The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization
Students%2C+teachers+and+community+members+filled+the+large+auditorium+Nov.+8+for+a+meeting+about+personnel+concerns.+
Back to Article
Back to Article

Nov. 8 Community Meeting Transcript

Students, teachers and community members filled the large auditorium Nov. 8 for a meeting about personnel concerns.

Students, teachers and community members filled the large auditorium Nov. 8 for a meeting about personnel concerns.

David Vahey

Students, teachers and community members filled the large auditorium Nov. 8 for a meeting about personnel concerns.

David Vahey

David Vahey

Students, teachers and community members filled the large auditorium Nov. 8 for a meeting about personnel concerns.

Nov. 8 Community Meeting Transcript

November 12, 2018

Editor’s note: This transcript of the Nov. 9 community meeting is annotated to clarify and elaborate on certain statements. At one point in the transcript, The Shakerite has omitted a statement that could not be confirmed. Questions asked by audience members, whether on notecards, on stage or from the audience, are in bold. Annotations are in italics.

Scott Stephens: “I know there are a lot of issues that our high school students, parents and teachers are concerned about tonight and we want to address them tonight in a civilized coming together and exchanging of information. I also know that because of your commitment to our students’ academic success, some of these issues can become real hot-button issues. And to kind of get the point needed —  and passions can run high, we appreciate that, but we respectfully ask that we have a civilized time tonight. We will wrap up the meeting in one hour and we’ll work together to accomplish some things tonight and get some questions answered. I’m joined on stage tonight by two people who I think almost everybody in this room surely knows, Dr. Stephen Wilkins —  the district’s interim superintendent, Dr. Wilkins.

[Applause]

“And Dr. David Glasner who —  he wears a lot of hats in the school, but right now is substitute principal here at the high school filling in for the regular principal. Dr. Glasner, thank you for being here.”

[Applause]

“After I’m done just telling you how the floor is going to work tonight, these two gentlemen will make some opening —  should be very brief — opening remarks just welcoming you, and then we’ll go directly to questions. We also want to recognize several board members who are here, school board members, that are here with us tonight. We have Jeff Isaacs, the president of the board: Jeff where are you? Heather Weingart, Lisa Cremer and Ayesha Bell Hardaway.”

[Applause]

“We thank you all for attending tonight and I also want to recognize Dr. John Morris, president of the SHTA.”

[Loud applause]

“John, I think this applause is for you, not me. I want to ask your patience while I take a minute just to talk us through tonight’s format, because it may be a little different than we’re used to. Because of the time factor, we want to get this done in an hour, there’s a lot of other events going on tonight. We have index cards and pencils in envelopes at the end of your aisle. They kind of line the seat in the center of the main aisles. And if you’re seated right by these aisles, you’ll see these. Please pass those down to your friends and colleagues down the row. Make sure they have a pencil —  there’s little yellow golf pencils in there that you can use. And when you’re done writing the questions, please pass them down towards the center or to either side, we’ll have somebody pick them up and bring them up to me.”

Woman, walking down the left center aisle: “No! No!”

Stephens: “We also ask… Let’s please find a seat.”

Woman: “You will not sanitize our questions!”

Stephens: “I’m taking questions.”

Woman: “You are not going to sanitize our questions.”

Someone in the audience: “No, no, we are only reading them.”

Stephens: “We are reading questions. We are taking questions, written questions from the audience.”

Woman: “No! No! No! No! No! No! No! Who wants to ask questions? Who wants to ask questions? No paper! No, we want to ask questions directly.”

[Other people yelling, “No,” someone yells, ‘Shut up!’]

[Stephens attempts to respond.]

Audience member: “You’re going to lose control before it begins!”

Stephens: “Yeah, thanks for your help.”

“If you care to jot down your contact information on the questions, please do so, and if we can’t answer the questions, we’d like to get back and get to you on email or your phone, or whichever way you prefer. We announced this meeting last week, last Thursday, after Principal Kuehnle was placed on administrative leave after issues of concern were brought to our attention. It is being reviewed. It’s important to know that these issues do not involve policing actions of any kind, and at no time have students been in any danger or in harm’s way.”

Audience member: “Then why won’t you take questions?”

Someone else: “Yeah!”

Stephens: “We will keep you informed as review of that progresses. Before we begin, I’m going to address another matter that many of you are here for tonight. We know that you have seen letters circulating by the SHTA.”

John Morris, president of the Shaker Heights Teachers Association, sent a letter to union members the day prior to the meeting, urging them to attend Thursday’s meeting to “ask leadership why we are treating our teachers this way.” In his letter, Morris detailed the investigations and administrative leave of English teacher Jody Podl.

[Eruption of cheers]

Stephens: “We have talked regularly with union President Morris about the situation and the issues raised in that letter even as late as this afternoon, and we’re confident that he with the union will resolve these issues. We’re not interested in being kind of back and forth about that tonight. Our goal is to find a resolution to that matter. Though we can’t talk about personnel issues, we want to make absolutely clear of one thing, and this is important, and that’s our decision on the situation involving this particular teacher. First and foremost, we want this teacher back in the classroom teaching her students. She has tremendous talent and she’s a benefit to our students.”

[Applause]

“It’s important to know that her administrative leave was lifted earlier this week and we look forward to her return. “

[Applause]

Podl’s leave was lifted the day before the meeting. She has not yet returned to the classroom.

“At the same time, we know that you all agree that our students come first and, working through this situation, that’s been our guiding principle. We’ve tried to address concerns expressed by some of our students and our parents here at the high school. We cannot question their credibility and their intention. We’re confident that, working with our teachers on these issues, we can address all these concerns and move forward. So, with that said, I think we’re ready to listen to one another and have Dr. Glasner and Dr. Wilkins just share brief opening remarks with you.”

[Stephens takes Glasner’s seat as he steps up to the podium to speak]

Glasner: “Good evening everybody. My name is Dr. Glasner, I’m here serving as principal at the high school, and I certainly appreciate and understand that emotions are pretty high and people are upset —  and that this is not a situation that really any of us envisioned or thought we’d be in when the school year started, or over the past few weeks. I will say, and I’ve said this in a few different communications emails to faculty, that we have an amazing high school. We have amazing high school faculty.”

[Applause]

“We have an amazing high school staff, we have amazing high school curriculum and we also have amazing high school students, so let’s give them a big round of applause.”

[Applause]

“And I really appreciate that the community, even in these trying circumstances, has certainly welcomed me with open arms. And over the past few weeks I’ve —  over the past few days I should say — I’ve had the opportunity to visit classrooms, get to see students, get to meet with teachers, and it’s really great to see that the work, and the learning and the teaching at our high school is continuing and is as strong as ever. I know that there is also work that needs to be done, and part of that is building, and in some cases rebuilding, trust and relationships among our community members, and during my time here, that is certainly a priority. Also, I want to make sure that, no matter what the long-term leadership outcome of this building, that we continue to be set up for long-term success, and that is also work that I will be doing while I am here. It’s been great to see a lot of familiar faces in the audience tonight, and when I walk the hallways, the students are, in some cases, a few feet taller than the last time I saw them. And I look forward to continuing to being a presence here, to continuing to support our community and our high school, and I look forward to answering some of your questions this evening. Thank you very much.”

Glasner’s reference to students being “a few feet taller” recalls his time as middle school principal. This year, he moved into the position of executive director of curriculum and instruction —  before he stepped in as substitute principal.

[Applause. Wilkins stands up and walks to the podium to speak.]

Dr. Wilkins: “Good evening. I’m Dr. Stephen Wilkins and I’m the interim superintendent of schools. I want to thank you all for attending this evening’s community meeting. Those of you who are meeting me for the first time, I certainly wish it was for better reasons, but I also want you to know that there are better days ahead. I understand that there are many issues that need to be addressed, and some of those issues relate to personnel matters, but I would also ask that we be kind and civil in our dialogue tonight. And also be cognizant of our ethical and legal responsibilities to take care, with discussion of these personnel items.

“As Scott Stephens mentioned in the introduction, it is and always will be our guide and principle to place students first. To place students first. We do our best to address their goals, their needs, their concerns, their aspirations and provide them the support and develop them into great graduates to do great things in this country, in this state and across the world. And we are confident that even with those things that are going on today that we all will work together —  all of us, students, parents, teachers, staff, who led any of these concerns — and move forward together in a positive way for the good of our students.”

“To that end, tonight’s meeting must reflect the best of Shaker schools. I am here to listen. I will inform you as best that I can and I promise you that I will address the challenges ahead. To the students, the parents, the families, for those of you that are here at your school: This is an important year as all years are, but I want you to know that your success here this year is paramount. This is the year for, you know, the band trip —”

[Audience starts yelling and grumbling]

“We will get through these things together.”

Woman: “We’re not here for a band trip.”

Another woman: “We all love the district —  that’s why we’re here!”

[Applause]

Wilkins: “So as we work together on solving the problems and challenges ahead, I am asking for your help and support. I am asking for your help and support. I’m here to listen.”

Woman, shouting: “Let’s start listening please.”

[Wilkins sits. Stephens walks back up to the podium]

Stephens: “Well, I think the first question off the top here, that was handed to me —  we’ve got quite a few, and we’ll try to get through as many as we can.”

“Will the district open any kind of investigation into the handling of the matters regarding the teacher that we referred to earlier?”

[Audience grumbling]

Wilkins, to Stephens: Yes. OK, I believe the question was, ‘Will there be an investigation or review of the concern raised in the letter?’ ”

Stephens: “Essentially, yes; it’s the process of handling the case.”

Wilkins: “Yes.”

[Small applause, silence on stage]

Man: “Could you explain more?”

The statement released by the board Friday night did not mention a specific investigation into the handling of Podl’s case.

[Stephens moves on to next question]

Stephens: “Students and teachers are distracted with what is going on and don’t feel secure. What would be done in the short term and the long term to make sure that the focus is on the teaching and learning? Dr. Glasner, do you want to take that one?”

Glasner: “Sure. Thank you for the question. I have already started meeting with our administrative team and our department chairs to ensure that the focus remains on teaching and learning. Personally, and you may have noticed already this week, I have been a visible presence in the hallways to ensure that the high school continues to operate as smoothly as possible. Those meetings and planning will continue, and of course I consider it a priority to make sure that we’re keeping tabs on how the high school is operating on a day-to-day basis so that we can focus on teaching and learning.”  

Stephens: “Thank you. Dr. Wilkins, the question you are asked is: You are legally obligated to eventually tell us why Mr. Kuehnle has been placed on leave. When will you tell us that and why haven’t you told us so far?”

The district is not legally obligated to release a statement to the community stating why Kuehnle is on leave. However, at the conclusion of the district’s third-party investigation of the concerns that prompted the leave, he will receive a letter from the district stating the outcome —  and the letter is a public record obtainable by request.

[large audience applause]

Wilkins: “Well as we know, Principal Kuehnle is on leave, undergoing a review. That review will take some time. I don’t have a date that that is going to be completed. Once that review is completed, then I’ll make a decision accordingly to move forward from there. At that time, we will certainly let everyone know the way ahead.”

Women in audience, yelling: “How did it get to this situation? How did we get here today?”

Another woman: “It’s not fair that we don’t know what is going on…

[Both women yelling at the same time]

First woman: “Last May, the teachers and the staff of this building gave the guy a no confidence vote at the board meeting. How did we get here? What was the supervision of what this guy was doing in the building?”

The woman’s use of the term “no confidence vote” may refer to community comments at the meeting regarding staffing and other concerns at the high school. Former guidance counselor Eileen Blattner mentioned at the meeting that she had “grave concerns we’re hurting students.”

[Applause]

[Stephens moves on to next question]

Stephens: “Our next question is about…”

[Audience starts booing]

Woman, yelling: “Answer the question!”

Man: “You’re not answering the questions that people want the answers to!”

[Lots of people yelling]

Stephens: “A questioner wants to know why we have not been updated on the cheerleader situation lately, the situation involving the cheerleaders, and if we will have an update on that soon?”

Wilkins: I’m not sure what an update on the cheerleader situation means. I can’t say [people yelling over him]. We have appointed new coaches surrounding the cheerleading squad.

Man, yelling: “How about we read the questions instead of you rephrasing them?”

Second man: “Please read the questions as written and not as interpreted.”

[Applause]

Stephens: “Unfortunately, I can’t read the handwriting here, so —”  

[Audience starts shouting at him]

Stephens: “Dr. Wilkins, have all parties involved been interviewed and questioned fairly? Was everyone’s voices heard? Were the facts checked out? I am not sure which case the question is referring to.”

It’s safe to assume that the questioner was referring to the Podl case, as no information about interviews in any of the other personnel matters has reached the public.

Man, yelling: “Why don’t you ask the questioner so you have clarity!”

Wilkins: “So again, I have to remind everyone that we cannot discuss personnel matters by detail. We can inform you that an investigation is underway.”

It’s unclear here whether Wilkins is talking about an investigation into the handling of the Podl case, the Podl investigation itself or the investigation of Kuehnle.

[Audience yells]

Man: “That’s right, due process means following a handbook that [inaudible] employment relationships, roles and responsibility. Share with us, so that we have confidence that it’s being followed. I would imagine —”

[Audience applauds]

“This is not helpful to understanding. For anyone!”

The SHTA has filed a three-part grievance on the handling of the Podl investigation. One of those parts references due process; in this case, the term due process refers to an SHTA member’s contractual right to respond in writing to any allegations against them.

[Pause]

Stephens: “The next question is: Why was Ms. Podl not given an opportunity to defend herself in these accusations?”

[Audience applauds]

Man: “[inuadible] process you follow when there’s an allegation. There’s a fair and equal treatment to people. What process did you follow?”

[Audience yelling at the man]

“Answer that question, and then I’ll leave, and you don’t have to have me around anymore.”

Audience chants: “We want answers! We want answers! We want answers! We want answers!”

Stephens: “Alright, we can try another question if you want.”

[Booing, grumbling]

Stephens: “Somebody asked for the district —”  

[Booing drowns Stephens out]

Stephens: “Alright uh, if we could continue —”

Man: “The last question was not answered.”

Stephens: “A questioner wants to know — either Dr. Wilkins or Mr. Glasner — Can I please have the district’s definition of hazing or bullying? If the teacher has a difficult conversation with my child, are you going to consider that hazing?”

[Audience murmurs]

Mr. Glasner: “I don’t have the exact language with me. Dr. Wilkins might. That definition is included in our faculty and student handbook and it’s also published in our policies, which are online.”

Dr. Marla Robinson, chief of staff, seated just in front of the stage, to Glasner: “JFCF”

Mr. Glasner: “JFCF. Policy JFCF.”

Dr. Wilkins: “Let me read what the policy says. ‘Bullying, harassment, or intimidation means any intentional written, verbal or physical act, student on student or staff on student (on school grounds, at school-sponsored academic, extracurricular activities and on school buses) more than once, if the behavior causes mental or physical harm and is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment for the other student. This includes cyber bullying (electronic acts) and violence in dating relationships. However, inappropriate behavior does not have to include intent to harm, be directed at a specific target or involve repeated incidents to be considered harassment and prohibited by district policy. The district will investigate formal and informal complaints.’ Thank you.”

Woman: “Identify the teacher [inaudible].”

Dr. Wilkins: “Yes.”

[Audience grumbles]

Stephens: “Alright, another question. This could, I think go to Dr. Glasner. The questioner wants to know, Are you trying to water down the curriculum, by making advanced classes seem less rigorous?’”

This is probably a reference to the SHTA’s letter, which claims that “statements were made by students who had not completed assignments and were unhappy with the rigor of the advanced coursework. The students construed academic rigor as bullying and harassment.”

[Confused mumbling from the audience]

Mr. Glasner: “I’m not sure I understand the question. But I certainly want to make sure our curriculum is as rigorous and as challenging as possible for all of our students.”

[Audience stirs]

Stephens: “David, again, it goes to the teacher’s relationship in the classroom with their students. ‘How can a teacher initiate a conversation regarding a student’s academic activities and performance if there’s any fear that the conversation can be labeled as bullying?’”

[Stephens is drowned out by audience cheering and murmuring]

“And if you could reflect on your career as a principal and in various places and situations that you felt —”  

[Audience drowns Stephens out again]

Mr. Glasner: “Well, of course, I know that all of our teachers are invested in the success of our students. And I think that all of our teachers also are very good at having sometimes difficult conversations with our students. I think something that I’ve always found to be important is ensuring high expectations for our students. And I know that our students are capable of always improving, learning and growing. And in my experience, when a teacher approaches a student from that perspective and in a fair-minded, supportive mentality and approach, there’s always positive results.”

[Audience stirs]

Stephens: “The questioner writes that, ‘As a parent I’m concerned by the teachers association letter and the dismissive and belittling tone towards students and parent concerns. How does the district ensure that all students and families are taken seriously and allowed to express their opinions?’”

Dr. Wilkins: “I think first and foremost, as I mentioned from the policy, that such concerns will be investigated. And that is exactly what we are doing. David?”

Mr. Glasner: “I would like to add that over the past couple of days since I’ve been here, I’ve had conversations with parents and students who have shared those concerns with me, and really I want all of our community to know that this is why we’re here. We’re here to work on addressing those concerns and make sure that all of our students feel supported in their classes and feel that this is a positive development and learning environment and that we’re here to support you.”

Stephens: “Will the district commit to a new class of the leading for equity cohort, which should include staff, teachers, parents and students? Will you commit to doing this and when will you?”

“Leading for equity” is a 20-hour training offered by Equius, a consulting firm hired by Shaker. Equius also held two-hour “let’s get real” training courses about race, open to staff.

Dr. Wilkins: “I don’t want to say that we will commit one certain thing about equity effort, but I do want you to know that it is certainly a priority. I would like to take that question and get back to you, the questioner.”

Stephens: “We have a question for Dr. Wilkins about the strategic plan and the status of that, given the fact that the consultant who was helping us through that process left midway through. I think that the questioner just wants to know where things are at with that.”

Dr. Wilkins: “We are ready enough to find another consultant to lead us through that process. We hope to make a decision within the next week or so and we will make that announcement accordingly.”

Audience member: “Why’d they quit?”

Another audience member: “Where’d they go? Why’d the consultant quit?”

[Audience mumbling]

Stephens: “The consultant quit because, I believe, it was a very small consulting firm, and they were somewhat overwhelmed by the scope of the work. There was illness involved in the family among the individuals.”

A letter to Dr. Wilkins from the Greenway Strategy Group stated that the reason for quitting was because their “tested approach to strategy development is not a good fit with the pre-determined process designed by Shaker Schools.” The letter continues, stating, “The size and composition of the Shaker Heights Strategic Planning Committee, the expectations around the committee’s role in the process, and the number and cadence of committee meetings are simply not a good match for our process. Additionally, expectations have been created for stakeholder engagement and review of extensive documentation beyond our original agreement that we are not able to honor.”

Audience member: “Wasn’t this the same consultant that was reviewed by the board?”

[Audience murmurs]

Stephens: “A general question here for either one of you. If students are the priority, why are we not listening to their concerns and regards?”

[Audience cheers over Stephens]

Mr. Glasner: “Well as I hope I made clear tonight and prior to tonight, I’m certainly open to hearing your concerns, answering questions, and I know we have limited time tonight and I will hope to answer as many questions and concerns tonight as possible. After tonight, my door is open, my office is open, my email and phone are available, and of course if you have any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out.”

Student standing near the stage: “Mr. Glasner, can I please read out my question because I don’t think he’s reading these guys’ questions. He told me no. You know, students are the priority, but you guys won’t listen to us. Can you please listen to me?”

[Applause]

[The student walks on stage and grabs the microphone and audience applauds]

Brianna Jarrell, student: “Hello. So, I get that the whole students are a priority and everything but I don’t believe that they’re listening to us because they’re too busy saying that we’re up to something. Especially us minority students, because —”

[Jarrell cut off by audience applause]

“Apparently we can’t sit in an area waiting on something without them thinking that we’re up to something. Like, for instance, today. I’ve been here all day and I’ve been minding my business, I’m not a [inaudible] student or anything. So, while I was sitting at the table outside the egress no one bothered me. Three more black students came around, and all of a sudden we had to leave.”

“So, I’m wondering, why is that after sitting here for an hour [inaudible] while I was there by myself, but other people come around now, oh, we’re up to something, we’ve got to leave.”

“Now where are we supposed to go? You locked the egress, you locked the cafeteria, everyone can’t go in the senior lounge —  so please tell me where you expect us to go, because we’re supposed to be ‘supervised,’ like we’re not young adults. You’re supposed to be raising us and building us up and developing us to be young adults.”

[audience cheers]

“My question to you is: If you want us to be better and, like, not have so many issues, then why won’t you create areas for us to go?

“We have a whole egress that says, ‘locked,’ constantly. That is the perfect designated area for us to go, but y’all telling us no ’cause we’re always up to something, and I just want to understand why is it that we can’t be in the room without it being an issue, and if you want us to go to an area supervised, why don’t you hire someone or assign someone to watch us?”

[audience cheers]

“Because it’s really not that big of a deal. Thank you. My name is Brianna Jarrell, and I’m a senior.”

Glasner: “Thank you Brianna. I’ve only been here for about a week and actually that issue has come up quite a bit, so I’m glad that Brianna brought it up tonight. I’m still in learning mode here, but it is certainly an issue I hope to be able to address —  to try to figure out where our students can go here in the high school while they’re waiting.”

At the high school, students are not allowed to roam the halls during or after school. At 3:15 p.m., Greg Zanelli, dean of students, makes an announcement that all students must be in a conference, at an athletic study table, have a hall pass or be outside the school building. It is also mandated by law that students must be supervised at all times.

“You know, we’re lucky. I’ve spoken to a bunch of people who say things like, ‘This building never sleeps,’ and it’s true because there are so many events and activities that we have going on here, which is fantastic, and we always need to make sure that our students are safe and that when students are under our care that we’re supervising them appropriately. And so we do want to make sure that we provide those spaces and add supervision as needed, and that’s something I’m still looking into. Like I said that something that has been brought to my attention and thank you, Brianna, again for bringing that up.”

[light applause]

Stephens: “Thanks Dr. Glasner. The next question is kind of a long, process question about the football coach situation, Dr. Wilkins, and the coach and staff: What is the process of hiring a football coach, or I guess any coach. Who’s in charge of that? As the process is for hiring assistant coaches. How did the process break down in your view? That we had an issue with an individual who was acting as an assistant coach and probably the most important, what will we do in order to change that process in terms of personnel and ensuring that our student athletes are safe?”

Wilkins: “Well, we’re gonna change that by hiring a new coach.”

[audience starts yelling]

Woman in audience: “How does a felon get hired?”

Wilkins: “Those questions are all very good questions and at the same time —”

Woman in audience: “Answer them.”

[interrupted by audience shouts]

Wilkins: “Those are the same types of questions that I asked. And when I talked about with those things that were being investigated, those are the questions that I want answered. Just like you, when I found out about this situation, I was also surprised. I was extremely disappointed. That we had adults in charge of our most precious asset, our children, make those types of decisions is unacceptable, period.”

“Our students are required to have adults around them who are properly sanctioned and licensed, and we will ensure that that happens in the future.”

Audience member: “How?”

Wilkins: “How are we going to go about fixing that?”

Audience member: “How?”

Wilkins: “I’m answering your question.”

Second audience member: “Well, hurry up!”

[Laughter]

Wilkins: “We have drafted a job description and will revise that. I’m working with the athletic director, who is responsible for the interviews of those candidates. Those candidates will be vetted, strictly, and we will raise the standards and expectations of the coaching staff. Stay tuned.”

[Audience grumbling]

“We are rebuilding the coaching staff.”

Audience member: “Why wasn’t there a background check done on him, though?”

Second audience member: “That was my question, and it’s really about the process —  and who was in charge of that process and how do we decide? There are a lot of assistant coaches; do they all just volunteer? Do they get fingerprinted? I mean, do I —  my question is about the process and if you could explain who’s in charge and what the process is.”

Athletic coaches work under contracts that are approved by the board, and some teams have volunteer coaches, who do not receive paychecks from the district. All coaches are required to be fingerprinted and vetted, but the district has not released any information about how Jonathan Harrell, former special teams coach, avoided that process.

Wilkins: “I think I just mentioned that I just mentioned that the process wasn’t followed. That’s why it is unacceptable.”

[audience yelling]

Second audience member: “But what is the process?”

Wilkins: “Coaches are required to be properly licensed.”

Third audience member: “Are the high school coaches —”

[audience yells at the man]

“Are the high school coaches done through the same process that the volunteer coaches, that coach kids for the districts — is it the same process?”

Wilkins: “Coaches are required to be background checked as well, yes.”

First audience member: “Did anyone do a background check on him?”

Third audience member: “He just answered that. It’s the same process.”

First audience member: “Yes or no? There has to be an answer to that.”

[Audience yells at Wilkins. Wilkins remains silent, and Stephens moves on to the next question.]

Stephens: The question is about recruiting new teachers and replacing teachers who may choose to actively pursue other jobs in other districts. How can we ensure the community that any of these new teachers will have strong relationships with students? And an expertise to handle students and assist students with rigorous work required to prepare them for college entrance exams and other demands. How will the continued exodus of talented staff affect Shaker’s reputation?”

[Light applause]

Wilkins: “We have great teachers, we’ve been recruiting great teachers, and that will continue.”

[Audience member yells something inaudible at Wilkins, and the audience cheers]

Stephens: “Dr. Wilkins, so what about a couple of the reviews that are underway now: Has the administration asked Ms. Podl or Mr. Kuehnle’s permission to discuss their issues with us and if not, why not? Have you secured permission to discuss from either of those people to discuss their issues publicly, I think is what I think is being asked. And if you have not, why not?”

Dr. Wilkins: “I think the answer is, as I have mentioned before, we have ethical and legal obligations that we cannot discuss personnel matters.”

[Audience mumbling, shouting different things]

Stephens: “Dr. Wilkins a questioner wants to know if you can comment on whether or not administrative leave, the administrative leave policy, is that ever used as an intimidation tactic?

Wilkins: “No it’s not. The administrative leave process is used to conduct an investigation, period.”

Audience member: “Where’s Dr. Breeden?”

Dr. Terri Breeden, assistant superintendent and director of curriculum and instruction, who joined the district during the tenure of former Superintendent Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr., is mentioned in the SHTA letter as having refused to let Jody Podl respond to allegations of bullying, intimidation and harassment. The district has not commented on whether or not Breeden refused to allow Podl to respond and told The Shakerite that Breeden is not available for interviews.

Stephens: “Bear with me here; we have a lot of repeats.”

Stephens: “Why wasn’t Mrs. Podl given a chance to speak? I assume we don’t mean tonight but I guess it speaks just to the process in terms of investigating her case.

Wilkins: I would say, I would certainly say that we’re in that investigative process. So, what’s next? What’s next?”

“So part of the process is that we, also, right, follow the teachers’ union contract. Which has a process to raise those types of questions and get those answers. So we follow the process and I expect we will get those answers.”

Audience member: “What process?”

Dr. Wilkins: “It’s called the grievance process in the collective bargaining agreement with the teachers’ union.”

[Stephens looks through the notecards]

Cathleen Grieshop, Boulevard teacher: “Can I ask a question since he’s looking? What about the emotional damage that’s already been done to Ms. Podl?”

[Audience yells]

Grieshop: “And what’s going to happen to make sure that doesn’t happen to a teacher again?”

In 2015, Grieshop was placed on administrative assignment after a student asked her to go to his locker and instead ventured outside the building. Read about that incident here.

[The question isn’t answered and Stephens reads the next card.]

Stephens: “A general kind of question I’m going to ask Dr. Glasner, if he can take a stab at it: What can we do as a school to make the experience for African-American students better?”

[Applause]

Glasner: “Sorry, could you repeat part of that question? I missed the end.”

Stephens: “Sorry, uh, yeah. The question, Dr. Glasner, was: What can we do as a school to make the experience for African-American students better or improved?

Glasner: “There’s a lot of work we need to do as a community in order to make sure that we provide an equitable and high-quality educational experience for all students. Part of that is making sure that the barriers or structures that we have in place —  that start early on in our district — that may affect the educational experience of students, including at the high school, that we make sure we’re either removing those barriers or ensuring that we’re providing excellent and equitable structures for students to get up to the high school. I also think here at the high school, we’ll need to make sure that we are treating all students fairly and equitably, and that includes looking at the courses we offer and the educational experiences that we offer for our students. It is a long-term process and a journey that we need to go on. I think the work that we’ve done with our equity task force and other similar conversations we’ve had is part of that work, and there’s also a lot more that needs to happen.”

[Female student gets on stage with a microphone]

Olivia McDowell, student: “Excuse me, hi, everyone. I’m Olivia McDowell. I’m a junior and I’m the student that they’re referring to in that letter.”

[Applause]

“I don’t want to get emotional, but I care about my education. What was said in that letter was not completely true, number one. Number two, why is it about the teacher’s feelings? What about the student? [inaudible] care about us so much? [applause drowns her out] Y’all sweep stuff under the rug and act like it just doesn’t matter —  act like it’s not going on. I don’t get it. What about the damage to a student when they’re, what, one of three, one of five black kids in their class because of the whole education gap that y’all have? And being reprimanded over stuff that’s not —  they have a B in the class, they’re completely acceptable [inaudible]. But somehow, they’re still wrong, right? Somehow, they’re still not capable, right? Right, am I right?

[Some applause]

“I’ve been in Shaker since third grade and nothing has changed … What’s about to happen? … Plenty of other teachers that are in this room right now, I’ve heard countless things about. Where’s the training? Where’s the classes on equity?”

McDowell later clarified with The Shakerite that her comments about Podl and about race were not intended to be correlated. “Everyone turns it into a racial thing,” she told The Shakerite. “I don’t think it was racially based at all.” Read that story here.

Audience member: “Period!”

[Applause]

McDowell: “Giving the lessons and teaching the work and editing essays, or teaching math problems. Where are people’s feelings? You’re supposed to teach children. You’re supposed to build them up —  not tear them down each chance that you get.”

[Applause]

Audience member: “Period!”

[McDowell walks off the stage]

Stephens: “I’m gonna ask, um, ‘What is the time frame for investigating —”

[Audience shouts over him]

McDowell: “Everything is always swept under the rug at this school. I need answers! We all [inaudible]. It’s my education! My education.”

Man in audience: “You have an equity task force. That little girl is screaming out. She’s a good student. You have to address those things!”

[Applause]

Glasner: “I just want to say thank you, Olivia, for speaking out. I really appreciate it.”

[Audience grumbling and shouting at the stage]

McDowell: “Just answer the question! I don’t understand.”

[More grumbling. A man in the back stands up]

Nate Phillips, community member: “I came out of Shaker in ’89. The issues have not changed!”

[Applause]

“[Inaudible] everything I can. I’ve called around to say, ‘How can I help?’ You’ve got all these parents here —  black and white — that understand Shaker. Appreciate Shaker. Want to do what we can for Shaker! [Inaudible] everything you try to do, but when the real conversation gets on the table, it won’t be addressed!”

[Applause. Another man gets on stage with a microphone.]

Man on stage: “She wants to hear from the leadership on what her concerns are. This is not, ‘Move on to the next question.’ This is, ‘Address her concerns, because you have a student that is crying out for help.’ That is dealing with a situation —  regardless of how the teachers feel about the situation — she feels that she’s not being heard. This is an opportunity for you, the leadership of this district, to speak to her concerns. And not just her concerns, but concerns of other students here, so the floor is now yours to address her concerns.”

[Applause]

Wilkins: “Thank you for that clarification. Because it’s important to listen, and hear what he has to say, and what she has to say. [Inaudible] student. And, as I mentioned, I have to be careful about how I talk about this, but one thing that happens that we are listening is: There was an investigation that was done. There was an investigation that was done. There are other things that we still need to look into. As a result of that investigation, we also are learning some things that we need to do and that we need to fix.

“I saw that one parent mentioned long memories about things here, among us. We’ve put in some structures, so far, to start to address those concerns. We’ve talked about a strategy, we’ve talked about the equity task force, and I can assure you that it has discussions —  they’re real. And they bring up those concerns that were raised. And we’re working to develop a plan to address those concerns, provide resources and develop us into who we should be, as a Shaker community, to make sure that you’re experience is positive and supported.”

McDowell: “I’m about to leave [inaudible]. So, like, is this gonna work for the upcoming classes? Because my experience has not been the best. It hasn’t.”

Wilkins: “I think we all wish that we could make things happen a lot faster. I understand. And I’m in pain with you. [Audience grumbling] That we’re not there yet. We aren’t. But I assure you that we’re working towards that goal. We’ll try to get there as quick as we can. David?”

[Man in the front of the auditorium stands up]

Man: “Wait, wait, wait. I just wanna ask you one question because there is another side on some of these issues in that — I’m not gonna say my son’s name because, you know, I don’t want to put him under that pressure or anything like that — but there are other kids in that classroom also, in other situations, who are afraid to speak up about when some of the stuff that they see in the classrooms, that they come home and talk to us about, on all sides of the spectrums. Where they see shenanigans, fighting, disrespect to teachers in other classrooms about — I think it was last year we had a teacher who was fired for leaving the classroom? And the reason he left was because he could not control the classroom, and they started cursing at him. My son has witnessed kids walking up and grabbing stuff off the teachers’ desks… The Spanish teacher, who’s no longer here. . .

Audience members: “Who are they? Who are they? Who’s that? Who are they?”

Man: Any students, any students. Wait, wait, look guys. Wait, wait, look guys. Wait, look.”

Audience member: “If you’re asking a question, ask the right question!”

Man: “Look, guys. Look, guys. Look.”

More audience comments:

“I don’t think you’re asking the right questions.”

“That’s not what you’re saying!”

“You’re privileged! Privilege of speech!”

“Your privilege is very loud and it stinks. Who is ‘they’? Address the issue [inaudible].”

Man: “‘They’ is anyone who can go into a classroom —”  

Woman: “That’s not what I said —”

Man: “ ‘They’ is anyone who can go into a classroom and want to learn, but other people —”  

Woman: “Who’s that?”

Man: “It doesn’t matter who! I’m saying any other child. Stop assuming stuff is always about race or anything —”

[Audience bursts into yelling and clapping from some, anger from others, mostly indistinguishable]

Man: “There are children. I’m saying there are children.”

Woman, at same time: “There are other, there are other [inaudible]. I’m saying, there are other people  . . .

Man: I’m saying, there are children in this school. Look —

Vic Ferrell, district head of security, to man: Look, I’m on your path here [inaudible], but let’s…

Man: “There are other, there has got to be ways where we, as a community — listen — as a community, with the school board, we come in —”

Another woman, louder and closer: “We can’t listen to that when our kids are being treated differently than other kids. Let’s talk about ‘the other.’ We can’t talk about that when the other kids are getting treated better than our kids. We can’t talk about that when teachers and coaches are disrespecting our children. We’re not gonna talk about ‘the other,’ because we are ‘the other.’ That’s why we’re here!”

[Applause]

Man: “My son’s an ‘other,’ too, because he can’t sit in the classroom or get an education —”

Third woman: “Why not? Why not?”

Man: “Because people are fighting in the classroom!”

[Mumbling from audience]

Student in the audience: “Who is fighting? Who are you saying?”

Man: “Any kid!”

Student: “No, you keep saying that! You be saying ‘this’ and ‘they’ and, like, just say it!”

[More angry yells]

Ferrell: Listen to me, man… listen, listen, listen, I’m trying to talk nicely right now. You’re not gonna win this. I hear you; I hear your passion.”

[Man slowly begins to sit down]

“Thank you. You’re not gonna win in here.”

Man: “Six thousand dollars a year…six thousand dollars a year…”

Female student: “Everybody in this community pays taxes so that we can get an education…”

[Lots of mumbling as the man sits down]

Stephens: “OK, I think we can move on to an official question —”

[One father gets on stage with a microphone]

Man: “If I may, everybody, if I may. I’m not part of the administration. I’m a parent like you. I want to hear answers. So instead of parents infighting against other parents and students, I suggest the administration see this as an opportunity. Your kids are asking for you to lead them. Do not offer them platitudes, plans, because by the time those plans work out, you’ve lost a lot of kids.”

[Applause]

“I can appreciate —  I’m an attorney, I can appreciate some things you can’t say —  but that baby is hurting! Before you were administrators, you were educators! You got in this for the babies. So, to the extent you could come from behind your desk as administrators and be educators, be human beings, control your room, you’re leaders —  lead! And a leader would share the microphone and then allow the actual constituents to talk.”

A minor detail, but an interesting one: Wilkins was actually never an educator before becoming interim superintendent. He holds a master’s in business administration from Harvard University and has worked in administrative positions in education, in addition to working at the Pentagon and White House, prior to his time at Shaker.

[Applause, cheering. The man hands the microphone to a student on stage.]

Alexander Moses, student:” I’m Alexander Moses, I’m a twelfth grade student here, and like, last year, Kye Harrell organized a sit in for Shaker; and the white student body —  well not just the white student body, but a lot of the student body, did a walk out. Shakerite only really talked about the walkout. There’s still issues going on in this school that nobody wants to address.”

The Shakerite covered both the walk out and the sit in, and we contacted Alexander to talk to him about his comments. He sent a kind letter acknowledging his mistake, and agreed to let The Shakerite publish it. You can read the letter here.

“It’s not fair to the African-American student body, it’s not fair to any of the students. And it’s like [inaudible] a lot of these questions y’all just keep saying y’all got plans, but by the time these plans come to action, we’re going to be graduated. So, like, what are y’all gonna do?”

[A few seconds of quiet talking. A few people yelled reactions, then applause and cheering]

Glasner: “Thank you, Alexander. We want to help our students now —  I definitely understand that there is an urgency and, as Dr. Wilkins said, we know we’re not where we want to be. And that sometimes takes a long time.”

“While I am in this building, I will be working with students and staff to make sure that all of our students have a high quality educational experience, and that, Olivia, you, and Alexander, you, and all of our other students have a positive experience — and I know, sometimes that requires taking difficult actions, like Dr. Wilkins referenced, but I do believe that we are willing to take those steps to make sure that all of our students are treated fairly and have a high quality education.”

[Mumbling]

Woman: “When? [inaudible]”

Audience: “Ooooohhhhh!” [cheering]

Man in the back of the auditorium: “[inaudible] my attention here, I came here to talk about one thing [inaudible] this is not a district planning meeting, this is about the Mrs. Podl situation [inaudible].

Moses: “This is about the community!”

Man in back: “[Inaudible] and I would like you to please get back to it, and I would like to hear from Robinson and Cavucci, who were very important people mentioned in that Facebook posting.”

[Applause]

The “Facebook posting” refers to the SHTA’s letter, circulated on Facebook, via text and emailed to union members. Dr. Marla Robinson, chief of staff, conducted the investigation on discrimination, and found none had occurred. That investigation concluded Oct. 24. Dr. Lois Cavucci, human resources director, sent Podl the letter placing her on administrative leave, according to the SHTA letter.

Stephens: “We have a question, Dr. Wilkins, about the investigation, into the situation about Ms. Podl and handling of the leave, that we would be looking into the process on that and kind of evaluating the process. The question is: When will this information be public, and how will we share that with the public?”

[Quiet mumbling]

Wilkins: “Again I can’t put a timeline on any reviews, so I believe that that is an open-ended answer, and I think in conclusion of that, the meeting [inaudible].”

The district is not obligated to release any statement on the Podl investigation, though, similarly to Kuehnle, some documents about the matter are public records.

Stephens: “There were a number of questions about college entrance exam letters at this time of year, and how putting a teacher on administrative leave could disrupt that process and perhaps disrupt the timing of those letters for some students —  any thoughts on how that’s handled, Dr. Glasner, in terms of getting another teacher in, or, you know, anything you want to observe on that.”

Podl was placed on leave a little less than a month before the Nov. 1 early application and early decision deadline for those colleges that offer early admission or early decision.

Glasner: “I know that our school counseling staff is excellent when it comes to making sure that all of our students have their college applications ready, and I know that they are helping to support students who need additional materials completed. In terms of the specifics around specific college recommendation letters, I can’t speak to that right now, I’m sorry.”

Stephens: “Sure, it’s something, you’ll — you’ll find you kind of monitor though, and to look into, obviously get help for students who were [inaudible] or shorted, perhaps, on this, right?”

[Audience noises]

Stephens: “Okay everybody, I know you’re not gonna want to hear this, but we’re out of time –“

[yelling from audience]

“and we had said this was gonna go an hour, and it’s gonna go an hour. We thank you for being here. We will answer —”

[A student walks up on stage and takes Glasner’s microphone]  

Alexis Winthrop, student: “Hello? Excuse me, hi. You know it’s bad when I’m up here. Hi everyone, how are you today? So, I can’t be the only one who noticed that these men right here have been dodging our questions all night. These men have been reading our questions incorrectly. These men want us to believe that they care so much, but where’s one example where they show it? One. All we have to do is stand up — I’m gonna start selling shirts. This is our school, and do me a favor, sir? This, on a note card right here, is from a nice lady in the back. She’d like you to answer her question. I’d like you to read it, so that way I know for sure.”

Audience: “Read it!”

[Glasner reads the notecard silently]

Glasner: “I’m happy to talk to whoever wrote this and follow up —”  

Audience: “Read it! Read it!” [Yelling]

[Glasner stands up with Wilkins, and they start toward the edge of the stage with Stephens. Audience members begin to stand; some walk toward the stage and others out the doors in the back of the auditorium.]

Danielle Krantz, Quinn Cutri, Caroline Brancato, Ana Butze and Ashley Sah assisted in transcribing the meeting.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comment using your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL or Hotmail account

comments

1 Comment

One Response to “Nov. 8 Community Meeting Transcript”

  1. Mark Kilkenny on November 13th, 2018 12:26 am

    Nice job! It was hard to follow things at the meeting. This transcript should prove useful in raising/resting many of the issue brought up.

Comment above using your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL or Hotmail account. If you don't have an account with any of these websites, you can comment below with your full name and a valid email address.




*

The Shakerite • Copyright 2018 • FLEX WordPress Theme by SNOLog in