District 205 releases Hardy, Sheffield letters—part three

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: Nov. 24, 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 third—and final—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 second part of Hardy’s letter was published in the Dec. 8-14 issue. The letters are being published in three parts because of their length 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.”

Both the Sheffield and Hardy letters are available in their entirety at the links above in this article.

Following is the conclusion of Hardy’s rebuttal letter:

Now to your letter dated June 17, 2010 that prompted this rebuttal. (These facts also played heavily into my decision)

In your letter you incorrectly state that on Monday May 11, 2010 you forbade Freeport from entering Auburn High School for a site visit. It was actually Monday May 10, 2010 but that’s just another small inaccuracy on your part. However, you falsely assert that I violated your directive by having the team meet at a restaurant rather than Auburn High School. Auburn High and a restaurant are two very different places and I was in full compliance. My actions were neither a contravention of your directive nor “towing the line” to disobey. I have every right to fully and aggressively pursue any job I want and the staff members who volunteered to meet with them in their off time had every right to do so. This off-campus meeting created absolutely no disruption to Auburn’s environment and I challenge you to specifically explain the incident that occurred as a result of a private meeting somewhere else. And how could it? Simply put… no one knew about it, it wasn’t in the building as you directed, Freeport staff members were extremely professional in their handling of the situation, and you admit in your letter that you only recently learned about it. Surely you are not asserting that you have the right to tell others that they can’t even come within city limits if you “so order it.” Your restriction of the on-site visit was simply a distasteful punitive measure and it was out of bounds as site-visits are common place. In fact, you enjoyed a site-visit from Rockford Public School officials as they considered you for your current role did you not? So your restriction from Auburn High School made no sense; but, I honored it nonetheless.

Your letter inaccurately states that I did not properly oversee a remediation plan of an employee by not taking on responsibility of evaluating the staff member myself. Unfortunately, you purposely omitted the fact that upon being assigned to Auburn I notified both Earl Hernandez (Executive Director of Schools) and Tracy Stevenson-Olson (Executive Director of Curriculum) that I had not been trained on the Danielson evaluation model. The current agreement between the Rockford School District and the Rockford Education Association is that a principal must be trained in the Danielson model in order to conduct an evaluation (if the individual school uses that model and Auburn does). In fact, Mrs. Stevenson-Olson was kind enough to spend a whole day with me during my second week at Auburn to provide me with a “private training.” After discussion though, Mr. Hernandez and I agreed early on that this training may not pass muster if those remediation plans can back unsatisfactory or if any other evaluation resulted in an unsatisfactory rating. The REA would immediately grieve my evaluations because it would be determined that I did not “officially” complete the training. We would be in violation of the agreement! I noticed that you failed to mention these facts in your letter. As a result, I was instructed to ensure that struggling teachers on my list of evaluations be re-assigned along with those on remediation. This one done in January 2010 as instructed long before the employee assigned one of the two plans went out on FMLA. I therefore, could not take on the remediation plans myself once the employee went on FMLA as I had not yet attended any Danielson training sessions for principals. More importantly, when the employee’s family tragedy occurred, our entire team met and I asked her if there were “any” items that were outstanding that we needed to take off her plate once she went on FMLA. A few items were mentioned (PSAE preparations in particular as the test was upon us) and were re-assigned. I was assured by her with my team present that with the exception of the items the staff member identified in that meeting, all other responsibilities would be covered as the individual would be working modified hours and not completely absent from work while on FMLA. The remediation plan was not one of the items that needed to be re-assigned and I assumed this to be an honest conversation. This meeting could have been verified by taking the time to ask the other assistants about it. I am totally unaware if the remediation plan was not completed since I was placed on paid leave prior to the end of the school year.

Your letter falsely asserts that I “placed myself on paid leave” as a result of my meeting with Mr. Lewis. You inaccurately state that the meeting took place on May 19, 2010; however, the meeting actually occurred on Thursday May 20, 2010 and I wish you would at least get the dates right! You state that I placed myself on leave “I determined” that I could not fulfill my responsibilities. Now this assertion just seems absurd in spite of it being totally false. First, I was totally unaware that an employee could walk in a supervisor’s office say “I cannot fulfill my duties” and then place him or herself on paid leave! Are you serious? Something entirely different should happen with an employee who makes such a statement. Are you actually admitting that district officials are so incompetent that they would pay an employee for a month after that person stated they he could not be “professional” and could not “fulfill his duties!” And I apparently did this without Board approval! I am just not sure where you come up with this stuff! The facts are that Mr. Lewis instructed me (on May 19) to be in his office on May 20th for a 15 minute meeting with him. When I arrived I immediately took note of the fact that the meeting was actually with Cedric Lewis, Shantina Davenport (Special Assistant to the CFO) and Earl Hernandez. Mr. Lewis was the only one that spoke on the district’s behalf. He began by immediately stating that they invited me there to offer me “an” option. He stated that the option was to be placed on paid leave for the remainder of the year. Shocked… I asked why? He first stated that the administration did not appreciate having to do “damage control” as a result of my resignation. He went on to state that I originally said I would stay and that my subsequent email to Board members did not state any reasons for my resignation thus leaving my decision “open to interpretation.” As a result district administrators were being asked questions. I reminded him that I had every right to change my mind and that the assertion of  “damage control” was not my problem. It did not seem strange that Board members might inquire about a resignation and I could not understand why responses to their inquiries might be seen as “damage control.” I also firmly stated to Mr. Lewis (who was keenly aware of the items mentioned throughout this letter… and some not mentioned) that an email was not the place to air my reasons and I told him that he knew that! He then stated that I should not have sent the letter to the Board and that I should have only communicated with the Superintendent. I conceded the point that maybe I could have just sent it to the superintendent because with the others in the room I could not remind Mr. Lewis of the serious trust issues I had. I simply attributed that assertion to an issue of  “control” that deserved no further response. “Control” is how the district is currently led. Mr. Lewis then changed the reason to the false accusation that I was taking all of Auburn’s assistant principals with me to Freeport. I responded, withholding laughter and anger, that this could be easily checked by simply asking the assistant principals or by simply checking to see if Freeport actually had “4 assistant principal positions” available for me to fill in the first place. I also reminded Earl Hernandez that I knew he had already spoken to one of the assistant principals who confirmed that he had applied for jobs long before my resignation. I then reminded all three of them that the district had recently fired all assistant principals and it was not my fault that people naturally began looking for jobs. So why was I being accused of this and placed on paid leave as a result? I learned later from the Board President in a phone call to me that the district had confirmed that the assistant principals did in fact already have applications out and that they confirmed that they were not “coming with me to Freeport.” He asked if I would be willing to sit down as discus things. I said yes but there must be an apology from the district. I knew that would never happen and of course never heard from him again. Finally, Mr. Lewis changed the reason again to a false accusation that I  “blew off” an upcoming meeting with an Evan’s Newton Consultant. His words were “blew off.” I again smiled in frustration and simply explained that two days prior the consultant reminded me of an upcoming meeting to plan for the next school year. I explained to Mr. Lewis that I felt obligated at that point to inform the consultant that I would not be the principal at Auburn next year and that I thought it would be inappropriate for me to plan the next year for the new principal. That level of planning should involve the new principal. I believed this was the right thing to do! I advised the consultant that I thought she should hold off and plan with the new principal yet to be named. She agreed. After I dispelled all the myths, which could have been easily verified with a little bit of effort, I asked Mr. Lewis directly “what’s te other option.” His response was “well Patrick we just don’t want any upheaval at Auburn.” So no other option was described to me. At no time was my professionalism discussed. At no time was I asked to finish the year “peacefully” as you assert. And at no time was I asked if I could fulfill my duties. These words were never used. However, I was forced to respond to several lies which I did on each and every point and for several minutes. Nonetheless, after sitting there and listening to this nonsense, I looked at Mr. Lewis and responded to his comment about “upheaval” and said “you know what… I will take the paid leave and will go and pack my office.” I was angry and frustrated and no one in that room could have understood the level of my frustration as a result of all that had happened to me to date. To my knowledge Mr. Lewis had no idea about the constant calls and threats from you about Freeport described above and thus could not understand my anger.

Your letter falsely asserts that I lied when I stated that all the assistant principals had taken the day off and there would be no one at Auburn. The facts are that the substitute administrator took the day to care for his wife. One assistant principal was out of building attending a “Title I” workshop and was observed there by other Rockford Principals. Another took a full sick day and one took a half day sick day for the afternoon. The last one as you well know was on FMLA working modified hours that I could not predict. So how did I lie? The fact is I was trying to do the right thing by informing district officials that there would be no one at Auburn if I was on paid leave. When those officials arrived that morning and noticed the one administrator who had taken “the afternoon” for illness they assumed I lied? One administrator! That administrator only stayed the whole day after learning that I was placed on paid leave. He rescinded his half sick day. Again, I ask how did I lie? There was one administrator there. Where were the others? Out for the various reasons mentioned! When you wrote these false accusations did you forget that the days could easily be verified in the SEMS system? Did you forget there is a paper trail? Worse, did you forget that the individuals who took the days could personally verify that they in fact were not at Auburn High School or planned to leave that day in the afternoon? At the time I made the statement to district officials my understanding was that I would have one assistant in the morning and would be alone in the afternoon running the entire school. This means no one would be there in the afternoon if I was on paid leave! Your assertion is no more than a lie that you did not properly investigate. The facts can be easily verified.

Your letter falsely asserts that I called a press conference and one pastor. This simply has no basis and is totally inaccurate. In fact, I called two pastors, not one, who are close confidants and advisors and explained what was happening to me and asked for prayer and counsel. Contrary to what you might think, it is my right my and “responsibility and duty” as a devout Christian to seek counsel. “In the multitude of counsel there is safety.” One of those pastors immediately met me at my home and stayed with me. A third pastor, Pastor Clarence Holeman called me due to the fact that his congregants (Auburn students and parents) were texting him varying accounts of the situation and he wanted to verify. He called me again later in the day and asked what I said to the staff upon my departure. I explained that I did not address the staff. He said he was continually receiving phone calls from his congregants and he asked if he were able to pull some community people together and even staff would I show up and talk with them. I agreed in part because of the false statements in the voicemails and message to parents already sent out by the school district. On my way to his church that evening he called me and left a voicemail that the media had arrived. He called back again (because I did not answer the first call to consult) and stated that he would just restrict them to the lobby and they would not be in the meeting. So I did not call a “press conference” as you state but I did attend a meeting with several people from the community at which the media “was present” and not at my request. It wasn’t until that evening that I had any interaction with the media so I have no idea why your office or anyone else was receiving call within 20 minutes… oh except for the fact that many of the over 1,300 students and nearly 150 staff members were texting and calling their pastors and others. But I know you are content that calls to the media had to come from me. This is a faulty assumption. Neither you nor your team can personally verify that I called the media this you should have never asserted this false claim. Again, you make such an assertion based on no facts and you could have obtained those facts with a simple phone call to that pastor or anyone else who attended. They could have easily explained that there was no “press conference.” Pastor Holeman even requested a meeting immediately to clarify after people referred to the meeting as a press conference but you have refused to meet with him to date. Even your use of the term “press conference” is appalling and speaks of something deeply wrong on your part. A principal calls a press conference to announce his resignation and that he is resigning at his own will. What would be the point??!

Your letter falsely states that I was not preparing the staff for the upcoming year yet you mention no specifics. This just indicates that the statement has no basis in truth and the staff, my immediate supervisor, and the administrative team can verify our efforts and preparation. So I will not further respond to this accusation.

Finally, you state that my behavior has been disappointing; however; the disappointment is mine in you. I returned to the Rockford Public Schools in small part as a point of personal pride because I would have an opportunity to work for and be mentored by my first African American superintendent. I was sorely mistaken and “I was disappointed.” I can think of several reasons why you would forward a letter filled with lies one month after a situation and state that this is your style. You bully people and mow people down. You are overly aggressively and discourteous but try to vail it as being “forthright.” You lie and you must absolutely have the last word… even if it’s not true. Many in this community have learned that it’s your way or no way! And you do not know how to treat people with a sense of honor and decency. Your efforts to restrict me from obtaining future employment in Rockford only hurt you. This attempt only demonstrates your vindictiveness and speaks to your baseless concerns “about my future aspirations.” Your letter only demonstrates that you were and are still grasping for straws. And in this case it’s simply because I changed my mind which put you in an uncomfortable position having to replace a third high school principal. Your actions reek of both slander and harassment as well as an attempt to punish those who don’t do what you say. Mr. Lewis has become surprisingly complicit in this as he continues to distort the truth and discuss personnel matters with members of the community that he is recruiting to his Masonic order. This fact can be verified easily as well. This is a clear violation of standard protocol regarding discussing personnel matters. I simply could not work in the environment you created for me. It began with deceit and ended with lies. I determined that I have made enough mistakes on my own both professionally and personally and would not fall because I was simply associated with the mistakes of others. I am not perfect but I would have done a disservice to myself and my family to remain under your supervision. You have forgotten that how you treat people still matters. Treating people with decency still matters! But in the end, I don’t have to fear you because I serve a God that is bigger than you.All things work together for good to them that love God and who are the called according to his purpose.” All means all… including what you have done and are doing. Know that I forgive you and your staff for what you have done. I forgive you not only because I bound to do so but also because I refuse to give you the pleasure of allowing this to weigh on me as I enter a new phase of my life. It will all work together for my good (and it already is!) and you didn’t break me or stop me or ruin me! I will continue to pray for you and for your administration.

To the Board of Education: This extended letter is not intended to focus on the alleged behaviors of the superintendent or to embarrass the school district. Rather, I felt obligated given the superintendent’s letter and continued inaccurate statements to provide a complete context for my decisions as well as a complete and thorough response to her false accusations. The following points summarize serious flaws in procedure:

1. The dates in the letter are inaccurate.

2. The facts behind the accusations were not properly investigated and are easily verified.

3. I was never informed of the accusations and granted an opportunity to respond prior to her writing this letter. This is a violation of standard protocol. I simply received a mailed letter which included a statement that it would be placed in my file and that without any discussion.

Given that the superintendent’s letter is filled with serious inaccuracies that could have been easily confirmed coupled with this superintendent’s behavior, I am humbly requesting…

1) that the letter be removed from my file immediately and we consider the matter closed

2) an immediate retraction of voicemails and communications to parents

3) an apology is also in order although I know #s 2 and 3 may never happen.

4) my letter of rebuttal should be placed in my file as a record of my response and as a record of this superintendent’s actions.

Thank you and I look forward to your response.

Patrick Hardy

From the Dec. 15-21, 2010 issue

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