has proposed changes to the employee complaint policy that, essentially, would not give standing to a complainant unless the person (or the parents) witnessed the event firsthand.
Such a change to board policy 1312 could have rendered Cindy Wilcox' Gabrielle Leko inadmissible, as Wilcox did not personally see Leko call a student or make fun of a or call a class
Her formal complaints, which included first-hand accounts from at least one student and her parent, led to a district investigation and multiple closed-door sessions that resulted Tuesday night in a unanimous governing board vote to initiate dismissal procedures effective Feb. 27.
The Procedure 'Should Serve All Stakeholders'
When asked about what message he thought it could send to the community to preclude third-party complaints, board member Andrew Blumenfeld said he first would want to discuss the proposed changes with the board and the community.
"This language was added since our last meeting and was not the result of any public discussion on the topic. So I'm going to reserve hypothesizing about the message it sends to the community until we've had an opportunity to discuss it with the community,'' he wrote in an e-mail to Patch on Wednesday.
Board member Joel Peterson cautioned that while the district discovered wrongful behavior on the certificated employee's part - in class, in an attempt to banter with the kids and develop a rapport with them - it does not mean that the process did not have its costs.
One cost: "...parents who had made a conscious choice not to have their child involved in a complaint process, but were named in the complaint against their consent and without their knowledge,'' he wrote in an email Wednesday.
Peterson added, "I do suggest that it is the board’s duty to examine the lessons of this experience and ensure that the balance is right so that these sorts of procedures serve all stake holders.''
Leko has not returned phonecalls requesting comment since the public complaint's disclosure in October.
History of Complaints, Confusion About Policy
Since Wilcox' June filing of a formal public complaint has come to light, the district's handling of the situation has drawn the ire of parents, of whom dozens packed a school board meeting in December and decried the teacher complaint process as "broken.'' Wilcox charged that Leko used ethnic slurs and language with gender bias in her ninth-grade honors geometry class during the 2010-11 school year. She asked that Leko be dismissed.
Wilcox believes that the district dragged its heels in moving forward with the formal process, so, in feeling stymied, she went public.
Following the disclosure, heaps of students , many addressing the board about the veteran teacher's merits. Other students and LCHS gradates have written math instructor, saying Leko alone is responsible for their understanding of the complex concepts.
Others offer a different picture of Leko.
Debra Archuleta and her daughter, Alyssa Stolmack, addressed the board in the fall, with Stolmack Another parent, Hillary Werhane, told Patch that she complained about Leko's language back in 2009, when she allegedly called the kids "s--theads'' and said they could "go to hell.'' Both parents believed that informing administrators and counselors about the issue, meant that they had formally filed complaints.
They had not, as there is a multiple-layer process to formally file such allegations. This was not made clear to them, the parents said. Subsequently, dozens of people packed the December meeting.
But because board members are precluded from talking in open session about matters not listed as discussion items on the agenda, the board could not respond to the vocal audience. Still, the the public comment period. Therefore, a revision to the policy made it onto the agenda for discussion in January's regular meeting, with a second reading scheduled for Tuesday. The matter, with the new language, was put over until the next meeting on March 6.
Proposed Policy Revision 'Problematic'
Regarding the newest language for consideration, the admissibility of third-party complaints, Wilcox said Wednesday she believes there are many reasons why a victim or the victim's parent wouldn't file a formal complaint.
"The student may come from a culture where complaints are not lodged against teachers or school employees. What if the parent can't take off work three or more times to follow up with the formal process,'' Wilcox questioned.
To discount a complaint filed, for example, by a scout leader, a rabbi, minister, or neighbor to whom the child confided in is "problematic.'' Wilcox said she hopes the board considers these kinds of circumstances when considering any revised wording.