School Board Approves Review of Existing Employee Complaint Procedures, Not Listening Tour

| May 17, 2018 | 0 Comments | Education

The majority of the Prince William County School Board voted against the listening tour, which Gainesville School Board member Alyson Satterwhite proposed that Superintendent Dr. Steven Walts embark on within school communities, at least one per magisterial district.

 Instead, the school board unanimously passed a motion that would require the division to review policies and regulations in regards to investigating employee complaints. The motion also requires that leadership consider using an outside means to conduct employee surveys. These surveys provide feedback to leadership on administrators, culture and climate at individual schools.

That substitute motion, offered by Chairman At-large Babur Latifee, was intended to take more “tangible” action to address what employees feel to be the most problematic areas in regards to personnel matters.

The substitute motion reads “that the Prince William County School Board authorize Division Counsel to work with the Office of Equity and Compliance, and outside counsel as needed, to benchmark and evaluate all policies, regulations, procedures and protocols regarding the reporting, investigation and resolution of complaints asserted against PWCS staff, employees and administrators, and further, that the School Board and Division Superintendent review past school climate surveys to determine if new, modified or independent surveys be utilized going forward in order to best assess concerns relating to school climates.” 

“I think putting things on paper is important,” said Lateef, who recommended using the tools the division has to proactively address existing issues without delay. He said he is willing to go on a listening tour across the county.

Satterwhite’s initial motions stated that “That the Prince William County School Board direct the Superintendent to host a listening tour of Prince William County Schools (PWCS) for a conversation with Superintendent on culture, climate and communication in PWCS, in the interest of open communication and in keeping with Goal 3 of the Strategic Plan (perhaps over the summer.)”

The original motion failed five to three. William Deutsch (Coles), Alyson Satterwhite (Gainesville), Gil Trenum (Brentsville) voted ‘yes.’ Babur Lateef (Chair), Lillie Jessie (Occoquan), Diane Raulston (Neabsco), Justin Wilk (Potomac), Loree Williams (Woodbridge) voted ‘no.’

Both motions were in response to an uproar by citizens, parents and teachers about how the school division responded to allegations of workplace bullying at a Haymarket middle school. Many felt division leadership dismissed employee and parent concerns and that division leadership is out of touch or uninterested in the concerns of their employees.

Those who voted in favor of the tour said it was necessary to rebuild trust in the community, which they believe had largely been eroded Deutsch said the broken trust was significant and community members were sharpening their “pitchforks.”

However, division counsel, Mary McGowan said sending the superintendent to community meetings would be “ill-advised” due to the likelihood of getting into conversations about confidential employee matters, which could lead to litigation.

Williams said the primary issue was not that community members are not being heard, but when employees provide complaints through proper channels, they are not receiving the desired results. Perhaps current means are flawed, and thus procedures need to be changed.  

The three supervisors who supported the other motion said they did not disagree with that the new motion, but they also emphasized that a listening tour by leadership was needed to repair trust. Deutsch proposed combining the two motions, but his proposal failed 3:5, along the same lines as the first motion.

Trenum said while there is much “good” in the new motion, he predicted citizens will see it as mired in the bureaucracy.

Williams said it is important that the school board not incite “panic” or fuel the fire of discontent, and that they remember that not everyone is dissatisfied.

© 2018, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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