This from Jim Warren at the Herald Leader:
Fayette Schools Superintendent Stu Silberman repeatedly asserted Thursday in Fayette Circuit Court that he never forced Peggy Petrilli to resign as principal of the Booker T. Washington Academy in 2007, maintaining that he continued to back her despite repeated administrative mistakes that she made at the school.
But Petrilli's attorney, J. Dale Golden, sharply challenged Silberman's contention that Petrilli had many administrative weaknesses, wondering again and again why those supposed issues never turned up on her job evaluations.
Golden: You wouldn’t shove that off on anyone else would you?
Golden: Before that meeting [Aug 22nd] you thought things were going well at BTWA…
Golden: Why do you mention that…the ongoing problems?
Golden: [With all these problems] wouldn’t there be [something on her evaluation] just one piece of paper?
Golden wrapped up his case late Thursday afternoon. There will be no testimony on Friday. The defense is to begin calling witnesses on Monday, and Circuit Judge James Ishmael has advised jurors that they might not get the case until late Monday or sometime Tuesday.Petrilli alleges in a civil suit that she was the victim of a campaign, orchestrated by a few parents who wanted to get rid of her. She contends that Silberman and the county schools caved in and forced her to resign because the parents were threatening to picket the school, contact the news media or complain to the state Department of Education.
Petrilli submitted her resignation on Aug. 27, 2007, five days after a contingent of Booker T. Washington parents, some school staffers and some community leaders handed Silberman a 21/2-page list of complaints about Petrilli's work.
A new blog has sprung up in the wake of Peggy Petrilli's departure from the Booker T Washington Academy. The "discussion of issues surrounding the education of Students at Booker T Washington Academy" is the stated purpose for the BTWA blog.
It's early, but so far the blog is long on inuendo - lots of questions - but short on info and ideas. Author and BTWA parent Buddy Clark is rumored to have had an axe to grind with Petrilli.
Clark says, "The extreme emphasis on testing in the public schools has had some unfortunate consequences at BTWA. Administrators were so focused on testing that they forgot about education. Those administrators forgot their obligation to 'teach' honesty and integrity."He applauds Petrilli's demise and says, We recently learned that because 5th graders are not tested on science, some (if not all) 5th graders at BTWA were not taught science.
The principal was thought to excel because of increased test scores. Scores that increased through trickery, deception, and coercion. Tests that did not measure competence in required subjects.
I was at the Wednesday meeting where those so-called “concerns” were raised and what follows is my recollection of the issues. Without identifying attendees, it was more than just parents:
- Testing irregularities: not all students tested, inappropriate test procedures
- Curriculum irregularities: teaching the test rather than teaching required
- Placement irregularities: students with good grades held back because
they did not test well, students held back over parents objection
- Misapplication of funds
- Retaliationn on-compliant teachers punished or dismissed
- Failing to respond to higher authority
- Non-compliance with SBDM rules and regulations
- Potential legal liability
Referring to a Herald-Leader article, he says it "sounds like she got her feelings hurt by some whining parents."
Petrilli's statement in H-L read:
"I did the best I could do, I recognize that I did not build the trusting relationships needed with the school community in order to work together for all children."
Petrilli contends that the school district changed the language she approved which referred to a group of parents rather than the school community.
When Petrilli resigned she issued the following statement:
"I stand behind our work at Booket T. The academic achievement of our students has been my life's work, my passion, my ministry. After having a heart-to-heart conversation with [Fayette County Superintendent]Stu [Silberman] and [Director] Carmen [Coleman], it is evident that despite my best efforts, and the fact that I did the best I could do, I recognize that I could not build trust with a group of parents...
It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to leave Booker T. Washington for the sake of our students... I ask everyone to stay focused on high academic standards, a safe and orderly environment, a high-quality professional staff and most of all, our incredibly high-achieving, motivated and bright students."
Golden: [Isn’t it true]…the last person who had the release was [FCPS Community Relations Director] Lisa Deffendall before [it went to the Herald-Leader]…?
Silberman: I also think it was sent back to [Petrilli’s attorney] before it went to the Herald-Leader
Back to H-L:
But Silberman insisted Thursday that no one at the meeting ever asked him to fire Petrilli, expressed a desire to have an African-American as principal or complained about not having had a say in picking the principal.
Silberman described the parents as "very upset" and "very emotional" over "what had been happening to their children at the school." Some parents wanted to remain anonymous, he said, because they feared that Petrilli might retaliate against their children.
Golden pounced on that, asking whether Silberman ever tried to identify which children might have been at risk of retaliation. Silberman said he did not.Silberman testified that he met with Petrilli the next day to discuss issues raised by parents. He said that he saw no reason why Petrilli couldn't remain at the school, insisting that he didn't believe most of the allegations. He said he told Petrilli, "I believe we can fight this."The superintendent said, however, that after going over the complaints, Petrilli told him she couldn't return to the school because she had "lost the community's support." Silberman said he then offered to arrange for Petrilli to return to Northern Elementary, where she previously was principal. But she declined, saying she couldn't do that "with a cloud hanging over my head," according to Silberman.He said that after conferring with the Fayette Schools' attorney on Sunday, Aug. 26, he decided that he would have to suspend Petrilli if she did not resign or retire. Petrilli ultimately submitted a resignation letter the next day.
Is there a lawyer in the house?
Golden questioned Silberman about his Sunday conversation with board attorney Brenda Allen who had "a completely different perspective on what was going on. After that," Silberman said, "the things we talked about were now a part of my thought process."
Golden tried to extract the board attorney's perspective, but surprisingly - to me at least -McNeilll cautioned Silberman that discussing his conversations with Allen would violate attorney-client privilege. Silberman told the jury repeatedly that he wanted to answer Golden's questions and that "it was critical" to explaining his perspective. But on McNeill's advice, he didn't.
Two Kentucky circuit court judges confirmed for KSN&C Thursday that the attorney-client privilege is owned by the client and can be waived by the client at will?
However, since McNeill also represents the board, and the superintendent is part of the board, which has not taken action on the issue, perhaps Superintendent Silberman wanted to waive the privilege but Board Secretary Silberman could not.
Silberman acknowledged, however, that he told a Herald-Leader reporter in a phone interview on Sunday night, Aug. 26, that Petrilli wouldn't return, based on her statement that she couldn't go back.Golden closely questioned Silberman about the Aug. 22 meeting, other events leading up to Petrilli's resignation and whether Silberman had given in to pressure to get rid of her. Silberman insisted that he had not."Peggy made the decision to leave on her own," he said.
Silberman called Petrilli "an outstanding instruction leader" who improved test scores at both Booker T. Washington and Northern. But he said she had "significant issues" with the "organizational piece and the management piece" of being a principal. Silberman said those weaknesses led to "problem after problem after problem" that he had to resolve.
Golden questioned Silberman as to why such issues never showed up on Petrilli's evaluations, in which he always gave her high marks. Golden demanded at one point why Silberman couldn't show jurors "one piece of paper" reflecting the problems.Silberman said the school system had tried to support Petrilli rather than simply "writing her up."
From: Booker Washington [mailto:email@example.com]Sent: Sat 8/25/2007 9:32 PMTo: BTWA StaffSubject: FinallyFInally there is some sort of ramifications for the crap that hastaken place at BTWA for 3 years. Now to get rid of [name redacted], [name redacted], the 4th grade team and the rest of the Peggy's flunkies. In time the truth will come out and you will all be going down!
Golden: [In your deposition] the first time you addressed the situation with Peggy [in their Aug 23rd meeting] you mentioned retirement but not resignation...
Golden: After that happened...your attorney wrote something down on a pad [and showed it to you. After that] … you said retire or resign…?
Silberman: Yes, I think that’s correct.
The trial resumes Monday and is expected to run through Tuesday.