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EDITORIAL: Brewer’s reinstatement comes with an inconvenient truth

Everyone can find their own truth in the School Board’s decision to offer John Brewer reinstatement as principal at Dominion High School.

Supporters will applaud the reinstatement of their principal, even as he was placed on probation and required to undergo training for handling issues ranging from inappropriate relationships between students and staff to matters relating to religion in public schools.

Detractors will continue to express their outrage over a culture at the school that tolerated inappropriate conduct and language with students by a former band director, conduct that was forgiven by a principal who recommended the band director for a teaching job in another school district where misconduct with students was repeated.

Loudoun County Public School gets what is required, too -- which is off the hook.

We are, however, left to consider how Superintendent Eric Williams deals with the decision of the School Board to reject his recommendation to dismiss Principal Brewer. The implications of the School Board’s rejection of the superintendent’s recommendation raises concerns about the handling of complicated relationships and roles in our schools, as well as the capabilities of principals and administrators to deal with them.

For three months, debate revolved around a principal. It should have focused around the welfare of all students. Perhaps the School Board’s decision to reinstate-and-retrain Principal Brewer will return the conversation to where it belongs. The terms of Brewer’s probation seem intended to do just that.

“What if it was your child?” some parents asked, mostly anonymously, fearing repercussions against children who are students. The question was overwhelmed by demonstrative support for the charismatic principal and the unifying agenda he cultivated in the Dominion community over 13 years at the high school.

Certainty becomes irrational when a problem is denied because it is not a problem for someone personally. The Dominion community may get its beloved principal back, but is still left to consider an inconvenient truth: Something was wrong at Dominion, and it was knowingly passed on to another school.

“What if it was your child?” remains a troubling question, one that looms in the county’s public school district, as it does in school districts elsewhere.

The practice of “passing the trash” -- recommending a teacher who has engaged in inappropriate behavior with students -- is nothing less than a dishonest, immoral and unethical practice that should not be tolerated. The problem is particularly acute in Virginia, which received a grade of “D” in USA Today’s national scorecard of states dealing with the issue.

There is something for everyone in the School Board’s even-handed decision to offer Brewer reinstatement by placing him on probation and ordering him to undergo training in the sensitive issues that confront schools in today’s society.

While the decision does not resolve an inconvenient truth, our hope is that it serves as a lesson for all who participate in our system of public education. In that, there is a measure of redemption.

Comments


The fact is that a hearing officer vindicated Dr. John Brewer.  The problem here is that Dr. Eric Williams has a history of passing the trash and knowingly doing so.


AnnaB would you please share with us the hearing officers report? Has it been published somewhere?

I’d imagine it’s something LCPS would not release. Dr Brewer’s good name could be restored if the public saw the report you claim to know about.

Charles III


Sterling Parent, I wouldn’t read too much into the added training.  Those we’re add-ons to appease the masses when the board decided to give both sides what they wanted in their decision. Any way you look at it, numerous people came out of this looking like clowns.  The fact that the school board chose not to uphold Williams’ recommendation screams to the fact that his inadequacies are becoming more and more prevalent. LCPS is in dire need of a cleansing from the top down.


There is another inconvenient question to ask: is someone who needs to take training on “issues ranging from inappropriate relationships between students and staff to matters relating to religion in public schools” qualified to be in charge of high school children? We all know that Dr. Brewer has the impressive ability to remember every Dominion student’s name; we love that about him. But now we find out he doesn’t remember the basics our tax dollars pay him to know and needs to be trained? Does he really not know these basics, or did he intentionally choose to defy them?

This is frightening to me either way.


A nice synopsis of how a personnel matter spiraled out of control and became a referendum on leadership in the school division.The mishandling of this matter at every turn needs to be seriously analyzed and evaluated. That would include the roles of the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Division Counsel in this debacle.The board not supporting the superintendent in this matter speaks volumes. AnnaB-let’s not get too caught up in semantics. They did not agree with him. The superintendent wanted to terminate his employment. Period. I think we can agree that terminating his continuing contract and offering him an annual contract is not what the superintendent had in mind. And finally, let’s not let the Florida school division off the hook in this matter. You have a teacher who left their previous school division mid year, but yet received positive letters of recommendation, and you just say"ok”. No HR person thought this didn’t add up? If there was ever a situation for “extreme vetting”, this would have been it. They are not blameless and they have to own that.


AnnaB, I’m rather familiar with state laws on what can be disclosed (see my Davison v VDOE case regarding SGP data I FOIA’d that is currently before the Virginia Supreme court.  In that case, we defeated a “personnel” exemption claimed by LCSB and VDOE)

It is simply false that LCSB cannot talk about their overall policies without releasing any personnel information.  Further, Brewer could waive his personnel exemption under 2.2-3705.1(1) and LCPS would be forced to release information related to him to anybody who issued a FOIA.  This is one reason I believe the charges were quite serious.  If Brewer had nothing to hide, why didn’t he waive this exemption?

I agree it would be helpful for the General Assembly to require disclosure of aggregate stats on such “resignations”.  Currently, if the local school district doesn’t create such a “record”, then they can claim “no records exists” under FOIA.  They don’t have to create records.

But just because the state legislators should require more transparency doesn’t mean that our local school board couldn’t release more.  They simply refuse.  In the infamous words of Wayde Byard when chief of staff Michael Richards asked him why doesn’t LCPS release more info to the public, Byard said “because we don’t have to”.  That pretty sums up the view of Byard, LCPS and especially the school board.


VirginiaSGP - Some of the regulations about what can and cannot be made public is at a state level, not a local level. It seems like the pressure should be on the state legislature to expand transparency and accessibility. Even if they wanted to - and they quite probably don’t - the LCSB cannot make public anything that relates to employment, or to students. Florida does not have the same restrictions, obviously.


So not only is this editorial full of some very basic grammar problems, but there are factual issues also. For one thing, the Board did not disregard Williams. They agreed with him and terminated Brewer’s contract. Interestingly, this was against the recommendation of the Independent Hearing Officer. (Make note of that: the person who reviewed the case, and who had no axe to grind, did not agree with Williams, and ultimately the Board, about Brewer and his culpability in any of this.) Then the Board did a neat little side-step and offered Brewer the conditional, probationary contract.


“training for ... matters relating to religion in public schools”. Did I miss something? What does religion have to do with this? I couldn’t find anything online to suggest this had to do with religion.


Nothing against a measure of redemption.  And the admonishment to discuss these serious issues is apropos.

But the question remains… when, if ever, does the school board openly discuss such policies?  They don’t.  The school board dealt with this in a political way by splitting the proverbial baby.  They will not follow up with public engagement on what the policy should be.  They will not state what their actual policies are.

Instead, they will sit in silence and hope the issue goes away.  Rarely have I witnessed such “leaders” ill-equipped to lead anyone or anything.

Maybe the school board members can take a visit to the LCSO.  When controversial police shootings occurred in other states (not here, mind you), Sheriff Chapman’s office created a video depicting what drivers should do when stopped.  They participated in public panels discussing the issue and how to prevent such tragedies.  You will NEVER see such public discussion from the school even though LCPS records clearly show a serial pattern of teachers abusing kids.

Think about that when you go to the polls in 2019.

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