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EDITORIAL: Loudoun school system’s protectionism must end; Wayde Byard should step down

There is a secret at Dominion High School.

A popular band director left the high school after the school system reported the secret to police. Two administrators, including Dominion Principal John Brewer, then wrote letters of recommendation to help the band director get a job at another school.

As with most secrets, things went terribly wrong. The band director stepped down from his position at a Florida school after an investigation by school police substantiated claims that he made sexual advances toward a student. The report lead to allegations of sexual misconduct with students when he was at Dominion.

Last week, Brewer, a former principal of the year in the school district, abruptly went on leave. The school district won’t address the reason, but parents, students, teachers and citizens throughout the county want to know why.

“Our community was and still is shocked about the abrupt manner in which we were informed of Dr. Brewer’s leave from our school,” said Anna Curran, one of many Dominion parents who came to a Dec. 13 School Board meeting to support their principal.“We ask the LCPS administration to quell the rumors … We ask you to address the students, community and staff as quickly as possible. Transparency is paramount.”

Transparency is paramount. Troubling questions are being asked around Loudoun County:

Why did Principal Brewer take a leave?

How could the school system keep a secret that was so harmful, so hurtful, so damaging to the school?

How could an institution entrusted with the education of our children harbor such a secret?

How could it pass it along to another school and on to other students?

How many allegations of sexual misconduct are there in the school district?

What did school administrators know and when did they know it?

How could this happen here?

Byard, the school district’s public information officer, cites personnel and privacy protections as reasons for the administration’s silence -- issues that government entities throughout the U.S. have been able to reconcile as they address similar situations.

We don’t know all the circumstances regarding the allegations of sexual misconduct against the former band director at Dominion. Without comment or explanation from Loudoun County Schools Superintendent Eric Williams or from Byard, we are left to piece together a troubling story.

Our investigation has been informed by interviewing sources and verifying facts. It has involved Freedom of Information Act filings. It has required cooperation with school authorities and newspaper reporters in Florida, people who take a more honest approach to exposing secrets than the administrators of our school district.

The Dominion story currently leads to the unsavory business of identifying a scapegoat. Principal Brewer is the presumed target. Formal complaints alleging sexual harassment against teachers should be filed with a school's principal, according to Loudoun County Public Schools' policy.

But the problems in our school district run deeper. They suggest a policy of institutional protectionism that reminds us of the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University in 2011. The president of Penn State and legendary football coach Joe Paterno were forced to resign for looking the other way when an assistant coach was accused of molesting boys in university locker rooms. An investigation imposed heavy sanctions on Penn State for its lack of institutional oversight. Penn State loyalists rallied around Paterno.

We appreciate the challenges of running a $1 billion district with 89 schools, 79,000 students and nearly 11,000 teachers. But we are also mindful of problems known to educators, students and parents -- problems that warrant the honest and open examination of a public institution. Sexual misconduct by teachers against students in our schools simply can’t be tolerated. Or swept away with silence.

Accordingly, we call for an independent investigation into the administration of Loudoun County Public Schools to determine whether administrators had knowledge of the allegations at Dominion High School, as well as other incidents in the past. Such an investigation should go beyond the one being conducted by the county’s Sheriff’s Office into reported incidents at Dominion involving the band director.

We don’t know where the Dominion story leads. But we do know that we’ve been here before. Mr. Byard has, over years, deflected responsibility by the school district on a range of issues. He consistently refuses to address or to comment on most any situation that casts the school district in a bad light. He skewers reporters who report on problems. He attacks the credibility of parents and students who express grievances with the district.

As we said, we’ve been here before with Byard. In 2010, the Times-Mirror sought a more honest and open relationship with the school district. “To put it bluntly, we’re fed up with the treatment that we and our readers are getting from the school administration, led by its increasingly recalcitrant and pugnacious gatekeeper, Wayde Byard,” wrote the then-editor of the Times-Mirror.

The newspaper’s editorial called Byard a school bully of a different kind, “the troubadour for a school system that has increasingly become … a close-minded oligarchy of petty intimidation, nettlesome orthodoxy and a grating noblesse oblige.”

We reminded Byard of those words recently. Now they come back to us again.

Among the many comments on our stories about the alleged incidents at Dominion High was this one from a reader: “There should be a lot of people at LCPS that lose their jobs for this. We must end the protectionism that envelops the school district and start taking real action against these enablers. Drain THIS swamp!”

We are inclined to agree. Byard should step down. His singular protectionism of the school district, cultivated over 16 years with the district, undermines his responsibility to the truth. The school district would be served by a more enlightened approach to public information in tricky times.

Responsibility leads to the top. Superintendent Williams has led the school district for two years with deafening silence. He should be held accountable for any policies or practices that serve to hide problems in our schools. He should champion openness in the public institution of education, even if that means disclosing problems.

Secrets feed on silence. The sexual misconduct allegations at Dominion High School can only be remedied by full disclosure.

Comments


Folks, let’s compare a STEM major vs a humanities major.

STEM major:
  - Multiple anecdotes indicate Education majors who return to Loudoun for teaching positions can’t get an interview with LCPS even though LCPS supposedly recruits native Loudouners

  - LCPS admits 3x as many teachers transfer from Fairfax into LCPS as the other way

  - LCPS used a single recruiter, a practice new board member and HR professional DeKenipp called shocking.  LCPS fails to conduct any conduct recruiting sessions for experienced teachers outside the Loudoun area

  - In response to a FOIA request (when LCPS still answered his FOIA requests), LCPS noted that it didn’t track the majors of its teaching candidates and had conducted ZERO career switcher fairs in the last 5 years.

  - Despite hiring multiple times as many new teachers as surrounding districts, LCPS has no teacher shortage to speak of.

STEM major rationally concludes that LCPS is flooded with applicants.

——-

Humanities major:

  - Fails to even think about issuing a FOIA request for information on teacher applicants (doesn’t actually want the data public since it would crush the rationale for higher salaries)

  - Fails to criticize LCPS for not providing the data.

  - Thinks it is perfectly acceptable to make arguments without any facts whatsoever but criticize anyone else whose argument isn’t meticulously documented with peer-reviewed research

  - Doesn’t see any issue with LCPS asking for teacher raises without having any proof the market conditions require such raises.

  - Calls for “fact based decisions” in other forums while apparently not understanding why facts should be used by LCPS in its decisions

  - Actually criticizes those who make rational decisions when LCPS refuses to provide the hard data that could settle the dispute

Humanities major issues more logical fallacies in a single online post than would cause a STEM major to fail out of an engineering program.

And that, boys and girls, is why you need to go get a STEM degree from college and not rely on the highly inflated transcripts from LCPS and their “great” humanities teachers like Callme.


Thank you Ron Speakman.  However, I’m not sure many share your opinion, especially the teachers union.

We have some great teachers.  Yet, these great teachers (like teacher of the year John Tuck) must wait years before being paid commensurate with their skills.  Many of our best switch careers or positions so their efforts can be justly rewarded.  And they fill in our students’ learning gaps created by more “senior” teachers who are effectively retired-in-place.

Hopefully, our great teachers will get the support (and credit) they deserve early in their careers.  For those teachers whose calling lies elsewhere, we shouldn’t be afraid to help them find the right career for them.  It’s only our kids’ future at stake.


HopefulMom.  I am still unsure what you are implying that dominion did wrong?  Are you issues with that school or somewhere else or LCPS overall?


So, SGP?  You don’t have numbers to back up your many claims that there is a huge supply of teacher candidates for LCPS?  I ask because of the many articles about a nationwide shortage of teachers.  If you have competing facts, let’s see them.  If not, then your speculation does little to support your position that LCPS is evil and run by crooks


Virginia SGP,
Well informed comment. I hope you decide to run for the school board. We need people who are committed to make change. It appears you have a good understanding of the issues. As to all others who post remarks regardless of your position on issues, I appreciate your comments.


That’s an interesting question, isn’t it Callme.

I have spoken with relatives of many recent Ed school graduates who said they applied and couldn’t even get an interview with an LCPS principal for a position.  While LCPS sometimes claims there are shortages of candidates for certain positions (SpEd), they have never contended there is a shortage of candidates overall.

Why don’t you FOIA that info?  Byard will tell you they don’t currently compile it so go pound sound.  He will try to apply rules to my FOIA requests that result in unequal protection (that will be another federal lawsuit but I am just biding time).  Nobody has ever claimed this LCPS regime is transparent.

Maybe the NAACP requests for hiring/applicant info by race will increase transparency.  Nobody in that cartel wants the public to know that they can’t even interview all their applicants.  Such admissions would demonstrate that efforts to jack up salaries are not needed.


SGP - “we are inundated with teacher candidates?”

What are the actual numbers for LCPS?  How many candidates does the system get each year?  How many for each field (math, science, etc.)?  It seems that you have access to numbers that would help this conversation. If have done this research, please share.


Ron, we are inundated with teacher candidates.  Extensive research has shown you cannot predict how effective any teacher will be prior hiring and evaluating them.  So what’s the solution?

Rigorously evaluated teachers using objective metrics.  For the effective ones, promote them.  For the ineffective ones, do not promote them just like any other industry.  No step increases.  If the ineffective ones choose to leave, we can hire replacements and see if they are natural teachers.

This is what the reform movement advocated.  Everyone from business leaders to political leaders to researchers suggested this model.  What did VDOE and LCSB do?  They ignored federal reqts and lied about it to the US DoE.  Thus, we are told we have 99.5% effective teachers when nobody believes that.

If we accurately evaluated and kept the good teachers, many would support higher salaries.  But right now, we don’t need to increase pay when ineffective teachers can retire at the ripe ol age of 52 with $50K/yr for life.


Now we complain. Incompetence starts from the top. Maybe, we should demand that teachers be vetted as they were 30 and 40 years ago. Also figure away to increase the salaries of our Teachers who mold our children. What better place to spend money instead 150 million dollar schools. We could be paying 80 thousand a year for teachers starting salaries for what we spent on the over priced school buildings.


If your child is suicidal, is treated, and returns to school, you should be able to expect the school to follow the LCPS Suicide Prevention Procedures.

Parents need to know that they are returning their child to an environment that is safe. Administrator and teacher training has been provided so that, among other things, teachers can recognize warning signs and know to report them.

No principal should be allowed to ignore the LCPS procedures and place the child in harm’s way.


HopefulMom - trying to understand. Your child’s psychiatrist has/had concerns, yet you’re expecting a school administrator to handle the situation? Not following.


Hopeful mom.  What are you expecting the schools to do and what did they do differently?  It would help the rest of us to fully understand your issue if/when we have to face troubles with our own children.  Please explain.


There is another secret at Dominion High School, and it is one that may reflect a county policy, given the teen suicides in our county.

Please ask the LCPS system how they handled it when parents reported their child as being depressed and having suicidal thoughts; by relying on the advice of the child’s psychiatrist with over 30 years of experience or by handing it over to Dr. Brewer, who dismissed the recommendations and the parents’ concerns.

Pray for our children.


There is another secret at Dominion High School, and it is one that may reflect a county policy, given the teen suicides in our county.

Reach out to the school system and ask them how they handled it when parents reported their child as being depressed and having suicidal thoughts because of a situation at school; by relying on the advice of the child’s psychiatrist with over 30 years of experience or by handing it over to Dr. Brewer, who ignored the recommendations and the parents’ concerns.

Pray for our children.


Standard Operating Procedures for every School and College in America.  Someone sees or reports sexual abuse, school or college does nothing, they send the perverts off to another school or college so they can continue to sexually abuse children. Personally, if I witnessed or knew about sexual abuse to a child I would not keep quite.  I would go over the top ( I assume I would lose my job), but I would take them on too.  There is zero excuse for anyone to sweep stuff like this under the carpet.  Famous words of Joe Paterno days before he died (who reported sexual abuse for years to superiors and others) “I should have done more”.  We own it to our kids to “do more”.


shnewsman, please see my comments on LTM’s Facebook post for this article.

When asked by the LCPS Chief of Staff (Richards) in Jan-2015 “why don’t we release such information”, Byard answered “Because we don’t have to.”  Richards looked shocked as his head tilted back.  You see Richards had just arrived 3 weeks earlier from Texas and couldn’t believe a school system would so restrict access to anything and everything.

Byard is not an innocent bystander.  He is a key part of the problem.  According to the opinion of the Virginia State Police (in an email to Commonwealth Attorney Plowman), the special agent believed a perjury complaint against Byard for his testimony in Loudoun County Circuit Court was “legitimate”.  Yet CA Plowman decided not to prosecute.  One unethical official protecting another.

It’s likely LTM believes there is momentum to perform a complete house cleaning.  I can assure you that LCSB board members Tom Marshall and Beth Huck would be glad to see Byard ousted.  Morse and Maloney may agree.  I can’t speak for the others as many are often complicit in the unethical actions.  But if the public pushes hard, you have the chance to force LCPS to turn over a new leaf.  But will the public’s interest fade?


Wayde Byard is just doing his job.  He dispenses what the Superintendent and school board want him to dispense.  You forget Byard spent 20 years at a newspaper actively writing, reporting and editing.  This has nothing to do with Wayde Byard and everything to do with his superiors,  Yes; someone dropped the ball big-time.  But you can’t fix what already happened.  The best this school system can do, now, is make sure it never happens again.  Not defending Wayde Byard so much as making sure everyone knows the picture is much bigger than him.


Leesburglocal you need to wake up. If those responsible for the schools were doing their jobs properly to begin with, instead of writing letters of recommendation to pass such problems onto to others, no one would be complaining. You, like LCPS administrators, put your heads in the sand instead of addressing the issues. May I suggest
to you that this is why they occur in the first place!


This is typical of the continued cover-ups in LCPS.
I was told three years ago by a BOD member that Hatrick’s “retirement” was because his contract was not renewed but that, too, was a hush, hush affair. And how about Al Hampton’s sudden departure as head of Transportation?? The beat goes on. But Dominion Principal Brewer’s writing
a letter of recommendation to help move a teacher out is nothing new. It has been going on for years
to avoid hassles with the unions when administrators haven’t got the courage of their
convictions. Welcome to the real world!


While many will not like it, this is one
of the best editorials in this publication. The secretive nature of LCPS is a problem. What happened to transparency? However, blame is not limited to the public information officer and his involment is unknown. While many of us have not agreed with the decisions of Dr Bewer, no one can question his effort and love of DHS. That is what makes the Rec letter from him and Mr Pierson all the more troubling.  Either you didn’t know what was going on with the band teacher or you are covering up his actions. Which is worse?  LCPS are not unionized. I can see no reason anyone would be obligated to write a letter of recommendation. But then again LCPS have been so secerative who would know.


Let’s not forget about Mr. Hatrick in this - depending on the dates of the alleged Damron actions, it could have been on his watch (pre July 2014). We all remember the hero’s send-off he received. I’m certainly not accusing or otherwise saying that Mr. Hatrick did anything wrong, ever - but the timeline of this situation could go back to his tenure. Especially if this Damron is but one of more incidents that were, for the good of the organization, brushed under the rug and ‘passed on’ to some other school district.  As for Byard, I wouldn’t know him if I saw him, but I get the mental image of Wilford Brimly from the movie “The Firm” in the role he served as overall protector of the firm above all else.  That guy was a villian.


leesburglocal:
1) We have a right to know how our publicly funded organizations are handling personnel and other issues.
2) People are without the facts because the county refuses to share any.  This leads to speculation.  Giving no information at all is the wrong policy.
3) This situation shows that the school system’s top priority is to protect the STAFF.
4) When information is shared, there is no need to speculate.  And this gives a foundation for TRUST.
5) This can all be done in a smart way while protecting privacy. 


The school system protects itself first and the students second. Examples abound - especially in the sped world.


The best audits are done by highly professional knowledgeable people who are NOT DEPENDENT in any way on the schools system for their income or any family member’s income nor have any children attending so retribution is also off the table. Perhaps the BOS will fund such a study and look for qualified individuals to put in such an effort. Perhaps prior school board members who are also lawyers could do such a task with energy and thoroughness. Suicide attempts, bullying, unlawful interrogations, continued lack of staff diversity, no tracking of staff arriving/leaving buildings, uneven teaching experience in schools, alcohol abuse, inconsistent IEP offerings, avoidance of state laws requiring efficiency, lack of inclusion of parental input into performance evaluations, lack of tolerance in discipline decisions etc.
Bob O__ Esq.


I can’t speak to the entire article, but it is my opinion based on observation over the years that our LCPS Public Information Office could be improved a lot.


Best editorial ever.


Leesburglocal, it isn’t about finding out the identities of the kids that were molested.  It’s about stopping the LCPS molester from molesting again. Which, obviously, didn’t happen here and he went on to molest even more children.


David Dickinson - Perhaps if your child were ever a victim of something horrible, you’d have some understanding why some people wish everyone else would just drop the social media, postings, judging, and “know-it-all” attitudes.  But, no, you all insist on knowing things that are NONE of your business.  The schools are doing their job.  They don’t tell you about everything that happens bc there are innocent kids involved.  And, too many of you want to know everything bc you feel you are “entitled” to the info - and the only one that gets hurt is the kid bc his/her name will eventually come out…and then it end up on everyone’s twitter post.  Will you be happy then?


I believe the government school system is supposed to work for us, the parents and taxpayers.  Happy to see an investigation.  Wish LTM would take the same interest with all the illegal immigrants being dumped into my kid’s school.


Leesburglocal.  Why would the public insist that a public school that had a public school teacher molesting public school students possibly on public property but who gets green lighted by a public school principal want to know what happened?

Across the board, governments have gotten much too secretive with all their actions.  This is just one—completely deplorable—incident of this phenomenon. 

Protecting the students?  No, they are fending off lawsuits personally and collectively and now have good cause to fear for their jobs.  And rightfully so.


I was going to say this is one of the best editorials ever, even before I read I got quoted.  Really, it is.  There is a natural protectionism for any organization but one that ends up passing a pedophile on to molest even more children really needs a serious investigation and some soul searching.

“a close-minded oligarchy of petty intimidation, nettlesome orthodoxy and a grating noblesse oblige.”  That line is memorable years later.  Apropos and valid today.  I really thought LCPS culture would improve with Hatrick getting ousted but others have taken his place and there is no discernible change in the protectionist culture.


This is quite possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read.  The problem is articles like this, and people thinking they have a right to know about personnel issue. And, let’s not forget all the people that want to judge everyone for anything they do or don’t do -  without having all the facts.

The school system’s priority is and always has been to protect the STUDENTS.  The more people know about this, the more rumors spread, the more info becomes available for everyone to figure out the STUDENTS involved, if any. 

Quit being a busy-body and demanding things you don’t have a right to know.  If students are involved, be respectful of THEIR privacy. 


Nicely put.  Byard needs to be the first to go 100%.  He certainly won’t be the last if things are handled correctly here.  Let’s get a petition going, we deserve the truth and our kids deserve better than the scum currently running LCPS!

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