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MORE: Hundreds pack into Loudoun School Board meeting, most to support Dominion principal on leave

Times-Mirror/Alex Erkiletian


The Loudoun County School Board meeting room was bursting at the seams Tuesday night.

Close to 150 speakers came to speak on behalf of their beloved Dominion High School principal John Brewer who suddenly went on leave over a month ago following accusations of sexual misconduct against a former band director Brian Damron.

But several hundred parents, students and teachers left the School Board meeting with questions unanswered as to whether Brewer would go back to work.

Damron had served as Dominion’s band director from fall 2012 till January 2015. He later resigned from a position in a Florida school system Nov. 1 after an internal investigation substantiated claims that he allegedly made sexual advances toward a student, among other inappropriate behavior. Brewer, it turned out, had written a letter of recommendation for Damron after his leave from Dominion.

Leading up to Tuesday’s meeting, many in the community had thought the School Board would vote on Brewer’s termination, which was recommended by Superintendent Dr. Eric Williams, according to School Board member Debbie Rose.

Loudoun School Board member Debbie Rose says Dr. John Brewer has been recommended for termination by Loudoun Superintendent Eric Williams. Screenshot/Facebook/Support Dr. Brewer


But after more than three hours of public comment from hundreds of parents, current Dominion students and alumni who gave first hand accounts of why they supported Brewer, the School Board said nothing of the Dominion principal’s employment status.

Shelly Fabian, a Dominion band mother of 10 years, whose two daughters had Damron as a band director, urged the board to not fire Brewer, but change its policies instead.

“[Brewer’s] job requires him to obey employment laws. As to what you can and can’t do in given situations,” Fabian said. “LCPS policies limit what he can and cannot do in situations like these. Dr. Brewer’s accomplishments at Dominion show that he is an excellent principal. doing his job should not cost him his job.”

Dominion parent Lisa Toohey said Superintendent Williams was the one to blame for allowing Damron to resign instead of firing him, thus allowing the school system to “pass the trash” and let Damron move onto to work at a school in Florida.

“After embarrassment by the media … Superintendent Williams now decides to take action against the principal,” Toohey said. “Where’s the transparency in LCPS’ policy and actions? We as a community have learned nothing of this situation from the media, firing Dr. Brewer serves no purpose other than to make Superindent Williams look like he did something.”

Although many parents believe Brewer’s employment at LCPS has been terminated, the Times-Mirror and the public have repeatedly asked LCPS for answers about Brewer’s sudden departure. The public school system has refused to tell the public the reason for his Dec. 3 departure.

Brewer is mostly beloved by the Dominion community, which has rallied to his defense despite the troubling scenario surrounding his leave.

“I was curious if you guys knew that Dominion High School’s in the top 20 high schools in Virginia and in the top 500 in the United States?” Dominion High Senior Anika Maan told the School Board. “Our secret is our principal, Dr. John Brewer, our teacher that teaches us compassion and inclusivity, our principal who knows every single student by first name, last name and sibling, our principal who makes sure that every single student at Dominion High School has a home.”

“Dr. Brewer is the soul of this school and we the parents, faculty and students want him back as our principal,” Dominion parent Armando Justo said.

Following public comment, Byard said Brewer's name will appear on a consent agenda if, or when, employment action is going to be taken by the School Board.

According to an investigative report by Duval County Public School Police in Florida, the former band Damron made statements about relationships with former Dominion students and having to leave the school after being he was accused of sexual harassment.

The Times-Mirror later reported that Brewer and Michael Pierson, LCPS music supervisor, wrote letters of recommendation for Damron to prospective employers after the school system reported an alleged incident of inappropriate behavior involving Damron to police in November 2014.

The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation into Damron in early December, but that investigation remains ongoing and charges have yet to be made.

On Dec. 8, LCPS released a statement about its previous knowledge of allegations against Damron.

According to LCPS, the school division reported an “alleged incident” Damron to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office in 2014. The investigation didn’t go forward because the incident happened in another county, according to a statement made by LCPS. The school division will not give the public details about the nature of the “alleged incident.”

Related coverage:

-Former LCPS band director accused of making sexual advances toward students
-Dominion principal goes on leave after allegations against former teacher go public
-Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office opens investigation into former Dominion High School band director
-LCPS reported allegations against former Dominion teacher to police in 2014
-LCPS officials recommended Dominion teacher for new job after ‘alleged incident’
-Dominion parents, students stand up for Principal Brewer to LCPS leaders
-Dominion High School community plans protest, show of solidarity for principal

Times-Mirror/Alexander Erkiletian





Comments


AnnaB—
Thumbs-Up


Is it true that Michael Pierson the band supervisor who penned the “other LOR” is taking early retirement effective in February? This was mentioned last night but I have not seen it published anywhere.


Buff, I do not think your facts are entirely correct. But, there is a lack of transparency here, so we all understand that we are trying to piece the story together as best we can.

—Fact#1:  There were multiple complaints filed against Damron here in Loudoun—
Yes, several students and parents complained to the principal about the teacher’s inappropriate language. I know from my kids who were in the band program that Dr. Brewer investigated the complaints. At the very least, he sat in on classes, and he spoke to student leadership about how things were going.

—Fact#2:  The matter was referred to the LCSO—
Yes and No. The LCSO was alerted that the teacher in question had a former student, over the age of 18 but under the age of 21, at an event in the Tidewater area, where that young adult was in possession of alcohol. What was reported to the LCSO was not related to the sexually charged language that the teacher used in the classroom. (As far as I know.)

—Fact#3:  AFTER the matter was referred, Brewer wrote a letter that was at least a tacit endorsement of Damron—he could have declined to do so, but wrote it anyway—
Yes, and maybe. After the matter was referred to the LCSO and was told that it was not within their jurisdiction to do anything, Brewer signed the letter. I don’t know if he was allowed to refuse - the LCSB has not disclosed their policies and procedures for allowing someone to resign without prejudice.

—Fact#4:  The behavior at the heart of the matter was reportedly repeated in Florida, leading to his dismissal there and a similar legal investigation.—
No. Just like in VA, the teacher was allowed to resign. Except for a very vocal parent in Florida, we likely would never have heard another thing about him. The police department there said there was not enough to proceed with a case against the teacher.

I think the problem is a systemic one. If the school board proceeds with the termination of Dr. Brewer, I would describe that as scapegoating. It allows them to wash their hands of the problem and blame him, instead of fixing their policies and procedures so that there is a way to get a bad employee out without infringing on anybody’s rights.


No Cuse, I don’t agree that #s 1-3 are sufficient to make a case for poor enough judgment to warrant termination of a continuing contract.  Hindsight affords wonderful visibility, and with that I do believe the recommendation letter was likely a mistake.  I guess the feeling is that any level of negative feedback or the existence of any reportable event - regardless of the outcome - would preclude someone from doing a recommendation letter.  I just don’t think the world works that way, and I know that isn’t current LCPS policy.  If it should be, that’s fine - but to me that is insufficient basis for a termination now.


Dominion leadership chose to sign a glowing letter of recommendation for a teacher seeking a new job teaching other children despite the knowledge that this teacher:
- Was involved in underage drinking (which is reported to have resulted in him leaving Dominion with no-day notice
- Received multiple letters of complaint during his short stint prior to being walked out

The letter (s) of recommendation helped get the teacher a new job.

The teacher’s exact same behavior occurred in his new job in Florida. 

Dominion leadership chose the teacher over protecting future kids by signing that letter.

Do consequences not apply to Dominion leadership? 


It’s obvious Dr. Brewer is being made the scapegoat in this case. He should be reinstated, soonest, to his position as principal of Dominion High School, with the apologies of the school board.


Eric—You seem like a bright, decent guy, so let me just ask:  OK, rule out #4…aren’t 1-3 enough?  Complaints, LCSO, and then a letter…Brewer directly involved himself in an effort to place Damron elsewhere.  For me at least, that’s all I need to know.  There is exceedingly poor judgment, which can be excusable, but there is knowingly supporting the effort of a guy under a cloud to go to another location with a similar environment.  It might have been one thing if Damron was going to a job, oh I don’t know, at an insurance company or car dealership, but this was a letter to go to another school with hundreds of underage kids. 

Sorry, this was totally wrong and awful…and I think you know it.  Even if Damron was only suspected of inappropriate behavior, there is no way Brewer should have written a letter to go to another school.  To me, that is a firing offense.


Buffacuse3 - Damron still could have gotten the Duval County job, with our without Brewer’s letter of recommendation. And had he gotten the job, they would still be blaming Brewer. They (and you) should be holding the superintendent’s office accountable. They are the ones who chose not to terminate Damron and they are the ones who didn’t seek to revoke his teaching license.


I have read nothing but conjecture, visceral comments and zero published FACTS.  If the school board has a reason to announce they have recommended termination there has to be legal merit to it or Dr Brewer has legal recourse. Regardless of position you hold some one or the board will be in a legal battle costing the tax payers money.  I will hold judgement until Dr.Brewer breaks his silence ( most likely advice from council) or the facts come out.  Secondly. What the teachers are doing by locking all entrance doors other than the main entrance and making our young adults walk through a throng of teachers welcoming for the day in a long line. While blasting music and wearing B buttons is quite disconcerting as protest.  Are they protesting the children? My children feel very uneasy about this and don’t have context to understand the show of protest.  These are our educators putting our children in a tenuous position.  At best, just plain unprofessional.  I keep hearing from my kids that there is much discussion being discussed in the open that teachers plan on quitting if Dr Brewer is not back at the school.  That is their choice and they have the legal right to resign. I am guessing less than 1% will follow through.  Having this being discussed in front of our children is unprofessional, unbecoming of faculty and please get their names and help them out.  Everyone is replaceable in the work force. In my world ( The business world) where I hire and fire but most
importantly feel very strongly if I terminate an employee I have either failed communicating to them and helping them succeed or they just don’t get it.  With all this said, regardless of what happens the people affected the most are our Children.  Shame on the school board, the teachers that are involved and LCPS board.  Whether Dr. Brewer is indeed terminate or. Not , the LCPS looks like a bunch of junior league, over their head and have no idea how to put in place a crisis management strategy.  dr brewer may have to go for legal reason but there is no way forward for the board.  Their reputations as Authorataive leaders has been tarnished beyond reproach


Whether Dr. Brewer is reinstated or not, a bigger issue of how Dr. Williams and his administration have handled this issue needs to be addressed.  They have allowed this to spiral out of control.  Social media, print and television are full of speculation and accusations.  Even with the legal issues, this is PR 101 and anyone in a leadership position in an organization as large as LCPS should be able to handle this better.  This is one principal in one school.  What if they were dealing with a larger county wide crisis?  A school shooting?  Would there be any confidence in this administration and it’s ability to handle the situation?


Sorry Cuse, as to Fact 4 that is absolutely not true.  Yes the teacher had more than the average positive and negative feedback, but only one “complaint” that was ever referred to LCPS.


My point was that no charges being filed means no evidence of of criminal activity here in VA. Being a first class jerk is not a crime and the prison system if you honestly feel that insulting a student is equivalent to sexual abuse or even advances toward a student, that’s your right. In the real world where I operate an individual with a stellar track record and the numerous supporters Dr Brewer has doesn’t get the ax for writing a letter unless the person wielding the ax and has an ax to grind I.e. Looking for an excuse to end Dr Brewer’s employment with LCPS, and apparently his career. I’m sickened by the circus this has become and the ugliness people show because they need to be right at any costs.  What’s worse is that this is unfolding in my child’s freshman year at Dominion. As far as I’m concerned Eric Williams isn’t fit to serve in the office he holds. The drama in the clandestine way this has been handled and the absence of a valid reason for scapegoating Dr Brewer, and only Dr Brewer, are an embarrassment to Loudoun County and to me personally. It becomes more and more obvious that Supt. Williams has it in for Dr Brewer or he’s looking for a way to ” make this go away” by recommending Brewer’s termination. Neither falls into the category of doing the right thing. I pray that Dr Brewer comes out of smelling like a rose with an awesome job, whether that’s his current job or elsewhere. In closing, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.  Don’t be surprised when the ugliness you’ve brought to bear here comes to visit you sometime in the near future. The shame is on you.


Eric:

Fact#1:  There were multiple complaints filed against Damron here in Loudoun;

Fact#2:  The matter was referred to the LCSO;

Fact#3:  AFTER the matter was referred, Brewer wrote a letter that was at least a tacit endorsement of Damron—he could have declined to do so, but wrote it anyway;

Fact#4:  The behavior at the heart of the matter was reportedly repeated in Florida, leading to his dismissal there and a similar legal investigation.

I don’t need names, dates, specifics, or the salacious details—I know points 1-4.  None of this would be happening if Brewer had declined to write the letter—THAT is the issue. 


Professor, the Brewer letter can be found here:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5nQmOh4yk4MYUVnUERiQkdLWXc/view

There is a copy of the even more glowing Pierson recommendation somewhere, but I cannot find it right now.


Good grief, Former, I know we had a couple of people talk about how Brewer shows up at incoming freshmen’s homes during the summer, but the 2003 thing happening “under his watch” is ridiculous. From the article, which you referenced, but possibly did not read?: “Kraig Troxell, a spokesman for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, said an investigation was launched after one of the girls reported the incidents to authorities March 19. He said the alleged sexual conduct occurred in a private residence.” See those last four words?


Former, upon reading the archived article that you referenced, it does not seem that Dr. Brewer endorsed the former substitute teacher at all.
—“This is an excessively disappointing chapter in our school’s history because we’ve worked pretty hard to establish that we have a place full of adults who can be trusted,” said Dominion Principal W. John Brewer.—
The fact that the person had charismatic personality is not an endorsement. That particular employee crossed clear legal boundaries, his employment with LCPS was terminated, and he was charged with a crime.
Mr. Damron did NOT cross any legal boundaries, as far as I know. He was subject to multiple student and parent complaints as well as multiple student and parent compliments. So it was a lot murkier at the time than it is in hindsight. Dr. Brewer investigated the complaints, including speaking with student leaders. He did not ignore the situation, although I agree that those opposed to Damron were left unsatisfied and have obviously been vindicated - not least by the story that unfolded in Florida.
If there was not sufficient cause for termination of. Mr. Damron’s employment, that is a problem with the LCPS policies, and the responsibility for that should not fall on Dr. Brewer’s shoulders. If Dr. Brewer should be terminated because he signed a letter of recommendation, then I believe the ax should fall on Pierson also whose letter recommended him “without reservation”. My position is, though, that the only person who should have lost his job is Mr. Damron, and the school board needs to tighten their policies to prevent teachers like him from being free to resign without prejudice.


I’‘be observed that the terms “sexual advances”, “sexual abuse”, “sexual misconduct”, and “sexual language” are being used interchangeably here and they’re not the same thing. At all.  As far as I’ve heard from a Titan mom whose son is a serious musician who studied under this band director, the guy is a first class jerk who talked a bunch of inappropriate trash. Not in any way the same as sexual abuse of a child. Not defending him but pointing out that one is a serious crime that disgusts even other criminals and the latter is not a crime.

And as far as Dr Brewer writing a glowing letter of recommendation, where’s the copy of this letter everyone is citing?  I’d like to determine for myself whether the letter was a glowing recommendation or a letter verifying he worked at Dominion. (Yes I am an HR expert, thank you very much.)

So this guy who’s a big jerk bus wasn’t fired by the LCPS Superintendent at that time took a job in Florida from which he recently resigned. Meanwhile back here in Virginia our principal’s career is close to if not in ruins because he wrote a letter?  Really?

Where was all of the outrage and righteous indignation while Damron was still the Dominion?  It’s Dr Brewer who’s owed an apology and as for everyone who’s taken to the soapbox on this matter, I’d advise you to think about what you’re writing before you hit the submit button. You’re making our the people in our state and county look like irrational, uneducated rubes to any outsider following this story.


Eric - Providing recommendations is only one of the issues.  As principal, Dr. Brewer was responsible for the safety and security of the students. In 2003, Dr. Brewer either failed to recognize what was happening under his watch (incompetence) or failed to take action (negligence, and more likely.)  There were no repercussions, so history is repeating itself.


I believe Mr. Byard is incorrect in stating that his name will appear on the consent agenda if and when employment action is taken. In the rare occasion the consent agenda has a termination listed, it only gives a number, not the employee name. A protocol obviously designed to protect one’s privacy. So either he is incorrect, or he has announced a new policy.


Former - how inaccurate can you be?  This was a comment on how disappointing it was that the teacher had gotten in trouble!  Use the full quote - “The situation has been made more difficult because many students knew Hishmeh well, Brewer said. “He’s a young man with a lot of charisma and a graceful way around him, and he’s well liked,” Brewer said.

PFalls - he did garner more positive and negative feedback than many teachers, but there is no factual basis for the “13 pages” report at all.


Brian, I don’t need the LCPS to confirm or investigate anything I have first party knowledge to.  All of this happened in real life, and it has nothing (on a substantive basis) to do with why this is happening.


This is the second time Dr. Brewer endorsed a staff member who acted inappropriately.  In 2003/2004, he is quoted as saying “He’s a young man with a lot of charisma and a graceful way around him, and he’s well liked.”  This is in reference to a student teacher on the DHS staff.  The charismatic, graceful student teacher, in Dr. Brewer’s opinion, was convicted of plea-bargained charges of taking indecent liberties with a minor and contributing to the delinquencies of a minor, and he served time for those offenses. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/2004/03/28/improprieties-teacher-alleged/66f42c90-a0ef-4f41-8651-4f3afc515f92/?utm_term=.eb93251ce73c

The Washington Post: Improprieties Teacher Alleged, March 28, 2004

Let the School Board do its job.


It has been reported around 13 letters of complaint were sent to Dominion leadership during the teacher’s two-year stay with Dominion.  Reports state that at least one band Parent complained about sexual language.  Dominion leadership directed parents to deal with the teacher directly.  Call me crazy, but 13 letters of complaint in two years would raise some kind of red-flag.  You might want to look into that instead of redirecting.
It was reported that the teacher left Dominion with a no-day notice.  He resigned, but everyone knows that is resign or be fired.
How do you sign a glowing letter of recommendation for an employee that is seeking employment to work with children again? 
Why would you want this behavior and unknown facts hanging over your school leadership, and the poor students trying to experience High School?  What does it tell the kids?  How can you effectively lead, by throwing out “privacy” to all those trying to get the answers, facts and truth?  I believe accountability / consequences for your actions apply to all, and not just the students.


“Cuse, you just don’t know the facts, “

None of us do because the incident(s) are all veiled in secrecy.  That is the heart of the problem.


Cuse, you just don’t know the facts, and the fact is that the teacher had not been the subject of any allegations related to inappropriate sexual conduct.  If I’m wrong about that, some facts please.


Oops, wrong article (cookie issue).  This was meant for the Anita’s restaurant/tip article.


I take offense to the speaker who attributed the fact that Dominion High School has never had a suicide because of Dr. Brewer’s leadership.

Dominion has never had a suicide because they are fortunate. As a public servant who has had to deal with these issues, unfortunately no school in our country is immune from this terrible issue, and no one person can be responsible for preventing these tragic events.

I know the speaker meant no harm by their statement and were there to support Dr. Brewer, but the comment seemed like a slap in the face to the unfortunate School staff at other schools that have had to deal with this terrible issue.


Buff - I agree that an open apology (from LCPS administration also, since Michael Pierson also recommended “without reservation” the teacher) would be great. BUT as you point out there are legal issues here, and everyone should listen to the advice of their lawyer. Everyone.
The only person who deserved to lose his job in this incident is the teacher. The fact that LCPS policies did not allow termination of the teacher should not be on Brewer’s shoulders.


Maybe another interesting question is why individuals of different races tip, on average, at different percentages.  See a Washington Post story from Jan 21, 2015 that talks about such racial differences in tipping.

So maybe the better question for this server is if all the customers were assigned by race to the various servers (whites to one server, blacks to one server, Hispanics to one, asians to one), which group of customers would he/she pick?


Here is what I haven’t heard yet:  “I am sorry.  I made a terrible mistake in writing a letter of recommendation for a person I knew was the subject of allegations related to inappropriate sexual conduct.  At odds with my years of service to the Loudoun County Public Schools, I acted in a bureaucratic manner in an attempt to get out of a difficult situation that put other children at risk.  I am deeply sorry for my conduct and ask for your forgiveness.”

Nope—Dr. Brewer, almost certainly being advised by a lawyer, is keeping his mouth shut.  Good legal strategy, bad if you want your job back.  Right now, this is wanting your cake and eating it too—at some point, there is no way he should come back without a public statement of regret and apology.  The fact that he can’t do so because of the possible criminal investigation should tell the Dominion folks all they need to know—LCPS CAN’T bring him back while he is under this cloud. 

BTW, if Dr. Brewer really cares about the Dominion community, he could ask everyone to stop the protesting and let the school move forward. The fact that he hasn’t done so tells me he is tacitly, or directly, encouraging the effort.  Again, if I were Dr. Williams, this is something I would consider.


While I understand that they like Dr. Brewer, I wonder how they would feel if the shoe were on the other foot.  Suppose a principal in some other state passed off a troubled teacher on Loudoun.  Would they be supportive of that principal?


Close to 200 spoke…there were at least 500 people there in support of Dr. Brewer.

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