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Jefferson: School Official Shouldn’t Be In Room

by Paul Bass | Feb 2, 2012 8:54 am

(31) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Schools

Melissa Bailey Photo While new “corridors” of investigation have delayed completion of a probe into alleged grade-changing at Hillhouse High School, the principal’s attorney questioned why a Board of Ed official has sat in on interviews.

On the Friday before Christmas, the Board of Education announced an investigation after a Hillhouse administrator came forward with charges that a student’s record had been altered. It has since become a political football, with Hillhouse Principal Kermit Carolina and his supporters charging that the case is a trumped-up attempt to penalize him for not supporting Mayor John DeStefano’s reelection. DeStefano and Board of Ed officials adamantly deny the allegation.

Because Carolina’s wife works for the Board of Ed’s human resources division, school officials turned to an outside attorney, Floyd Dugas, to conduct the investigation. Superintendent of Schools Reggie Mayo said he did that to avoid an appearance of a conflict of interest.

In three recent interviews as part of the investigation, the school system Chief Administrative Officer Will Clark has sat in the room. That fact this week drew a charge of a tainted process. The charge came in the form of a letter to Dugas from Michael Jefferson, Carolina’s attorney.

“If I recall, you were hired by Dr. Mayo to conduct this investigation as a means of allaying concerns about a possible conflict of interest,” Jefferson wrote.

“The issue in part, according to Dr. Mayo, was that Principal Kermit Carolina’s wife worked for the Board of Ed’s human resources department.  Thus, this department, which would normally handle such investigations, could not be called upon to conduct the investigation regarding the matter at hand. Please note, Mr. Clark as the Board’s COO oversees the human resources department and is in effect Kim Carolina’s boss. ...

“In a correspondence dated December 19, 2011 and signed by Dr. Mayo, you are clearly given the authority to question any district employee. The correspondence further instructs the employee—‘[U]ntil the investigation is complete, you are requested not to speak to anyone else regarding your conversations with Attorney Dugas and/or the subject matter of the investigation.’ Attorney Dugas, does ‘anyone else’ include Mr. Clark? Or is he exempt?

“Why is Mr. Clark needed in this investigation? And more significantly—why are you allowing his involvement?”

Dugas said in a conversation Wednesday that he doesn’t “see any legitimate concerns.”

Clark didn’t pose questions in the three interviews at which he was present, according to Dugas. Rather, Dugas wanted him there because of his knowledge of the Tenex computer system, a key issue in the probe.

“Will Clark is not doing investigations independent from mine,” Dugas said. “I asked him to sit in on three interviews that dealt with the alleged problem with the computer system because I felt as the chief operating officer he ought to have firsthand knowledge of what those issues were.”

Clark declined comment on the matter.

Officials originally stated that the probe would be completed by last week. Dugas said he’s now “hopeful” he will finish his research by the end of this week and produce a report by the end of next week. New questions have arisen along with scheduling challenges, prolonging the investigation, he said.

“I have never done an investigation of this nature that didn’t seem to go on interminably because of people being out, not returning phone calls. Like any investigation, you start going down one alley and there’s a corridor that leads you to the right. The bottom line is we’re getting close to finish it. I’m just trying to follow up on a few loose ends.”

At that point the case will proceed to a new stage—from broad political arguments to the revelation of facts that all sides predict will prove their case.

Related stories:

Hillhouse Rallies For Carolina
New Suspect Named In Grade-Changing Probe
Jefferson Calls For “Conflict”-Free Investigator
He Was Where?
A Standoff In Grade Probe
Investigation Formally Revealed At “Emergency” School Board Meeting
Out Of Public View, Schools Rush “Emergency” Pre-Xmas Meeting On Grade-Altering Charges

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posted by: Snoopy on February 2, 2012  9:37am

Fire JOYNER, Dugas, Clark, mayo and jd and any others involved. F/B filing a law suit.

posted by: billyjoe on February 2, 2012  9:47am

Sounds like an attempt to void any Atty/Client privilege. ...

posted by: observor1 on February 2, 2012  9:56am

It comes to mind that Clark may be there for intimidation purposes so everyone is afraid to tell the real truth out of fear of reprisal if they say anything in favor of Carolina.The conflict of interest just continues to show what a farce this is and further cements my opinion that this whole witch hunt is a political payback by jd and his boys

posted by: robn on February 2, 2012  10:05am

In the normal world in which most normal people exist, when your boss asks you to answer a reasonable question about your job performance and you flat out refuse to answer, you get fired.

posted by: South West on February 2, 2012  10:17am

?Just fire JD and all this craziness,with police,board of ed and any other city agency would get better. With this mayor its always some drama on a daily basic.  Mark my words, eventually New Haven will end up like East Haven. Its just a matter of time because the Mayors do not belive in doing the right things.

posted by: Noteworthy on February 2, 2012  10:32am

A couple of notes:

1. It is doubtful that Will Clark has any direct knowledge of the Tenex system. Senior managers, unless they grew up in the system rarely do. Clark did not.

2. Why does Attorney Dugas’ explanations always seem to be shallow and nearly nonsensical? As a practical matter, they seem to lack common sense.

Case in point was the obvious conflict of interest - donating thousands and claiming ignorance of his firm’s donations to DeStefano’s election year shakedown ($760,000 nearly all of which came from city contractors, employees and people who directly benefit from city spending). With clear political overtones, the conflict is obvious.

Likewise, is the matter of Clark sitting in. If Dugas’ concerns are valid, then why not bring in the tech support personnel who are actually charged with maintaining the system? They have direct knowledge of the system, its flaws and past history in general and at Hillhouse in particular. Clark’s input is akin to asking the janitor to teach algebra.

Would Dugas call Clark as an expert witness if (when) this matter goes to court?

3. And finally, I can only cringe at the looming legal bill. My estimate is that it will be at least $40,000. From Laurel and Hardy: “It’s another fine mess.” Dugas and his buds at Berchem, Moses & Devlin, P.C. in Milford can rest easy that their payoff, I mean “investment” in two more years of faucet dripping management chaos has paid them off so handsomely and quickly.

posted by: Threefifths on February 2, 2012  10:38am

What a cover up.It is time to call in UNCLE.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZuErXLfQlM&feature=related

posted by: Academics? on February 2, 2012  11:01am

Wake up people…. anyone with any real knowledge of this situation should know that when the truth comes out, it will point straight at the basketball program. For many years HH basketball players have gotten preferential treatment in order to keep them eligible to play basketball and this goes back to before Mr. Carolina was the coach. Let’s not look to blame Kermit( who I personally believe has positively tranformed HH), but rather look at the celebrity status given to standout players RECRUITED to play for the Academics….. I wont name names…..but I could!

posted by: Observer on February 2, 2012  11:30am

Mike, it seems clear someone—or all of them— are trying to screw Kermit.  We’re counting on you to shield him from this sham of an investigation and protect his reputation.  Reggie Mayo should be embarrassed that this is happening under his tenure.

posted by: DISTRESSED on February 2, 2012  12:08pm

TRULY DISTRESSING - DISTURBING - DISAPPOINTING
What I find most disturbing about this entire Carolina, DeStefano and NHPS situation are the flagrant abuse of power, the total disregard for legal guidelines (on the part of Dugas and the NH Board of Education) and the arrogance of those at the center of the NHPS power structure. 
Sadly, these are being supported by uninformed comments such as this “In the normal world in which most normal people exist, when your boss asks you to answer a reasonable question about your job performance and you flat out refuse to answer, you get fired.” First, this is clearly not what happened here.
Secondly, in the normal world employees also have basic protections under the law.  Employers are not supposed to set-up employees, intimidate them and put pressure on them to support political positions.

Noteworthy has a very valid point: If attorney Dugas (who can only be seen objectively as a tainted investigator) is really concerned about having skilled information about the Tenex computer system, why not bring in the tech support personnel who are actually charged with maintaining the system? They have direct knowledge of the system, its flaws and past history in general and at Hillhouse in particular. Clark has no meaningful knowledge or understanding about the Tenex system.  He is most likely there to intimidate any employee who might have meaningful information that might be beneficial to Mr. Carolina. 

Mr. Clark should NOT be in these meetings; his presence is a violation of employees’ rights to speak honestly in what is essentially a criminal investigation, the outcome of which might affect Mr. Carolina’s career. 
The fact that the HR Dept could not conduct this investigation because of Mrs. Carolina’s employment how does her boss being in the meetings makes any sense legally? Intimidating employees covertly is a legal violation.

An important test question is—Can attorney Dugas call Will Clark as an expert witness in technology if this matter goes to court? If not, what is the real reason why Will Clark is sitting in on these interviews?
The only thing that is transparent in this entire Carolina, NHPS matter is the arrogance and blatant abuse of power being displayed by Mayor DeStefano and the NHPS system.
How can anyone with the vaguest sense of right and wrong, ethical principles and honesty have any faith in or respect for the management of the NHPS system and for the Mayor’s handling of any problems in New Haven?  Regardless of our political affiliations, we should be able to have confidence in and respect for our political and education leaders. 
What DISTRESSES ME most is the poor examples being set and negative lessons being taught to our children.

posted by: westville man on February 2, 2012  12:40pm

@ Robn  

“in the normal world where most normal people exist” ??

I dont even know what you mean by that, except some rose-colored glasses world…

posted by: Canner on February 2, 2012  1:36pm

They want to use Kermit as a scapegoat. The people of New Haven need to wake up and get rid of that ... mayor. I have heard from many, that when you don’t support him, he will find a way to get you…

posted by: Shucky Ducky on February 2, 2012  1:48pm

My question is, whenever there is an investigation into things as big as this is, why isn’t Principal Carolina on Administrative leave while this investigation is going on?  Larry Young and Paul Brock’s incident is much smaller than Principal Carolina’s yet he is still allowed to run the school.  Even East Haven’s Chief was on leave pending his investigation.  Why isn’t Carolina on Adminstrative leave for GRADE TAMPERING, when another New Haven principal was put on leave for the cinnamon incident?  Which one is larger, the CINNAMON or GRADE TAMPERING??????? (which has been going on ever since Carolina was appointed Principal.)

posted by: Threefifths on February 2, 2012  1:48pm

posted by: robn on February 2, 2012 9:05am
In the normal world in which most normal people exist, when your boss asks you to answer a reasonable question about your job performance and you flat out refuse to answer, you get fired.

What is your point.

posted by: robn on February 2, 2012  2:28pm

WVM,

A “rose colored glasses world” is one in which you think you can dictate terms to your boss.

If the community would take a one second break from circling the wagons around Principal Carolina maybe it’ll take commenters like ACADEMICS? seriously. It does a child no good to pump their academic record so they can play basketball and then enter into a post-graduation academic environment that they can’t handle.

posted by: Is that on February 2, 2012  2:43pm

@ Shucky Ducky: The fact that Carolina was not put on paid administrative leave should serve as a red flag that the allegations are BOGUS! With all the Carolina HATERS(shucky ducky)out there and inside HH -if this has been going on since Carolina became principal we would have heard about it long ago. ...

posted by: Sick n Tired on February 2, 2012  3:22pm

It’s a complete joke that the mayor is on a trip to Seattle to attend a conference on education. That is really hilarious and unbelievable. If he cared about education he would have never set this Carolina mess in motion at the “emergency” board meeting that was held on December 23rd. He knew where this was going.  Carolina and Jefferson just had the b_ _ _ s to punch back and stop it before it went too far. If these guys didn’t fight back Carolina would have been done weeks ago.  I still wonder how Carolina gets his reputation back. The mayor created a major distraction for everyone associated with Hillhouse – the students, parents, teachers, administrators, etc. Now we are suppose to believe he cares about education. That’s rubbish. To be truthful I believe the mayor and Mayo stopped caring a long time ago. Unfortunately, parents are uninformed and disinterested to the point they allow the politicizing of our schools which ultimately undermines the quality of education our kids receive.  The rubber stamps (I think that’s what Jefferson called them) who serve on the board of education care even less. Under the DeStefano regime merit means nothing.  All that matters is political donations/ personal relationships. Even this school reform is a running joke. They want to test kids to death yet the mayor and Garth Harries feel administrators in the future should be able to bypass all the present standards, including professional exams, in order to run our schools.  Mayo goes along with this nonsense because he doesn’t have the…. the interest to stand up to the reformers.  ...

posted by: reality check on February 2, 2012  4:40pm

When will some of you wake up from this fantasy that these allegations are true. Changing grades at Hillhouse has been going on for years under the radar for student athletes. I find it comical that some of you actually believe grade changes had to do with tennix..pleeease. Don’t get me wrong Kermit genuinely love the kids and is there for them, but the help is not always 100% ethical even though intentions are 100%.

posted by: westville man on February 2, 2012  4:43pm

@ Robn

(NHI please print this!)

You’ve had him guilty from day one, as have others, and your present post proves it- pure speculation. I am supportive of Carolina, I admit that. And i will let the process play out and see who had it right and who had it wrong. ...

posted by: Ex SCSU on February 2, 2012  5:36pm

I had the priviledge of knowing Kermit in college.  He was then and still is a great person.  I applaud him for standing up against this administration.  I too work for the city and wish I had the courage to speak up like Kermit does.  Keep up the great work KC the city and your students need you.

posted by: Threefifths on February 2, 2012  6:26pm

posted by: robn on February 2, 2012 1:28pm

it’ll take commenters like ACADEMICS? seriously. It does a child no good to pump their academic record so they can play basketball and then enter into a post-graduation academic environment that they can’t handle.

Show me the Evidence that ACADEMICS has that can prove that For many years HH basketball players have gotten preferential treatment in order to keep them eligible to play basketball.

posted by: Academics? on February 2, 2012 10:01am


but rather look at the celebrity status given to standout players RECRUITED to play for the Academics….. I wont name names…..but I could!

Give up the names.

posted by: robn on February 2, 2012  10:10pm

WVM

First sensible thing I’ve read. Let’s DO let the process play out.

posted by: Kids First on February 2, 2012  10:48pm

Before this forum becomes a complete joke, it would be good if someone says something in the interest of students.

It would be interesting to hear what percentage of Hillhouse students are on target to attend 4 year colleges this year? What percentage of this year’s seniors at Hillhouse are on target to receive Promise scholarships? 

[...]

But, let’s not get too carried away with what a good guy Carolina is and how he is being trampled on. Let’s get to the real deal—the academic progress of the kids at Hillhouse.

posted by: richgetricher on February 2, 2012  11:55pm

Apparently it isn’t enough that Dugas and his well-connected firm have been entrusted with the “independent” investigation, Clark has to sit in to make sure everything goes right?! It’s really outrageous. Clark’s presence exposes the whole investigation for the sham it is. Of course Clark’s presence will intimidate witnesses, and shows that he’s working hand-in-glove with Dugas. This is too too much.

posted by: charter revision. on February 3, 2012  4:29am

Even the most skeptical observer cannot deny the following questionable behaviors:

1) an emergency board meeting on December 23 ( a Friday night) when school was officially on Christmas break.  This despite the fact that Reggie Mayo Formally hired Floyd Dugas on December 19th.

2) the meeting was scheduled after the city town clerks office was officially closed, so an employee had to be paid overtime to stay and doit.

3) the principal was not informed of the allegation until contacted by the media

4) the allegations were made by an assistant principal who is responsible for supervising guidance counselors and by proxy, for ensuring that things lime this do not happen

5) DeStefano sends the principal a clearly threatening note (which he eventually admitted he sent after first saying he was not sure) and then says it was
because of his participation in a road race.  Ridiculous.

6) Floyd Dugas is hired to do the investigation despite the fact that his firm gave thousands to DeStefano’s reelection bids.  Even dugas’ wife gave
although Dugas said, with a straight face, that he was not aware of it.


7) no one did a preliminary investigation of the charges

8) Will Clark, COO of the NHPS, does a parallel investigation and sits in and asks questions of those being interviewed by Dugas.  So, Dugas is being paid $250.00 per hour while Clark asks questions.


9) Will Clark once worked in the same law firm as, hold your breath, Floyd Dugas

10) Will Clark has never been actively involved in investigating any NHPS Employee.  Never.  As such, his current actions are unprecedented ( as are the following:  an emergency board meeting two days before Christmas, scheduling
a board meeting on a Friday, not informing the principal of the investigation)

I could go on.  Suffice it to say that the facts are indisputable and can only lead a reasonable person to conclude that this is entirely politically motivated.  While @Robyn may be in denial due to her unabashed allegiance to King John, there is no way that she nor anyone else can deny that the facts outlined in this post demonstrate the Mayor’s true motivation.  Add to this the fact that he sat around for 45 minutes after the board meeting to talk to Principal Carolina because he was caught off his guard by Carolina’s response that night, and the picture becomes even clearer.
...
4)

posted by: Academics? on February 3, 2012  9:23am

Threefifths,

Why would I give up the names of athletes who have been pushed through at HH? Did they change their own grades? I think not. ... Evidence? Look at the number of basketball players from HH over the last 20 years who have played all four years but yet couldnt get into college or those who have failed to make it through the first semester of college, been redshirted or declared academically ineligible. Sure some have made it, but I give credit to their families and the students themselves. It starts in the home. If I was to start running down a list of names of former athletes then I would be blaming them, when who we should be blaming is the adults who set the extremely low standards for them.

posted by: robn on February 3, 2012  9:43am

WVM,

One last thing. If Principal Carolina is cleared of grade fixing allegations I’d happily eat my hat because I do think kids need good role models. The community should stop howling about a perceived symbolic castration and let the facts be discovered so we can all put this to rest.

And on the subject of leveraging political donations from city departments;  its an exclusive issue. It doesn’t nullify the HH grade fixing allegations, and it is probably worthy of its own investigation by the SOS. However entertaining I think it would be to see that one play out, I somehow doubt it because there will be mud on almost ever fender in town.

posted by: Threefifths on February 3, 2012  10:04am

@ Academics,My point is if you have the Evidence to back what you say,Then bring it.Give up the names.I would.You say over the last 20 years who have played all four years but yet couldnt get into college or those who have failed to make it through the first semester of college, been redshirted or declared academically ineligible.It is not just basketball players who are in this boat.I know students who are not basketball players in this boat.Let us see the proof…

posted by: westville man on February 3, 2012  10:51am

Robn

The community is not “howling about perceived symbolic castration” (iteresting choice of words given the history of this commmunity), we are upset at the way the PROCESS has played out so far- read CHARTER REVISION’s account.
...

posted by: appleblossom on February 6, 2012  7:30pm

Appleblossoms

It is baffling to us why you would want the students names who have received inflated grades… What good would that do?  Also what harm would that do? Use some common sense. ...Would you want your child named? They did not enforce those grade changes, they should not be penalized for them. The blame should be placed where it should be placed.

posted by: appleblossom on February 6, 2012  7:33pm

Appleblossoms

To get to the truth, you would think that there would be no objections to Will Clark sitting in on this investigation, ...

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