the Strategic Plan in supporting only black boys (using the theory of targeted universalism) and not clearly and firmly including other students of color of which there are many in the district. 

9. I have noted in other posts that the minutes for the Board committee meetings are getting quite sparse. And yet, in the report, there is a lot of detail and I wonder if that detail all came from interviews. Meaning, I wonder if there are two sets of minutes; one for the public and one to be used internally. I'm looking into that. 

I can give you some basics on the report as well as information about the process as it unfolded.

  • The MFR Law Group was hired to do the investigation. The district, separately, contracted with the well-known Seattle law firm, Davis, Wright, Tremaine; it is unclear to me if it was to help the two SPS staffers or just watch over the district's interests. Additionally, there was a point - from early March 2021 to early July 2021 - when an attempt at mediation was made. It is unclear to me if the district used someone in-house or hired some outside group. I have made public disclosure requests for all these invoices because, of course, the public has a right to know how much money the district spent on this excursion. (Noting that doesn't include costs the district incurred in-house.)
  • The mediation did not work and so the investigation resumed on July 2, 2021. MFR was notified that the investigation had to be completed by July 12, 2021. No explanation was given for that date but that was right after Juneau would have left. 
  • The MFR investigator appears to have extended the date to July 16th in order to give any interested parties one last chance to submit evidence and/or new witnesses. Hampson seems to have perked up, saying she had more documentation/witnesses and wanted more time. Hampson had access to a ShareFile the entire investigation and yet waited until the end to bring out more evidence? Meanwhile, DeWolf waited until July 20th to inquire about which witnesses were interviewed. 
  • There were 20 witnesses including the complainants, Dr. Keisha Scarlett and Manal Al-ansi, and the respondents, Hampson and DeWolf, Superintendent Juneau and some of her "direct reports", and some of the Board members. 
  • MFR reviewed 5,633 pages of documentation.  
The report the district sent me looked to have been xeroxed and then scanned as a PDF. However, I could not copy any portions of it, just the entire thing. I could not use any kind of search on it. I'm fairly certain that is NOT how MFR Law Group sent it to the district and I would guess sending me the report in the form in which I received it was for some purpose. To slow me down, maybe?

It certainly did make for a lot of typing on my part but I did get through it all.

What is also somewhat troubling - from a financial standpoint - is the organization of the report. It jumps from here to there with no real format to follow. It's hard for me to believe the district paid a lot of money for it. Unless perhaps the district moved pages around to, again, make it hard to read. 

One last thing - you have to ask yourself - where is the media in this? No one has reported a single thing about it. Weird.


Anonymous said...

Melissa, thanks for posting this and, right there with you - WHERE is the media???

I’ve also read about half the report and although I understand the findings, I don’t really get the specifics. What is the bad thing that Hampson and DeWolf did? Were there specific meetings with words uttered, specific nasty emails you can point to? It’s not enough to say someone used their positional authority for something, because positional authority is a reality of organizations. Board Directors are, for better or worse, empowered by the voters who elect them to…wield their authority. Show me the bad thing that happened and then I’ll render a judgement on whether or not it was appropriate.

Also, of course no one supports “anti-blackness,” but I’m still scratching my head over what correctable behaviors that looks like in this situation. I guess better understanding the Bad Thing(s) that the Directors did might inform that.

Appreciate all you do, I’ll try giving the report another go.

What Happened

Anonymous said...

Ah! Nevermind. Found the specifics of the offending behavior. :(

What Happened

HIB Violation said...

The board president and Zachary DeWolf were found to have violated Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying policy. It is incumbent upon board members to remove both individuals from leadership roles.

Melissa Westbrook said...

What Happened, I am going to lay out the specifics in a separate post. If you read the report, it jumps around and it’s hrad to follow. I’m going to try to streamline that.

I will also be going into next steps. I think a lot of that needs to come from community leaders and the public. If everyone shrugs, it will be terribly sad.

Melissa Westbrook said...

HIB, I agree and the rest of the Board needs to hear this loud and clear.

Anonymous said...

The behavior of Chandra Hampson and Zachary DeWolf recorded in that report is disgusting. By all rights Eden Mack should have been Board President now. Imagine how different Board leadership would be if she was. She has the professionalism and temperament Hampson and Dewolf can only dream of. Both times Mack considered vying for Board President or VP, Dewolf and Hampson cut her off, elbowed her out, and reneged on their promise to support her. Their craven ambition and selfishness is taking a toll on the Board and the District. They are incapable of working with anyone. Oh, and have they heard? We are still IN A PANDEMIC!

Enough Already