District 205 releases Hardy, Sheffield letters—part two

To view a pdf of Dr. LaVonne Sheffield’s June 17, 2010, letter to Dr. Patrick Hardy titled “Re: Separation of Employment,” click here.

Dr. Patrick Hardy’s June 19, 2010, letter, titled “Rebuttal to Letter dated June 17, 2010 From Lavonne Sheffield,” is broken into the following three sections:

For pages 1-3 of Hardy’s letter, click here

For pages 4-6 of Hardy’s letter, click here

For pages 7-9 of Hardy’s letter, click here

Editor’s note: At 4:48 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 24 (the day before Thanksgiving), Rockford Public School District 205 released a June 17, 2010, letter by Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield to former Rockford Auburn High School Principal Dr. Patrick Hardy titled “Separation of Employment” and Hardy’s June 19, 2010, rebuttal letter.

What follows is the second part of Hardy’s rebuttal letter. The first part of his letter, along with Sheffield’s June 17, 2010, letter, were published in the Dec. 1-7 issue. The third part of Hardy’s letter will be published in the Dec. 15-21 issue. The letters are being published in three parts because of their length (Hardy’s letter alone is nine pages) and space constraints in the print edition.

The Rock River Times is presenting the letters in their original form as released by District 205 to ensure all statements and allegations are presented in the proper context. All grammatical and spelling errors appear in the letters supplied by the district.

In a media advisory released with the letters, District 205 stated: “Rockford Public Schools has no comment on Dr. Hardy’s letter, deeming its contents are unworthy of response. Dr. Hardy was appointed Chief Academic Officer for Rockford Public Schools on July 1, 2009, and transferred to Auburn six months later. Dr. Hardy resigned from the School District effective June 30, 2010.”

Following is the continuation of Hardy’s rebuttal letter:

Dr. Sheffield,

In 2009 you personally invited me to be a member of your cabinet in a meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn in Rockford. During that meeting I informed you that I was engaged in a process to establish a charter school in Rockford and would not want to abandon that effort. You explained that you would not ask me to remove myself from that effort and that we could figure a way to do both. After meetings with Steve Katz and others we determined that I could in fact do both with certain limitations. On the morning of the vote on the charter I received a call from a board member and ranking member of the education committee at that time. He stated that he was calling for two reasons. 1) To determine that I still intended to serve as the Chief Academic Officer. I said yes. 2) To inform me that he had checked and that there would be a unanimous vote in favor of my charter school that evening. To my surprise and dismay the charter school lost by a tie vote just hours after this phone call. After my comments to the media regarding our team’s extreme disappointment, I received calls from two board members explaining that it was Lavonne Sheffield who lobbied against the charter “while” negotiating with me. After coming on board as Chief Academic Officer Mark Bonne explained that he had assisted you in your effort to “kill the charter” by making calls to various members demanding their votes on your behalf. These were my first experiences with you. You stated in your phone call to me after the vote that you and the district had not “hustled me.” I realized at that very moment that I had in fact been “hustled” in the worse way as there was no reason for your comment and I considered it a slip. The phone call I received from the education committee member was simply dishonest and all the lies were unnecessary. Or maybe he did not know what you were doing behind the scenes. Later, you promised me and elected officials who supported the charter that you would make sure that the school was established by making it a “contact school” rather than a charter school. Of course this never came to fruition and no discussions ever held as it was apparently never your true intent.

While serving in your administration at the cabinet level I became increasingly uncomfortable and there were several reasons. I will only describe some of them here. First, I approached you and informed you that I was receiving anonymous letters from people encouraging me to leave your administration. These letters included articles about your alleged inappropriate use of funds as high level employee in another district and I gave you one of the letters. You responded by simply stating that you “paid the money back and took care of that.” I was disappointed and uncomfortable with your answer in that you could not affirm that you never misused funds in the first place but only that you paid it back,

My second reason involves the meetings I had to endure during which you questioned me repeatedly as to whether I was the one discussing your alleged excessive drinking during our Arizona visit to Evans Newton Incorporated. I reminded you more than once that I don’t drink socially and when I thought the level of alcohol consumption and behavior reached a point that made me uncomfortable I left the scene of the incident. I also reminded you that as an adult this was my right (to leave and not participate in excessive alcohol consumption) and I should not have to explain it. Yet, you continued to accuse me of discussing the issue publically. According to Mark Bonne, your subsequent isolation of me was because you and Caesar Mickens (Executive Director of Professional Development) also believed that had gone to the media with video and pictures. In addition, you also repeatedly accused me of isolating myself for the duration of that trip. You said this to me, cabinet members, and other employees. I explained to you and anyone who would listen that I did not isolate myself but rather chose not to participate in the many discussions that were occurring among the many Rockford Principals present on the trip and attendees from other districts regarding yours’ and our Principals’ drinking and behavior that night. I simply wanted no part of any of it. You maintained your view that I isolated myself by stating that I was not “sociable.” (This whole situation seemed childish and strange to me.) You continued to communicate this to cabinet members and others both during the trip and after. I further explained that I did not want to view the pictures and video that people had taken of you intoxicated on their blackberries during that evening’s events. These were not discussions I wanted to participate in so I simply stayed away. I informed you the next morning of the trip that people were saying they had pictures and video and you stated that you did not care and because you were just having a “good time.” During our meetings you explained that your behavior was ok and that your alleged inappropriate comments to one principal that you were “going to bite him” that night “and bite him hard” were simply misunderstood. I repeatedly explained that “I was not there” for the duration of the evening and that I was not spreading any information. You refused to acknowledge that many people who were there were discussing the incident and several of them possibly still had pictures and video because they were there the “entire time.” I was not. You continued to blame me that the information had leaked.

Another alleged incident of excessive drinking occurred during our trip to Chicago. I came to you and explained that during the trip Mark Bonne had told me and others that you had “drank too much” during a late dinner and had to be carried from your chair. I came to you to try to head off at the pass any allegation that I would be the one discussing anything and to remind you that I again was not there. As you know, I felt that all of the dinners during this event were too expensive for tax payer dollars and so I did not sign up for any of them. The only dinner I attended occurred our first evening there but only after you personally telephoned me and ordered me to come to the restaurant immediately and “rub elbows with the board members” and reminded me that I needed to be “more sociable.” So I again was not there during this alleged drinking incident but I did inquire after hearing about it to Colleen Cyrus who confirmed that you in fact consumed too much alcohol and had to be lifted from your chair. I had no reason to doubt Mrs. Cyrus because she had always interacted honorably with me. I was disappointed and quite frankly glad that I followed my instincts and did not sign up to attend if this were true. I was also disappointed by your statements to me and other cabinet members during our brief discussion in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel during the Chicago conference that the conference was “country” because it did not have any big name speakers/presenters and that you would not be attending anything else but you were rather going to Neiman Marcus to purchase a coat. Embarrassed that you would say this aloud with so many people around, I went back to the workshop that I was on break from. Other cabinet members followed your lead and shopped on Michigan Avenue and other venues instead of attending the conference and one even informed me that she had just finished getting “a pedicure” when she saw me coming from a workshop. A break to relax during a stressful conference is understood but I did not understand how people could be comfortable not attending all or most of the workshops that Rockford tax payers had paid for. After informing you of Mr. Bonne’s comments you simply blamed me for not doing more to stop him from discussing your actions. This, of course, is not my responsibility.

I guess “some” of these behaviors would have been ok if these were personal trips/vacations not utilizing tax payer dollars. But we were representing our city and our school district and spending tax payer funds so I chose to steer clear of anything that could be viewed as controversial. I make no apologies that this somehow made me be viewed as “unsociable” in your mind. I did not approve of the behaviors but kept it to myself. After the above actions and the increased isolation I felt as a result of my unwillingness to participate in actions that were uncomfortable for me, I looked for the first opportunity to leave your administration.

I volunteered to take on the position at Auburn High School and as the public now knows I recently received a call from another school district asking me to consider their high school principal’s position. I did not initially apply for the job… or any other position for that matter… but this opportunity found me. I approached my immediate RPS supervisor (May 5, 2010) to inquire as to my status with RPS. Mr. Earl Hernandez (Executive Director of Schools) explained to me that you were only going to allow me one year to “turn Auburn around” and stated that because of  “other dynamics beyond his control” he would strongly advise me to take the job and do what was best for my family. I knew exactly what he meant (the “dynamics” described above). He then reminded me that he was only a “middle man.” Initially, I appreciated his honesty though disappointed. He then spent several minutes explaining why he thought the Freeport position was an “ideal principal’s position.” He explained that he himself would take the job and advised me to do the same. Mr. Hernandez subsequently modified his statements after learning that I was now seriously considering the Freeport position and that my decision was in small part connected to his comments. I do understand why he modified his statements though as I had now put him on the spot (not my intent) and he might have to deal with you. Disappointed with what I heard from Mr. Hernandez, I immediately left his office (Wednesday May 5, 2010) and called the Freeport district, even though I had expressed my reluctance to them for several personal reasons, and asked if I could continue in their hiring process. It was at this point that I officially applied for the position. After learning of my decision you approached me in front of a crowd one day later at Giovanni’s restaurant (Thursday May 6, 2010) and asked me whether or not I was going to Freeport. I asked you if we had to have the discussion right there in front of everyone. As is your way, you ignored my request and continued with your comments explaining that I needed to “hurry-up” and make a decision. You then called me in my office at Auburn the next day (Friday May 7, 2010) with Earl Hernandez and Colleen Cyrus on conference call and threatened me stating that I needed to again make a decision immediately. I explained that the job had not been offered to me. You threatened to call the Freeport superintendent and “tell him” that he needed to hurry and make his decision. You went further and threatened me stating that the following week it would be “my decision or yours” and asked if I knew what that meant then the three of you ended the call. And yes I knew what that meant! I interpreted it as take the Freeport job or have no job at all because you were frustrated. The following Monday May 10, 2010 you called me again at my home and inquired again demanded that I make a decision. I again explained that the job had not been offered and feeling harassed by the constant calls. You again requested the Freeport superintendent’s phone number so that you could call him and force him to make a decision. During this conversation you forbade the Freeport interview team from doing an on-site visit at Auburn High School. You screamed about not “needing this right now.” You yelled that you did not want a Freeport interview team in “your building” for any site-visit. You continued your barrage by falsely accusing of applying for jobs in the state of Washington and other places and talking with board members. There was no basis for any of this! You stated firmly that I needed to make a decision because you were “concerned about my future aspirations.” This was the heart of it all in my view! During all of this you also briefly bellowed out “we want you at Auburn.” This entire conversation just seemed strange and disjointed to me and I could not figure it out. I told you I would stay and informed you and all Board members of my decision. We ended our call with me saying to you… “get some rest.” You responded by saying I’m just sitting in my chair having “another glass of wine.”

Subsequent to that decision to stay on board, I gave a great deal of thought to the entire school year’s events to date. I gave thought to the abuse I was now enduring from you and your threats and simply decided enough was enough. Was this the way I wanted to be treated for the foreseeable future? Could I continue to be complicit in the horrible way you treat others?  Could I continue to grow and learn in this environment? Was there any shred of truth to Mr. Hernandez’s original statements. What of any this or what would come the next school year would make me a better principal or better person? Thus, I rescinded my decision, continued in the process with Freeport and ultimately accepted the position.

I could also take several paragraphs to explain how you instructed Shantina Davenport to question me about my political views. During our March 5, 2010 meeting she sternly informed me that I was “too liberal on the political spectrum” and that I needed to make changes to be “more conservative politically.” This would help in my “continued employment in the school district.” Although she was not in the meeting for the entire time, Lori Hoadley (RPS’ Legal Counsel) entered later and I made sure to repeat what had been said to me in her presence so she could hear it as I saw several problems with the line of questioning and the legality of the questions and an employer directing my political views. Mrs. Hoadley did not say anything.

These events are other made me want out and are just some of the reasons that resulted in my decision to resign. None of this is intended to place judgment but rather explain my reasoning and my discomfort given your repeated false statements.

Editor’s note: For the conclusion of Hardy’s letter, read next week’s issue (Dec. 15-21).

From the Dec. 8-14, 2010 issue

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