I was all set to blast the Chairman at Greater Lowell Tech for dragging his feet on the Harassment charges and blast the Superintendent for not following up on her statements with any proof or filing any formal charge.
Until my daughter and wife asked me why I seemed more concerned about a male politicians reputation than I was with a female Superintendent of Schools who MIGHT POSSIBLY have a case for Harassment and why was I trying to rush someone to find something?
Why was I concerned with the timing? Why do I think something should happen now to clear Erik and shouldn’t the Superintendent and her feelings and rights be considered and shouldn’t she have the opportunity to present her case on her timetable?
If I wanted to get Eriks name and reputation cleared, why wasn’t the Superintends name and reputation just as important?
How can I say that his individual motions combined aren’t a pattern of harassment? How do I know what goes on in conversations between them outside the camera’s view? Didn’t I criticize him for saying things on City Life?
Just because I don’t think based on my limited knowledge that he intended to harass her, couldn’t she feel harassed?
Why is his word and his reputation being given so much attention and worry when she is the alleged victim and yet I and my pal Jack have been railing against her, claiming she is in the wrong and just trying to get a contract or keep her job without waiting to hear and see all/any documents or witnesses to support her statement?
So after thinking about the situation and their point of view, I have to admit they have a point and ALL OF US have to step back and take a fair and unbiased look at this entire situation.
I won’t attack the Superintendent or Chairman for inaction but here is what I see looking at this incident overall.
There is NO Policy or Process at the Greater Lowell Tech that deals with the accusations made by the Superintendent against School Committeeman Erik Gitschier .
The “policy’ that was referred to on Thursday at the Tech meeting deals with students and faculty. (see attached) It comes from the Teacher’s handbook (available on line at the Tech Website).
For Chairman Victor Olson to state they are investigating and following a policy is misleading and incorrect.
At best an informal (using the term from the handbook) complaint has been made due to the Superintendents comment and apparently Mr. Olson has asked the Schools Atty and HR dept to do some initial research into the Superintendents statement.
Mr. Gitschier has NOT been contacted about anything yet because there is nothing yet to look at. Apparently they (Hr/Atty) haven’t been presented with anything.
The Supt. can when she feels ready, present a formal claim with evidence to support her statements or in all reality let it drop. The 300 days that the Lawyer referred to is to file a complaint with the state. There is no timetable that she has to follow to present one to the entire committee or their designee if Mr. Olson directs the HR dept. / School Atty to ‘look into this.”
The policy in the Teacher’s handbook which states what Harassment is could apply to this situation to address what harassment allegedly took place according to the Supt.:(BOLD mine)
Harassment is a form of unlawful discrimination when the verbal or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual is based on his or her race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability, genetics, pregnancy, military status, veteran status, citizenship status, sexual orientation. Harassment has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance or otherwise adversely affecting an individual’s employment or student’s opportunities for learning. Harassment may take the form of epithets, slurs,negative stereotyping, or threatening, intimidating, or hostile acts. It may also take the form of written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group because of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability, genetics, pregnancy, military status,veteran status, citizenship status, sexual orientation.
What has always bothered me the most about this issue, is that when the statement was first made by the Superintendent NOT ONE MEMBER INCLUDING ERIK GITSCHIER or the Chairman Victor Olson stopped the meeting to request that she explain herself.
SOMETIMES SILENCE SPEAKS VOLUMES!
Why didn’t someone ask that night what the Superintendent was talking about? Why didn’t Erik who has asked many other questions, ask the Superintendent to explain her comments?
Did the Chair and his fellow members, many who have been displeased with Mr. Gitschier let this accusation stand for political payback or had the Superintendent informed them in the past of her feelings?
Why hasn’t Mr. Gitschier made any public request to have these charges looked into? All we know is he asked the Chairman to have a third party not the schools Atty do any investigation.
Why hasn’t he asked the Superintendent in two televised meetings to address these statements she made and back up her accusations or withdraw them? Instead he left the room when the subject was brought up last week and said nothing in the first meeting.
Fred Bahou only added gasoline to the fire the night the accusations were first made by stating the committee didn’t care what she was doing, they just wanted to know when she was off, they didn’t care if she was golfing or PUTTING ON HER MAKE-UP!
This is uncharted territory for the school but sadly not the first time a female Supt at Greater Lowell felt harassed by a male school committee member.
I was reminded that the only other female Supt. of the school Sheila Hebert was driven into an early retirement because of action that many thought at the time was harassment from a few male committee members. It affected Sheila’s health to the point were it was no longer tolerable for her to deal with the situation and she retired.
Supt. Santoro appears to have chosen to fight rather then flee.
It appears Supt. Santoro will not buckle to that type of harassment /pressure and will on her own timetable present a specific charge with documentation that supports her stance which might also consist of a long list of witnesses including staff, committee members and people in attendance at the Tech meetings to show a pattern of behavior she feels meets the harassment charge.
To be sure Mary Jo Santoro is a smart women. She did not make that statement “being emotional” as Fred Bahou stated on City Life. I have been led to believe that she had much more written on that paper she read the accusation from on october 11th but NO ONE ASKED her any follow-up question.
At some point in the future I believe she will indeed submit a “formal” well documented charge along with the back-up to support her claim and at that point the School Committee will have to address these claims or she can pursue them through legal channels.
I still don’t believe that the School’s Atty. is the best person to look into any complaints and the policy does allow a third party to be brought in and if Atty Long is as smart has we have been told, he will suggest to the committee that this takes place and he be removed from any direct investigation once a formal complaint has been made.
This situation show no sign that it will end. Supt. Santoro is smart and tough and is a fighter who will not quit nor let this issue affect her performance or health to the point that she gives up.
I and my pal Jack can write as many post has we want attacking her but the fact is, much like the faction that opposes the Supt. and will not stop being disruptive until she is gone, She has shown she will not be forced out by me, Left in Lowell, an angry bitter Dean and his followers or what I think she considers a School Committee member with a political agenda aimed at harassing her into retirement.
I have been told she is indeed eligible for retirement (I thought she was younger than what she is) but unlike the former female Superintendent who many felt was forced out, this Supt. will decide when she leaves on her terms. She will choose to ask for an extension or not and it will be up to the committee has a whole whether she gets one.
There is no end in sight to this ugly affair but all of us need to realize that there are two sides to each story and give the Superintendent the opportunity to present her side and back up her accusations.
Then we need to make sure the ENTIRE SCHOOL COMMITTEE insist on an unbiased third party to investigate these charges and make a fair and public report on findings.