BETRAYED by Gilbert Education Association President Diane Drazinski

On October 5 and October 7, 2011, Gilbert Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Clyde Dangerfield "opened his books" to Sarah, Thomas and Denise, who had filed a public records request to review the documents from attorney Denise Lowell-Britt's investigation.

Until then, Sarah had been unaware of the collusion between Gilbert Public Schools Associate Superintendent Nikki Blanchard, Principal of Meridian Elementary School Vicki Hester, President of the Gilbert Education Association Diane Drazinski and attorney Denise Lowell-Britt.

Denise Lowell-Britt of the law firm Udall, Shumway & Lyons, had been appointed as an "independent investigator" by Associate Superintendent Nikki Blanchard and Assistant Superintendent Shane McCord on March 24, 2011.

Attorney Denise Lowell-Britt allowed Gilbert Education Association President Diane Drazinski to review information provided by other witnesses interviewed as part of the "independent investigation." That would appear to be a breach of the integrity of any workplace investigation into wrongdoing.

It gets worse: Notes in the investigation file showed Gilbert Education Association President Diane Drazinski advocated for Associate Superintendent Nikki Blanchard to give Sarah a letter of direction from the very beginning of this saga. Denise Lowell-Britt's notes of the interview with Diane Drazinski show that the GEA president took an overwhelmingly personal interest in shifting the response to Sarah's reports of bullying into a personal attack against Sarah.

Attorney Denise Lowell-Britt later used Diane Drazinski as an "expert witness" to claim that the behavior Sarah reported was not bullying. The only reason Diane Drazinski was present at the meetings between Sarah and various Gilbert Public Schools officials was to act an observer to insure Sarah's due process rights were protected. Instead, Diane Drazinski acted against Sarah time and again.

Gilbert Public Schools Associate Superintendent Nikki Blanchard didn't have to drive a wedge between GEA members and their officers; they worked hand-in-hand against a GEA member.

The GEA President's comment to Board Member Staci Burk that Sarah is a "great teacher, just not suitable for the Gilbert environment" should be a rallying cry for all employees in Gilbert Public Schools.

It gets worse: Attorney Denise Lowell-Britt discussed Sarah's employment with Arizona Education Association attorney Samantha Blevins, even though Sarah told Denise Lowell-Britt quite clearly that Samantha Blevins did not represent Sarah.

Attorney Denise Lowell-Britt shared Sarah's email with AEA attorney Samantha Blevins:

...I much prefer priority be given to giving my students and their parents the attention and assistance they need to overcome the effects of bullying in our classroom. Indicators of their distress can be shown by absences, especially in the third quarter:
Student *** who was not absent at all in the first two quarters of the year, missed 6 days of school n the third quarter because of **** bullying. Student *** missed 4 days of school in the third quarter and 2 days so far in the fourth quarter. *** is the student whose mother said *** was afraid to come to school because of ****'s bullying. Student *** missed 4 days in the third quarter. My students still express fear when they see ***** in the halls, the lunchroom, and on the playground.

We have been waiting for 75 days and there are only 30 days left in the school year. My students will return to Meridian next year, whether I do or not. They deserve more than deliberate indifference to bullying form the district.

Explosive information posted on the Arizona Education Association Facebook page by GPS Board Member Staci Burk show that the president of the GEA, the collective bargaining organization betrayed member Sarah. Screenshot here and here.  Screenshots provided by attorney Kevin Koelbel. Excerpts appear below [emphasis added]:

Speaking of these laws to protect teachers, what is a teacher to do if the Education Association does not only fail to protect and advocate for the laws being applied as written, but instead directly acts to oppose the member teacher?

As a GUSD Governing Board Member I find myself confused and saddened, but mostly appalled by the actions of the current Gilbert Education Association President. This week the governing board in a 4-1 vote issued a statement of charges against a Gilbert teacher. I cast the dissenting vote, indicating that I did not believe based on the information presented that there was sufficient grounds for dismissal of the teacher.

The following night at a community budget meeting the GEA President pulled me aside to express her concern about my vote asserting that the administration was appropriate in suggesting to the board that the teacher be dismissed from employment. She went on to say that she thought the teacher was a "great teacher, just not suitable for the Gilbert environment." She stated, "I know she is one of our members and it seems strange that I would talk about one of our own this way..." I cut her off at this point and stated that I should not be discussing the matter with her because should this teacher appeal the board decision, I needed to protect the process by not engaging in ex-parte communications.

I spoke with a teacher awhile ago that said to me in his district an association president continually supported the administration and within a couple years was promoted to an administrative position. I was told it is not uncommon for association leadership to sell out members this way for their own career gains. Could this be accurate?

It is very important to me that teachers are supported and not only have a voice in education policymaking, but also to have their due process rights protected when it comes to something as serious as the dismissal of a certificated teacher. During the board meeting, I vigorously advocated that the procedure and due process rights of this teacher be protected. These actions of mine are 'concerning' to this association president? What is this about? I am confused.

Does the AEA support this type of behavior from its local leadership? Are the local leaders using their positions to simply to move up the career ladder rather than supporting its membership? Is this a culture within the AEA or an isolated incident?

Does this happen only in Gilbert Public Schools? Is it standard practice for Arizona Education Association officials to betray their members in ways large and small, as they did to Sarah?

This betrayal through breaches of fiduciary duty to members is heartbreaking. And expensive for members who have paid membership dues for years, only to be betrayed.


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