Reynolds School District News Article

Rumor vs Fact

Rumor vs Fact
Issued by the Reynolds School District’s Board of School Directors
May 11, 20211
1.  Rumor:  The School Board’s hiring practices are inappropriate.

Fact:  The School Board decided to try the headhunting process to fill several vacancies that emerged in early 2021. Headhunting does not violate any laws. School Board policies related to hiring are not laws but written aspirational procedures that can be ignored on an ad hoc basis. The District has a history of headhunting to fill vacancies.   If the headhunting process did not produce an acceptable candidate, advertisements would be used to solicit additional candidates.

2.  Rumor:  The School Board is concealing the Superintendent hiring process.

Fact:  The School Board identified a list of ten candidates to invite to apply for the Reynolds’ Superintendent position (three superintendents, three assistant superintendents, and four principals).   Three candidates agreed to be interviewed, one being an experienced Superintendent.  The candidates were asked a list of pre-drafted questions. The final interviews were conducted by the School Board, including the Superintendent. The experienced Superintendent was informed that the School Board was interested in hiring him.  Against the background of the current public uproar at Board meetings, on Facebook and in the press, the experienced Superintendent withdrew as a Superintendent candidate.   The School Board believes that the public uproar created by the former Superintendent/Board Secretary and others has resulted in the District having a toxic reputation as a place to work.   Recently, another candidate for an open administrative position accepted and subsequently withdrew her acceptance of the position.

3.  Rumor:  If the School Board does not notify the Superintendent 180 days before the expiration of his contract of an intent not to employ him, his contract is automatically renewed by School District policy.

Fact:  The policy in question tracks the School Code which requires the same notice.  In the case of the District’s Superintendent’s position, the School Board has been informed by the current Superintendent that he intends to retire and not seek renewal of his election as Superintendent. No notice of nonrenewal needed to be provided to the Superintendent.

4.  Rumor:  The Superintendent was automatically renewed for another year.

Fact:  The Superintendent has not been renewed for another year. There is no intention on the part of the School Board to do so in light of his upcoming retirement.

5.  Rumor:  The fact that the Superintendent has not formalized his retirement plans means that the School Board can take no action to replace him or otherwise make plans for his separation from the District.

Fact:  The School Board is free to make and execute plans to replace the Superintendent notwithstanding any formalization of the Superintendent’s retirement plans.  Planning includes searching for qualified persons to replace the retiring Superintendent on a temporary and/or permanent basis.

6.  Rumor:  The School Board selected the Solicitor to engage in headhunting in a secret search to hire the next Superintendent.

Fact:  The Solicitor was not appointed as headhunter to recommend the District’s next Superintendent. There was confidentiality in the Superintendent search, as is typically the case, due to candidates not wanting their names disclosed in the case that they would be passed over. The School Board elected to engage in headhunting as an initial effort to locate a qualified candidate to interview for the upcoming vacancy in the District’s Superintendent position. The Solicitor did not make any recommendations for candidates in the headhunting process.  If the headhunting process did not result in finding a new Superintendent, the School Board decided that it would proceed with a traditional search, including advertising and possibly engaging PSBA in locating Superintendent candidates to interview.

7.  Rumor:  If the Solicitor is involved in the Superintendent selection process, he stands to gain increased legal fees from the Superintendent he recommended be hired.

Fact: The question is not based in fact.  The Solicitor did not make any recommendations of who should be hired as the District’s next Superintendent.  Therefore, the supposition that the Superintendent's search was tainted by the self-interest of the Solicitor is without any basis in fact.

8.  Rumor:  It is unethical for the School Board to engage in headhunting and involve the Solicitor in identifying Superintendent candidates in the headhunting process.

Fact:  Headhunting is not unethical.  It is a practice followed by many organizations, including school districts.  The statement that the Solicitor was involved in identifying Superintendent candidates in the headhunting process has no basis in fact.

9.  Rumor:  There is a race to hire a Superintendent. The Superintendent’s hiring process should be paused.

Fact:  There never was a race to hire a new Superintendent.  The Board decided to try headhunting to find a new Superintendent. If headhunting did not produce an acceptable candidate, a traditional Superintendent search would follow.  The Board now is in the midst of a traditional search that involves advertising and the engagement of an outside consultant.

10.  Rumor:  A fully transparent process should be implemented in the Superintendent search so that all stakeholders are fully informed.

Fact.  The hiring of a Superintendent in the context of full transparency does not constitute best personnel practices.  That is why consultants who assist School Boards in finding new Superintendents and school administrators are not handled in a transparent manner.  Candidates for open positions do not want their current employers to know they are shopping for a new job.  Candidates don’t want the public to know they were rejected for a job they applied for.   Implementing transparency in the hiring process would significantly reduce the pool of applicants interested in an administrative position at the District.

11.  Rumor:  It was wrong for the new Superintendent/Board Secretary to be appointed without a public advertisement of an open position.

Fact: There is no EEOC or other requirement that all job openings be posted and advertised.   Private and public sector employers often headhunt within and outside an organization to find replacements for open positions.  The former Superintendent/Board Secretary was involved in the headhunting process for her replacement when she was asked if she could recommend anyone to replace her. She did not make a recommendation for her replacement.  The new Superintendent/Board Secretary was recommended by the Solicitor who knew that she was experienced in completing several of the tasks that are part of the Superintendent/Board Secretary position.   It was the School Board’s decision to hire her after interviewing her.  She was hired on a probationary basis to ensure that she could learn the job duties she is being asked to perform.

12.  Rumor: There is a possibility that the new Superintendent could be appointed at the next School Board meeting.

Fact:  There is no possibility of a Superintendent being hired at the next school board meeting.  The School Board has entered the second pre-planned phase of its Superintendent’s search.  That phase is the possibility of hiring a consultant to assist it in identifying qualified candidates for interviews. The School Board is concerned that its reputation has become one of toxicity due to the unsubstantiated ongoing public uproar created by School Board detractors.  Already an experienced Superintendent has withdrawn from consideration as well as another administrator candidate.

13.  Rumor:  It was announced at the last Board meeting that the next Board meeting date may change and no specific date was announced.

Fact:  This is a misstatement of the facts stated at the Board meeting.  The scheduling of School Board meetings in the time frame of approving an annual school budget requires the draft budget to be approved and published by the School Board for 30 days.  This 30 day requirement necessitated the rescheduling of the June meeting to June 23, 2021.  There was no modification of the May 19, 2021 School board meeting. This is simply the case of those spreading the rumor not carefully listening to the announcement of the June 2021 School Board meeting date.

14.  Rumor: The School Board was not actively involved in making decisions relevant to the former Superintendent/School Board’s Secretary’s departure from the District.

Fact:  The School Board was fully informed and involved in making all decisions regarding the former Superintendent/Board Secretary’s departure from the District, including approving of the Separation Agreement presented to her.

15.  Rumor:  The School Board tolerates bullying of its employees by the Administrative staff.

Fact:   The School Board is fully informed of all personnel issues and is confident that no reported bullying of any employees has occurred. It certainly is the case that the Board has not observed any bullying of the former Superintendent/Board Secretary by the Superintendent. The School Board had ample opportunity to observe the Superintendent/former Superintendent/Board Secretary’s relationship over a number of years.

16.  Rumor:  On February 26, 2021 the former Superintendent/Board Secretary was informed that her successor had been found.

Fact:  On February 26, 2021, the former Superintendent/Board Secretary was invited to attend an interview of a person interested in the position of Superintendent/School Board Secretary.    She declined to participate in the interview during which she could have significantly influenced whether to hire the person being interviewed. The person interviewed was later hired by the Board.

17.  Rumor: The former Superintendent/Board Secretary was “kicked out of the District” by the Superintendent.

Fact:  The School Board directed the Superintendent to tell the former Superintendent/Board Secretary to work from home. Previously, she requested to work from home and did so successfully without any opposition to this work arrangement. The “work at home arrangement” was viewed ongoing until the former Superintendent/Board Secretary’s final day of work before retiring, Based upon the foregoing, the Superintendent was directed by the School Board to obtain the former Superintendent/Board Secretary’s keys.

18.  Rumor:  The former Superintendent/Board Secretary was told not to contact the School Board and if she did, she would be charged with insubordination.

Fact: The former Superintendent/Board Secretary was informed that the School Board asked the Superintendent to be the contact to be used by her in communicating with the elected School Board members. The former Superintendent/Board Secretary was asked in an email to communicate all of her concerns to the School Board through the chain of command--meaning via the Superintendent (as a ex-officio non-voting member of the School Board), The mention of insubordination was communicated against the background of the former Superintendent/Board Secretary frequently, errantly and intentionally circumventing the Superintendent as a spokesperson for the School Board.

19.  Rumor:  The former Superintendent/Board Secretary was presented with an insulting agreement that “dangled” her “parachute-esq” local retirement benefits over her head as a reward.

Fact:  The proposed Separation Agreement presented to the former Superintendent/Board Secretary did not “dangle” anything. The Separation Agreement set forth a clear and simple directive to her to cease ignoring the chain of command in the District by recognizing the Superintendent’s and School Board’s authority to issue her directives. The Separation Agreement directed the former Superintendent/Board Secretary to accept responsibility for ignoring the chain of command. If she complied with the simple chain of command directive, she would suffer no penalty in status of employment or local retirement benefits.  Most important, the former Superintendent/Board Secretary was afforded the right to proceed to mediation (voluntary mutual settlement with use of a trained neutral) and/or independent arbitration to challenge the School Board’s and Superintendent’s treatment of her. If she won an arbitration challenging the School Board/Superintendent, her attorney’s fees would be paid.

20.  Rumor: The former Superintendent/Board Secretary was threatened that her local retirement benefits might be cancelled or withdrawn.

Fact:  The School Board approved of local retirement benefits in February 2021.  No employee offered these benefits was ever threatened with withdrawal or cancellation of the same.

21.  Rumor.  The former Superintendent/Board Secretary hired a lawyer to suggest revisions to the Separation Agreement prepared for her review and Sibeto refused to change one word.

Fact:  The day she received the draft Separation Agreement, the former Superintendent/Board Secretary requested that the language relating to her health benefits be changed to include her spouse.  Her requested change was quickly made and sent to her.  Regarding another change to the Separation Agreement, the former Superintendent/Board Secretary’s legal counsel requested that a “no admission of wrongdoing” clause be added to the Separation Agreement.  That request was denied inasmuch as a core issue contained in the Separation Agreement was a description of the former Superintendent/Board Secretary’s errant conduct and the penalties associated with the same.  The former Superintendent/Board Secretary was assured that any mention of discipline could be redacted and shielded from public view as Pennsylvania law regards employee discipline records to be confidential.   (Note: in light of the former Superintendent/Board Secretary’s recent public disclosure of her discipline, it is likely that she has waived her right to claim that her disciplinary record related to her separation remains confidential.)

22.  Rumor:  All the former Superintendent/Board Secretary did was to express her opinion/concerns.

Fact:  The former Superintendent/Board Secretary does not mention her highly emotional and angry opposition to learning of a Board decision that she disagreed with. Her expressed opposition to a plan of action by the School Board was not temperate, proportional or appropriate.  She lost her temper in a circumstance where she did not have the authority to challenge a reasonable plan of action related to personnel decided by her superiors.

23.  Rumor:  According to the former Superintendent/Board Secretary, the District is not an equal employment opportunity employer as per Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Guidelines (EEOC).

Fact:  The former Superintendent/Board Secretary is interpreting federal employment law incorrectly. No EEOC regulations were violated by the District.  Headhunting is not an EEOC violation. No identified victims of discrimination can be made in the circumstances of the District choosing headhunting as an initial effort to fill multiple vacancies.

1The Board of School Directors will not engage in a back and forth exchange with its critics regarding the rumors addressed in this statement.  If new inaccurate and consequential rumors are circulated, the School Board reserves the right to factually respond to the same.

All references to the former Superintendent/Board Secretary are in response to a Facebook post that conveyed alleged facts that needed contextualized and/or corrected.

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