After claiming that school board member Sherri Story harassed principals at two of the town’s schools and penetrated others without proper administrative escort over the past week, Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent Dr John B. Gordon III, requested a mediation session between the two.
At the September 9 board meeting, Gordon asked Board Chair Dr. Judith Brooks-Buck to be a witness and possible mediator during the session, and she suggested that counsel for the board, Wendell Waller, is also part of the mediation.
Story declined to comment on the situation after the meeting.
Gordon said he was concerned about what he described as a continued violation of standards and protocols by Story.
“This week we have issues where I had two directors who were deliberately targeted by Ms. Story for issues involving their leadership,” Gordon said. “We also had Ms. Story violating standards and protocols by visiting a school and not walking around the school with the administration, having issues with a teacher and just other things that we need to. really talk. “
For almost two years, he said, “it seems like it’s been this constant conflict of what needs to happen in Suffolk public schools, and I’m pretty much at the point where we’re on the defensive at About everything that’s going on. “
Gordon wants the meeting with Story and Brooks-Buck to “resolve some of these issues,” but said he feared for himself and the other directors that there was “some level of retaliation.”
Gordon requested that a meeting be arranged as soon as possible with Story and Brooks-Buck “to resolve some of these issues.”
“For me, it’s really about respect, collaboration and teamwork,” said Gordon. “So I want to put this on the record. We can have a chat offline Ms. Story, Dr. Buck, just set a date. But I need this to end today.
Brooks-Buck said the board was briefed on COVID-19 protocols last month that except in the lobby or reception of a school there should be no visitors to schools without one of the administrators from that school – a principal, deputy principal or their designate – escort that person inside the building.
“If anyone, be it a board member, a public citizen, anyone – we have COVID protocols – walks into a school building, the principal is in charge of the school building,” Brooks-Buck said. “If you are not escorted by an administrator, manager or deputy manager, or the person designated by the manager elsewhere in the building, you will be escorted by security out of the building. School board member, or anyone else, these protocols are valid for anyone.
Brooks-Buck said board members have been trained in their roles and should understand and know what it is. She said she had no problem with the reunion, but that Waller should be there.
“I want our administrators and staff to understand that this is not about going into buildings and trying to tell teachers, administrators or anyone else what to do or how to do their job,” said Brooks-Buck said. “I can’t be clearer than that to anyone on this advice. And we should know better. … We have been trained, we know what we are supposed to do, we are adults and we have to behave in a way that exemplifies what we were trained to do as school board members.
Although Story was on the board that chose Gordon to become superintendent in October 2019, their relationship deteriorated from there.
Story has sued the other board members twice over issues related to the Freedom of Information Act. The board is appealing a decision of the Suffolk Circuit Court in July 2020 which said it violated the provisions of the law – it appealed the decision to the State Supreme Court – and has settled another FOIA-related matter. Gordon testified in defense of the other board members in the first case.
On July 23, 2020, Gordon filed a hostile work environment complaint against Story, and on December 8, 2020, an investigation found Gordon’s claims credible, although there was insufficient evidence to substantiate a “legally prosecutable” case based on race. However, because she had publicly disclosed that Gordon had filed the complaint, it “created (d) at least a risk of actionable retaliation”.
And at 9:30 a.m. on September 14, another FOIA case involving Deborah Wahlstrom, a friend of Story and a former board candidate, will be heard by Suffolk Circuit Court. Wahlstrom accused Gordon, Brooks-Buck and other board members of breaking the law by denying him access to a public meeting.