How Administrators Manipulate
Complaints Against Employees in Gilbert Public Schools
Administrators manipulate complaints
against employees on a whim, it seems. The system in Gilbert Public
Schools is set up to do maximum harm with little or no
accountability, as clearly shown in the examples below.
Superintendents, principals and attorneys "make it up as they go
along" in pursuing their goals -- without regard to the manifest
unfairness of their motives and actions. Teachers and support staff
generally will never know what has happened, because they generally
are told to resign before the investigation proceeds, and most
employees are never shown the complaints against them. If an
employee balks at this, expect the freight train of doom to speed
down the tracks with only one end in sight -- firing the employee
who didn't resign under pressure.
Example One: In the case of the
teacher who endured blatant racial discrimination, Nikki Blanchard
joined with Spectrum Elementary School principal Debbie Singleton to
"create documentation" against that teacher after a parent called
the office to complain about "the parking lot attendant" who had
helped her daughter out of the car on January 22, 2009. Debbie
Singleton told the teacher about the parent complaint on January 23,
2009, saying that she had handled the matter.
That was not the end of
it, however. Progressive Documentation could be created! The
parent emailed Ms. Singleton on January 27, 2009, five days after
the alleged incident. The subject of the parent's email was
January 22, I was dropping my daughters off at school in the
parent drop off. My older daughter was out of the car and
waiting for her sister, a kindergartener, to get out to the
backseat. The parking lot attendant came up to the car as she
was climbing out, grabbed her by her left arm and told her to
hurry up because she was holding up traffic. She then slammed
the car door before I could respond. Friday morning I called the
school and spoke to the receptionist to issue a complaint. I
received a call back around 2:30pm from the principal and was
told the issue would be addressed. Please let me know if you
need anything else. I can be reached by cell phone xxx-xxx-xxxx.
Debbie Singleton replied
two hours later by email,
"Thank you Ms. Bybee
for your notes. I appreciate your help."
Exactly one minute
later, Debbie Singleton forwarded Ms. Bybee's email to Nikki
Blanchard, subject Phone Call:
"Here is the message
regarding the complaint about the teacher. Thank you for your
The teacher was put on
admin leave on January 27, 2009. There was a meeting in Nikki
Blanchard's office on January 29, 2009. Nikki Blanchard gave the
teacher a letter on February 4, 2009, which included the comment
that the teacher had related to the principal that she was
uncomfortable opening car doors and felt that there were several
parents that locked their car doors and wouldn't allow the teacher
to open the door for their child.
Nikki Blanchard decided
the teacher would no longer be assigned to parent drop off duty
because of the parent's apparent aversion to having a black teacher
touch her child. Although the letter was not disciplinary, Nikki
Blanchard issued a directive to the teacher to maintain
courteous relationships with students, implying that the teacher's
previous conduct was somehow deficient, even if Nikki Blanchard and
Debbie Singleton couldn't exactly prove it. The letter concluded:
"Thank you for your
professional behavior and conduct during our meeting and your
willingness to work with your school administrator."
Nevertheless, that same
letter later was used to imply that the teacher had problems during
her employment in Gilbert Public Schools.
Gilbert Public Schools policies and regulations concerning public
complaints are unique among districts in the Arizona School Board
Association. There is no mention of, or provision for, due process
protections for accused employees. In GPS policies KEB and KEB-R,
Public Concerns/Complaints About Personnel, there is no mention of
or provision for allowing the employee to respond before the
decision-maker makes a determination and replies to a complainant.
There is no mention of or provision for telling the employee the
results of the investigation or any adverse personnel actions that
the decision maker takes against an employee.
parents of the bully filed a retaliatory complaint against Sarah
two months after the meeting that upset them. Sarah described how
the investigation into a complaint made by parent was conducted:
For most of the interview, I did
not know who filed the complaint or what it was about. After we
had been talking for about an hour and a half, the interviewer
gave me a copy of the *****s' complaint against me. This was
the first time that I knew Vicki Hester had impugned my
reputation with the *****s by apologizing for my
"unprofessional conduct," which coincidently or not, was the
same charge the *****s made in their complaint.
The *****s may not have been well versed in the intricacies of educational licensing, but Vicki Hester
knew exactly what would happen. The *****s discussed their complaint with
Vicki Hester prior to filing it, as the complaint stated:
After much discussion and
contemplation, we did not initially file a complaint against Ms.
Sarah Green for two reasons. First, we were concerned about the
possibility of retaliation from Ms. Green and her teacher
friends and staff towards our daughter. After witnessing Ms.
Green's visible anger and unprofessional demeanor at the March
4, 2011 meeting, we were genuinely concern [sic]. Secondly it
was our preference not to be involved in a complaint that could
potentially damage Ms. Green's career. But now, after having
been recently informed by an attorney from Gilbert Public
Schools that there is a current complaint ... we felt compelled
to set the record straight.
The *****s' complaint
stated on its face that it was retaliatory and that it was filed
after attorney Denise Lowell-Britt told the parents that there was a
complaint against Vicki Hester. That wasn't quite true, and months
later Denise Lowell-Britt was forced to acknowledge before a
government agency that no one actually had filed a complaint against
Vicki Hester. The investigation, however, purposefully neglected to
consider the *****s' retaliatory motive and intent to injure in
filing this complaint against their child's "favorite teacher."
The *****s then
refused to be interviewed, saying that their complaint included all
they wanted to say. The investigation report was marked
attorney-client privileged. Immediately after receiving the report,
Nikki Blanchard immediately sent a defamatory letter to the *****s,
without talking to Sarah about the results of the investigation and
without telling Sarah about that letter. That was the extent of
fairness in this incident -- fairness was not part of the process.
Sarah described reading Nikki Blanchard's letter:
Her malice in defaming me without giving me an opportunity to be
heard before taking action against me shocks the conscience of a
Without even an appearance of affording me constitutionally
guaranteed rights of due process, the district destroyed my
reputation as a teacher by forever tagging me with
"unprofessional conduct," a career-ending charge, defined by
state law, and linked in public perception with crimes such as
child molestation or embezzlement.
Sarah responded to Nikki
Blanchard's letter to the *****s:
Many of the problems here could have been averted by openly
communicating and ensuring that Meridian Elementary School
provides a safe, secure and respectful learning environment for
all students. My goal was to stop ****'s bullying, but also
to reduce the risk of future incidents. This was my parents'
goal as well. Instead of working collaboratively toward that
goal, you took a complaint from parents that stated on its face
that it was retaliatory, and you pursued a malicious course of
conduct with the motive of ruining my career.
There is a history of
publicly releasing information from investigations:
the Arizona Republic on December 28, 2010 quoted a conclusion in
Denise Lowell-Britt's investigation report related to a middle
school teacher who was accused of inappropriately touching a female
student during class ... the teacher "engaged in unprofessional
conduct." Denise Lowell-Britt's report further stated that teacher
violated the "staff ethics" policy "to maintain just, courteous and
proper relationships with students" just like the directive Nikki
Blanchard gave to the teacher in Example One above.
Public records in Denise
Lowell-Britt's investigation file revealed that Jeff
Filloon called the parent of a student in Sarah's
classroom, interrupting the family during a vacation in
Disneyland after the school year ended.
Jeff Filloon was
"investigating" a comment that Sarah made in an email to
Vicki Hester following a tragic accident involving
students at Meridian Elementary School. His goal was to
prove that Sarah had made a false statement to her
principal. The manufactured controversy was over Sarah's
objection to Vicki Hester asking a parent if their child
"had a good relationship" with Sarah as the child's
teacher. Vicki Hester claimed she never did that.
Jeff Filloon's quest was, without alarming the parent about the
purpose of his investigation, to prove Sarah lied.
Just as Denise
Lowell-Britt "put words in the mouth" of witnesses
during interviews, Jeff Filloon manipulated a
Just as Denise Lowell-Britt wrote text for Sarah's
evaluation, Jeff Filloon "created documentation" to
suit his purposes. The immediate problem for the
district was that two investigations had not shown
grievous misconduct on Sarah's part, so Jeff Filloon,
working with Vicki Hester and Denise Lowell-Britt, set out to tighten the noose around Sarah's
After talking to the parent
on the telephone, Jeff Filloon sent that parent an email:
I want to thank you
for taking the time out of your family vacation to speak with
me. I have attached a summary of our conversation. Please let me
know if this is an accurate reflection of our conversation. If
there is anything that needs to be changed, please let me know.
If it looks accurate, please say, "I approve of this summary
statement". I look forward to your email response.
Jeff Filloon also wrote a
memo on May 27, 2011:
Jeff Filloon, Human
Resources Director for Gilbert Public Schools, had a telephone
conversation with ***, Meridian Elementary School parent...Mr.
Filloon asked *** if she had recently spoken with Vicki Hester,
principal of Meridian Elementary School. *** said,
Mr. Filloon asked
*** if there was any dialogue about [child's] rapport or
relationship with Ms. Sarah Green. *** said, "no", why?" Mr.
Filloon said that a concern had been raised by Ms. Green.
*** told Mr. Filloon that not once during her conversation with
Mrs. Hester did Mrs. Hester ask about [child's] relationship
with Ms. Green.
Jeff Filloon didn't have
to pretend to be independent or even fair in his investigation. He
emailed Vicki Hester and Denise Lowell-Britt later that same day:
Denise and Vicki,
... *** did
say there was no conversation about the relationship between the
teacher and student ever brought up during the conversation.
Very supportive all of Vicki's help during this ordeal.
Jeff Filloon then
crafted a summary of the conversation and emailed it for the parent
to endorse, including this statement:
*** told Mr. Filloon
that not once during *** conversation with Mrs. Hester did Mrs.
Hester ask about ***'s relationship with Ms. Green.
The parent, by email on
May 28, 2011, wrote that Jeff Filloon's account sounded accurate and
complete, then added:
... Admittedly, I am
still confused and somewhat concerned where your concern arose
because I feel as I stated to you before, that the school and
all involved were more than helpful in their efforts to make
last week as comfortable for our children as possible. I do
recall and don't know if this came out in the conversation, but
the only time Mrs. Hester asked about the relationship between
our [children] and their respective teachers was when she
asked if they had a "good relationship" with their teachers...
Once again, the district
arrayed its big guns against a small teacher. Although the parent
explicitly contradicted Jeff Filloon's write up, this incident
became Charge # 9 in the Statement of Charges
against Sarah. This incident
illustrates Jeff Filloon's integrity and his belief in
"creating documentation" to further his objectives. The bottom line is that
an employee can NEVER feel secure in the toxic environment of
Gilbert Public Schools. Teachers and support staff, be careful!
Anonymous complaints can sink a principal as easily as a
Gilbert Public Schools has hired an attorney to look into
allegations of unprofessional conduct against Brian Yee,
Highland Junior High School's principal.
Associate Superintendent Nikki Blanchard told the school staff
on Tuesday that the district had hired Phoenix attorney Matt
Wright of the Holm Wright Hyde and Hays law firm to look into
allegations raised in a series of anonymous letters sent to
school-board members and the media...
... The Arizona
Republic and the Gilbert school board received a packet of 11
anonymous letters citing examples of problems at the Mesa school
for at least a year. District officials have said they have
received no formal complaints, only anonymous ones, against the
It's not just Gilbert
Public Schools that operates this way. Other school districts
advised by attorney Denise Lowell-Britt do much the same:
The Higley Unified
governing board approved San Tan Elementary Principal Alfonso
Alva's resignation Thursday, three weeks after the popular
principal was put on administrative leave.
The official reason for putting him on leave has not been
disclosed, but parents and teachers have many theories as
they rally around a principal they say has turned their school
around and was forced out of his job.
Board President Kim
Anderson said she recognizes a change in leadership is an
"upheaval" for the school and because the district can't say
anything, rumors have filled that void. Anderson did say Alva
had been under investigation, but declined to elaborate.
A second newspaper
article two weeks later disclosed little more than fuel for the
One of the biggest
questions involves why he was placed on administrative leave
right after Thanksgiving and prior to his Dec. 15 resignation;
there are no disciplinary records in Alva's personnel file and
no records from an investigation.
"As far as I know, the investigation initially consisted of
meetings with relevant individuals," attorney Denise
Lowell-Britt told The Republic in an e-mail.
"Based upon the information that was verbally given, and Dr.
Alva's decision to resign, there was never a need to create
It appears that Gilbert
Public Schools and their go-to attorneys don't need to follow no