Tuesday, September 20, 2011
BULLETIN: Richmond Hts school board apparently trying to fire superintendent amid federal investigation
The proverbial stuff is about to hit the fan in Richmond Heights tonight where the school board has called an emergency special meeting in an apparent attempt, once again, to fire superintendent Linda T. Hardwick.
Grounds for the attempted discharge — which we understand requires an affirmative vote of four of the five board members — are Dr. Hardwick’s alleged insubordination for purportedly interfering with what was probably an inappropriate and possibly unauthorized edict from board president Josh Kaye to investigate “theft” of public documents.
These documents apparently consist of a number of immature, ill-advised, and intemperate emails written mostly by none other than the board president himself. Some of these emails evidence Mr. Kaye’s penchant for malevolent micromanagement and reveal a total lack of appreciation for his role as a public official. For instance, in one email Mr. Kaye volunteers to protect a board employee from the superintendent, essentially granting the employee license to disregard the superintendent’s directives.
Most of the emails were written months ago during the in-fighting between a board majority that includes Aaron Burko and Bob Fox, and Dr. Hardwick, over her attempts to discipline former varsity boys basketball coach Jason Kopp for his mistreatment of team members. Mr. Kopp has wielded great influence with the board majority — he taught Mr. Kaye only a few years ago — and is also the head of the Richmond Heights Education Association that only recently concluded contract negotiations with the school district.
Our investigation has determined that while the board majority was posing in exasperation with the superintendent for dithering over whether Mr. Popp would return as coach in 2011-12, the Kaye-Fox-Burko team was actually working to thwart any sanction against the coach, even enlisting the district’s expensive legal team on their behalf.
While the board majority may have appeared to hold the upper hand against its superintendent — it has on several occasions this year chosen to embarrass her, citing her for insubordination and voting to non-renew her contract more than a year ahead of time — their control. The actions of Mr. Popp and Mr. Kaye have prompted investigations into the school district by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Education as well as the Ohio Department of Education.
These investigations, prompted by a series of complaints filed mostly by parents but also by the superintendent herself, have been vigorously contested by the Board majority at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, all without disclosure to the district’s taxpayers.
Preliminary findings of the federal investigation are expected to show that Mr. Kaye has presided over an environment hostile to the superintendent and the vast majority of the district’s students. The smoking gun for much of the government’s findings is the series of email exchanges cavalierly tossed about by Messrs. Kaye and Fox themselves.
Mr. Kaye’s recent discovery that investigators are in possession of his self-indicting emails is the trigger for tonight’s emergency meeting, whose motivating logic can only be panic. For the board majority to fire the superintendent under these circumstances would only add another to the list of retaliatory charges it is already facing.
The Real Deal has been tracking this story for much of the past several months in preparation for a thorough exposition of the dysfunction over which Mr. Kaye presides. We have outlined here only a portion of our findings so that the taxpayers, students, parents, teachers, and administrators of the district can have a basis for appreciating the truly bizarre nature of the board’s efforts to humiliate the superintendent it hired.
Our next report will detail how many of the efforts Dr. Hardwick has made to improve the district have been thwarted by the controlling board majority.