Learning, the hard way

Internal complaints from a Longmont charter school raise questions of oversight

Matt Cortina | Boulder Weekly

In the past year and a half, Flagstaff Academy Charter School in Longmont has undergone some major changes. Changes that have caused some teachers and administrators to quit, some parents to complain and remove their children from the school, and some former employees and board members to voice concerns about the direction of the school.

The school, which was founded in 2005 and focuses on teaching science and technology, has undoubtedly given and continues to give hundreds of K-8 students a good education and unique opportunities.

But Boulder Weekly decided to take a look into the school after hearing of the mini exodus of administrators, teachers and families within the last year and after reading the comments of concerned parents on a school message board, both of which indicated at least an appearance of impropriety. What we uncovered was a drastic shift in administrative structure and personnel that may have contributed to some of the issues that have been brought to light. What we also found was a major hole in the state and district oversight of charter schools, which are funded by taxpayers — Flagstaff, for instance, has an annual budget of about $6 million.

To get a sense of the issues that parents are noticing, take a look at some of these concerns from anonymous Flagstaff parents on the school message board GreatSchools.org within the last few months:

“Over the past year the school has gone through many changes that have not been for the best. [The] administration has been unable to effectively handle and minimize problems, which has lead to at least six families leaving mid-year within a few weeks. In addition to poor communication and lack of honesty from the school, the academics have fallen below what one would expect from Flagstaff. Unable to replace teachers with experienced teachers. Many other schools in the area are getting much better results and have many additional resources available — no longer a top choice in the area.” – Parent, Nov. 8, 2014.

“The school is degrading compared to what it was five years ago. Leadership is really bad now — care about their career only.” – Parent, May 1, 2014.

“My son has experienced a high turnover of teachers. Why won’t the board listen to the parents? The principal and the board are inept!” – Parent, April 26, 2014.

“I no longer have children [at] Flagstaff as of this year and I am amazed that things could seemingly be worse now [than they] were a year ago.” – Parent, May 7, 2014.

Let’s go back a year and see how Flagstaff got to where they are today.

In early 2013, Flagstaff Principal Andrew Moore notified the school that he was leaving his post in favor of the same job at Lyons Elementary for personal reasons. Moore had been at the school for four years and had seen the school roughly double in size to 900 students by the time of his departure. Moore recently told BW, “I left, simply, to move to a smaller school environment.”

Due to the same growth that Moore says caused him to exit, Flagstaff decided to reconsider its administrative structure in order to better serve a larger student body.

So the Flagstaff board of directors created the Organizational Design Advisory Committee (ODAC) to first implement an interim administrative structure for the school and, later, decide the permanent administrative structure.

According to board member Linda D’Evelyn (who outlined the timeline of events to the board) as well as posted board minutes, then-board Vice President Wayne Granger was voted the chair of the organizational design committee on May 6, 2013. On June 3, Granger proposed to the board an interim administrative structure that called for one interim executive director to lead while the vice principals of the middle school and elementary school were given more responsibilities. The board approved the structure. It also approved another proposal from the committee that determined the financial compensation for the interim executive director.

The committee then selected members for a different, more specific committee that would search for, interview and recommend a candidate to fill the newly created interim executive director position. But one week later, Granger resigned from the organization design committee and threw his name into the ring for interim executive director. (Note that Granger’s term on the board of directors had expired during the summer.)

Granger was a “founding family” of Flagstaff, meaning his and other families had helped form the charter school back in 2005. He had also served as a board member for four years and was in the process of earning a master’s degree in leadership from the University of Denver. That’s the end of Granger’s experience in academia. He served as a Commerce City police officer for 18 years and also runs an event management business.

When asked to clarify if Granger had resigned from the police force, he said “I left,” and cited his love of charter school administration.

“I found my passion,” Granger says. “I love charter school leadership. I love the people I’m working for. I love Flagstaff Academy.

“This is not an unusual path. You find your passion, you find your love.

“I’m really sorry that you’re being contacted, trying to make this more than it is than that. This is what I love to do. I am extremely fortunate. If someone else thinks there’s some other ulterior motive or something else, I’m sorry. The flat truth is this is what I love to do.”

Granger ended up being selected as one of two finalists for the interim executive director position. The committee had narrowed down from 42 candidates over several months using the criteria of leadership, non-profit experience, fundraising, ability to work with parents, Flagstaff culture, attitude, communication skills and education level.

The final candidate Granger was competing against was Sue Ann Highland, an educator since 1994 who had been principal at three elementary schools; a district coordinator in Fort Lupton; the director of federal programs, curriculum and instruction in Weld County; and had a master’s degree in educational leadership.

The Flagstaff board of directors, of which Granger had very recently been a member, interviewed both candidates and Granger was unanimously approved as the interim executive director.

However, there was some immediate concern from within the Flagstaff community.

According to board minutes, two parents separately voiced concerns that the interim executive director salary (which Granger proposed) was too high (suggested salary: $40,000-$60,000; approved salary: up to $75,000). Moreover, board member D’Evelyn (who ultimately voted for Granger’s approval) said at the time “Granger could be perceived as having inappropriately using [sic] his position as the vice president of the Flagstaff board of directors to create a position for himself.”

It should be noted that even those board members and parents who expressed concern over the route Granger took to the position did not in any way object to Granger as a person or candidate at this point.

Current Flagstaff Board President Neal Enssle, who was on the board during the hiring process and who moderated the candidates’ interviews, said Granger passed enough metrics in the hiring process to win the job regardless of his affiliation with the school and familiarity with the board of directors he left only months prior.

“Mr. Granger competed in two separate, robust hiring processes … against more than 40 applicants for the role of interim executive director,” Enssle says. “The [hiring committee] requested and received input from the Flagstaff community, including an unsolicited letter signed by over two-thirds of staff strongly supporting Mr. Granger.

“I believe that Mr. Granger’s hiring was, in short, an open, fair, public, and very transparent process.”

Still, former board member Sandra Weckerly wrote the board after “receiving a very large number of calls from other parents,” and claimed that “several IEDHC [interim executive director hiring committee members] were actively interested in seeing that Wayne Granger obtain the position.”

To illustrate Weckerly’s point, when board vice president and organizational design committee member Sterling Backus resigned immediately following Granger’s approval, Enssle (who, again, served on the Interim Executive Director Hiring Committee and interviewed the candidates), was nominated for and approved as vice president of the board.

At the same time, another organizational design committee member and elementary school Vice Principal Terri Long resigned from the committee and began work in the new, elevated assistant principal role that Granger and the committee had put before the board.

And following Granger’s appointment, just days before the start of the school year, Flagstaff ’s business administrator, Margaret Cummings, resigned after six and a half years on the job. This not only raised eyebrows, but left a major operational void. And to fill it, the board approved a company called Abstract Insights, where two former board members were executives. The two were Linda Arnold, a former Flagstaff board president who worked several years on the board with Granger, and Patty Cragg, former board president and chair of the organizational design committee that was involved in filling the administrative void. The new contract was for roughly $7,500 per month, a cost that ended up being about $25,000 higher annually than was being previously expended on the business manager position, and nearly three times higher than what is being spent by Twin Peaks Charter School, which is of similar size, for their financial administration.

“I heard rumors of that after we made the selection but nothing was ever voiced in advance and so no,” Granger says of people’s concern over the connection to Abstract Insights. “No one from Abstract Insights or even related to them was involved in that process. All I can say is it was handled completely with integrity, objectivity and what was best for this school.”

Even though Granger says the business management is moving in house, the school still renewed a contract with the company to handle their ongoing “CFO work.”

But even before the Abstract Insights arrangement, there was controversy regarding the board and the business management position. In fact, that’s part of why Granger says he became so active with the board and sought the interim executive director position.

Granger says that when the former business administrator was fired, before he was on the board, Cummings, then a board member, “immediately replaced her without a hiring process while also remaining on the Board.”

Cummings declined to comment on multiple occasions regarding this story.

Granger says that same board also awarded a marketing contract to the board vice president’s wife’s company without a bid process. That lack of transparency is what Granger says compelled him into administration, saying that situation was “largely the impetus for becoming involved in the school’s leadership and board as a whole, and why our board and school now operate with such transparency and integrity.”

• • • • 

So Granger took over as interim executive director in fall 2013 and shortly thereafter, the board of directors voted to approve a permanent administrative structure going forward: An executive director would be hired to handle the organization of the school, a chief academic officer to handle the academic issues, and the two assistant principals, Long and Charlie Warren would continue operating the elementary and middle schools, respectively. The structure was recommended after internal research by a consultant hired for $4,800, Ken Schuetz of Aligned Influence.

The board then approved another special committee — the Administrative Hiring Committee — to find and hire the permanent executive director and chief academic officer.

The new committee said it would not prioritize master’s degrees or specific educational experience over the general qualifications that the board had defined in its search for the interim executive director. The committee included two board members, five faculty members and four parents, one of whom left the committee during the process and was not replaced.

After a national search, the committee whittled 72 applicants down to four. Two applicants dropped out (one, according to board minutes, because of the committee’s process). One of the two remaining candidates was Rob Clemens, a 13-year school administrator with a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Business School, and who was the Denver Public Schools business and operations manager and the former New Vision Charter School business manager. The other candidate was Granger, the former police officer.

The board of directors convened to approve one of the two men as executive director. According to board minutes, Board Vice President Enssle led the charge in support of Granger, citing the Administrative Hiring Committee’s 6-4 vote in favor of him. Enssle called for a vote, but board member Craig Norman said he wasn’t ready, adding that “it is dangerous to endorse Wayne Granger based on experience” and asked the board to “dissociate personality from role.”

Board member D’Evelyn asked her fellow board members to “look at what has not been accomplished” in Granger’s time as interim executive director, “in terms of grant writing, sponsorships and representing Flagstaff to the outside community,” qualities, she said, that the other candidate had in abundance.

Enssle again called for a vote and the board approved Granger as the executive director by a vote of 4-2. Two of those Granger supporters on the board immediately left the board following the vote and Enssle was voted board president.

Going back to previous concerns, Enssle says there is no reason other than coincidence to attribute his ascent to board president as Granger rose to executive director.

“I feel my ‘rise’ on the board has been due to nothing more than my dedication, commitment and substantial contributions of time and energy to the school,” Enssle says. “Mr. Granger’s rise to the role of [executive director] and my rise to the role of president is, I feel, a coincidence of timing.

“I will say that Mr. Granger and I share many of the same goals for the school, have developed a great deal of mutual respect for each other over the past 16 months, and that we do work effectively together.”

Looking back over a period of months that saw him go from board member to the school’s highestranking administrator, Granger doesn’t categorize the shift in administrative structure as a massive overhaul, nor does he think any perception of seat trading in the upper staff is accurate.

“The big thing was that when Andrew Moore was hired, we were just over 400 students and when he left we were approaching 900 students, so the school had made a drastic change in terms of what it was the day he was hired to when he was leaving,” Granger says. “The board decided at the time that we were very fortunate we were not in scandal, that we were not in a situation where we didn’t have solid leadership in place. It was a smart thing to do after eight years of operation, tremendous periods of growth to step back and say ‘What is the proper structure for Flagstaff Academy going forward?’”

 • • • • 

Asking yourself, as a school, “What is the best administrative structure going forward?” is certainly a smart thing to do. To act on whatever findings you uncover, even better. But this is sort of where the issues start to bubble over. Whether your persuasion is to call Granger’s rise nepotism or bureaucracy or common sense is almost irrelevant if all the ends justify the means.

But there is reason to believe, according to those within the Flagstaff community, that the ends may be too weak to justify the means.

The first indication of such comes from the departure of the first-ever chief academic officer just four months after she was hired. (As she searches for a new job, the woman who served as Flagstaff ’s first chief academic officer asked that we do not use her full name and so we’ll refer to her as Dr. A.)

Dr. A had been in educational leadership positions since 2000 when she got the job at Flagstaff in May 2014. She specializes in curriculum development, review and alignment and owns a doctorate in education.

But after taking the job at Flagstaff, Dr. A says she quickly found that the position of chief academic officer was a completely token role with few responsibilities and little respect garnered amongst the administration.

The position, as defined by the board of directors, called for the chief academic officer to, among other things, “develop and lead assistant principals,” and “evaluate program effectiveness and acquire appropriate program resources.” Dr. A says she wasn’t allowed to do either.

“As the school year started, it was perfectly clear to me that I was not allowed to supervise either of the principals. By the way, they were no longer in the eyes of the executive director [Granger] assistant principals; he wanted to make them principals. Okay, whatever, semantics. But we would be in meetings and I would say, ‘You know what I think the direction we probably need to head in science, in terms of curriculum development and curriculum review,’ and I’d be overridden by the executive director [Granger] who’d say, ‘No, that’s not the direction we’re going to be heading.’ So again it was very, very clear that I was not supervising. I was not doing the things I was hired to do,” Dr. A says.

Enssle and Granger declined to comment to this and all other claims in this story that were made by Dr. A citing that her departure is “a personnel matter and her privacy is protected by law,” (Enssle) and “I will not be responding to any comments that [Dr. A] has made out of compliance with employment law requirements and respecting the privacy of [Dr. A]” (Granger).

If true, the fact that the chief academic officer claims she was unable to manage the principals or change the curriculum as she was hired to do appears to be in direct contradiction to the job responsibilities laid out, again, by the board of directors. The executive director’s role is to be “responsible for facility and program operations, personnel, communications, finance, and human resources staff and functions,” and operate the budget.

Enssle clarified the role of the executive director: 

“It is worth noting that charter schools are different than traditional public schools in that charters must handle many tasks internally compared to traditional public schools, which have a district to take care of operations, facility issues, etc.,” Enssle says. “This makes the role of a charter school executive director much different than that of a traditional school principal. Traditional school principals are focused on academics while charter school executive directors act like a mini-superintendent. … It’s not uncommon at a larger charter school such as Flagstaff to have an executive director who acts more as a CEO, and under that person have principals who focus on academics.”

And if that structure and those roles were in place and scrupulously exacted, Dr. A says, then there would be no issue. But that wasn’t her experience, she says.

“One of the things that eventually came out towards the end when I was there was that Wayne [Granger] said to me, ‘You know what? Just forget your job description. We’re just going to do something else,’” Dr. A says. “I said ‘Whoa, … Contractually I signed this job description; I have a contract to perform this role.’ ‘Oh well, you know, don’t worry about that. We’re going to have to reevaluate, we’re going to have to create our own lanes.’ That was the verbiage used time and time again — we’re going to create our own lanes. That was a part of the grievance — you don’t sign a contract and then change the job.”

Again, Granger declined to comment on this allegation, citing personnel law.

The grievance Dr. A mentioned was filed with the board to address the work environment, she says, which not only included a change in stated roles, but allegations of gender-based discrimination from Granger and middle school principal Warren.

“In one instance I was shocked at how [Warren] was talking to me in the midst of a leadership meeting and afterwards I called him out on it, I said, ‘Charlie, you know, hey, if you’ve got a problem, you’ve got to come and talk to me directly, not be so overly aggressive in these meetings.’ Well he approached the executive director [Granger] and the executive director took him out for a beer and later said to me when I approached him about it, I said, ‘Did you take Charlie out for a beer?’ [and Granger] said, ‘Yeah, I felt like he needed to talk man-to-man.’” 

Again, Granger declined to respond to this and all comments made by Dr. A.

When Dr. A went to the board with the grievance, says she found no ally in Board President Enssle.

“When I met with them … they came back and they said, ‘We do find some merit to the fact that obviously there was some concerns about job descriptions and not aligning with what you were doing on the ground, but we don’t find any need to pursue any further around the discrimination.’ So that’s where I was just livid. They said there was not a preponderance of evidence to support it,” Dr. A says.

Enssle declined to comment on this but did say that the board of directors has “created a strong plan to hire for this position that will include a job description aligned to Flagstaff ’s strategic plan and the evolving needs of the school.”

The whole situation left Dr. A, who has two children at the school, wondering if her position was a waste of money. That is, if the current administration was going to do what they wanted without consulting her expertise, she says, why make taxpayers pay for that position?

“I felt like I was not able to do the job that I wanted to do and every day felt as if ‘Why the hell am I here? Why is this school wasting $90,000 to have this position? It’s ridiculous.’ And being a parent at the school I’m like ‘Wait a second, that’s money that could be going toward my kids’ education in a different way if I’m not being utilized as effectively as possible,’” Dr. A says.

Indeed, Dr. A says she was shocked to find the state of academic affairs in Flagstaff when she arrived — and the fact that she says she was getting locked out from helping the situation frustrated her.

There are other metrics to judge the school’s academic performance besides Dr. A’s personal experience. Two major school ranking websites downgraded Flagstaff Academy this year, and the school did not receive a John Irwin Award, which is given to exceptional schools in Colorado and which the school had won regularly in years past. Those rankings included a downgrade from an A to a C in the elementary school in one school year from the independent source Colorado School Grades, as well as a percentage point drop in performance from the Colorado Department of Education.

Enssle acknowledged the drop in rankings but clarified that the school is still outperforming the vast majority of Colorado schools.

“I have a great deal of confidence in Flagstaff ’s overall academic program. Flagstaff ’s middle school is ranked number 12 in the state on Colorado School Grades, with an A grade,” Enssle says. “True, our elementary school received a C from that same website. But it is worth pointing out that in 2014, Flagstaff ’s elementary school ranked better than 90.2 percent of elementary schools in Colorado, according to SchoolDigger.com.

“The main strength of charter schools is that we have the ability to make swift adjustments internally and are doing just that to ensure that our elementary and middle schools continuously improve their academic growth performance moving forward.”

But that same ability to be flexible in academic pursuits was also the culprit of a disjointed curriculum, says Dr. A, that did not meet adequate standards.

“First of all, there’s no science curriculum,” she says. “I was floored when I came on board. They were following some of the things off of the common core, they were following the core knowledge sequence for reading and math but they were making stuff up as they went along for science. And being a science and technology school, that floored me.

“The reading was very weak, very little instructional direction in how it sequenced. Case in point, the fifth grade did their novel-based curriculum but it has nothing tied to core knowledge, they used core knowledge books but the sequencing was all off. The common core is not tied to it at all. None of the other grades do novelbased curriculum, so why would they be the only ones doing this? It was just very misaligned.”

Enssle, speaking generally, disagrees that the entire school is weak in reading and sciences.

“Comparing our students versus the statewide average in both math and reading proficiency, our third graders were 20 percentage points ahead, our fifth graders were a solid 15 points ahead, and our eighth graders were again more than 20 points ahead. Last year our students were number one in reading in the district, and we significantly exceeded our growth targets in math in multiple grades,” Enssle says.

So at this point it’s a bit of he said, she said. You have one outside curriculum expert who came into the school and saw such academic turmoil that she quit when she wasn’t allowed to fix it, versus a board president who is passionate about the school and whose own kids attend the school. Parents are divided. Rankings and statistics do indicate a downturn in performance, but the school is relatively still very high-achieving.

But what concerns some in the Flagstaff community is that if there were academic areas in need of attention, there is waning confidence that the administration is equipped to handle it, and that based on Dr. A’s experience, the administration might be unlikely to give the next person they hire in that role the ability to fix it.

And according to Dr. A, Granger’s administration is not only taking from academic areas that need attention, but allocating funds to superfluous expenses.

“I’m just shocked that there’s no sense of foresight in the budget around the academics,” Dr. A says. “Case in point, right now a lot of the social studies books are going to be out of date because the publisher is not going to be printing this particular social studies book, but there was nothing that I was able to pick up on after talking about this with Wayne. ‘What are we going do about this because now we’re going to have to look at really a big chunk of money next year going toward a text? Particularly in social studies, that is not cheap.’ ‘Well we really didn’t put that in,’ [Granger said]. I said ‘Jesus, that’s going to be big!’ You’ve got to have that foresight.”

Instead, Dr. A says the decision to buy Google Chromebooks for the entire middle school all at once was “a big fiasco” and that ideally that purchase would have been phased over several years.

In all of her years of experience, Dr. A says she’s never been in a position like hers, or seen someone in a position like hers, that does not have access to the school’s budget. But at Flagstaff, she did not see where money that was allocated to academic expenses was going.

This is particularly interesting because the fund allotment at Flagstaff stands out when compared to other similarly sized charter schools in the area. For instance, in the 2013-14 school year and the first bit of this school year — about a year and a half (and the time Granger has been in charge) — Flagstaff has spent $15,526 on food and leisure expenditures. Not school lunches. Just a bunch of expenditures like $95 at Truffles in Paradise, regular trips to Jimmy John’s, a monthly $350 affair at Santiago’s, $149.78 at Rock Bottom Brewery and $65 at Waxing the City.

Compare that to $4,469 in the same time period at Twin Peaks Charter Academy, which is bigger than Flagstaff Academy and has a high school.

“Internally we do have some staff incentives,” Granger says of the expenses. “At the same time the hiring committees that were running the CAO [chief academic officer] as well as my position when they would have weekend meetings they would bring in lunches for the volunteers. We run things like ‘Pizza with the Principals’ as incentives for the students. The majority is Flagstaff Rising expenditures because it’s going to show up as an expense if you don’t look at the revenue coming in.”

Flagstaff Rising was a 2013 fundraiser for flood relief and Granger says the event “significantly” inflated the total expenditure number, but that the event was cost-neutral — the event earned about $8,912 but expended $8,580 upon initial review, Granger told the board at the time (It rained a lot on the day of the event, which he says hindered turnout). Regardless, the only line items for the event included in the tabulation of the $15,526 for food and leisure expenditures was $800 spent at Sam’s Club a few days ahead of the event.

It’s also worth noting that Granger’s event management company Marquee Event Solutions was a partner in the Flagstaff Rising event, but did not receive “any pecuniary benefit” from the event, Granger says.

“The only benefit I received was knowing that I served my community and my school by volunteering my unique talents and partnerships to help the community in need,” Granger says.

In a $6 million annual budget, $15,000 on student incentives, hiring committees and the like could be legitimately excused, but it does bring up questions about how the school decides to spend money.

Granger says the school has acted with complete financial responsiblity and all contracts and expenses, including the contract with Abstract Insights (the business management firm where two former board members are executives mentioned earlier) are done transparently.

“As we sit right now, we are in a very strong financial position, we are complying with all the financial transparency laws that exist out there. I can’t comment as to was there some other thing going on, was there this or that… All I can tell you is absolutely not, everything was done with the law, transparently approved by the board of directors which is a group of seven people,” Granger says.

• • • • 

Now that’s another issue entirely: if a board of directors and an administration are cohesively purchasing things that some people think are superfluous or if they’re not providing an adequate curriculum for its students or if they’re just not utilizing taxpayer money effectively in the eyes of parents and community members, at what point would the district step in?

“I’d have to talk to our district attorneys to find out what point the district would have to step in,” says John Poynton, executive director of organizational development and communications at St. Vrain Valley School District.

When asked about the issues mentioned in this article, Poynton says, “I don’t keep track of their activities. It’s a charter school and they’re very independent, so I don’t know about those things and there’s no reason why I would know because I’m not involved and none of us are involved in any of those activities.

“That’s why they’re a charter school, so they can have that independent voice and how they operate and I’m sure their board will respond accordingly.”

And if there are concerns that the board hasn’t removed itself far enough from the administration it is supposed to be managing?

“That would be an issue for their board and their parents,” Poynton says.

Actually, the only recourse parents or community members have if they have concerns over the way a charter school is managed is to first contact the board, then the district that authorized the charter (in Flagstaff ’s case, the St. Vrain Valley School District). The Colorado Department of Education does not “oversee the operation of charter schools within the state,” and does not respond to complaints.

Dr. A says she saw firsthand how a board that she and others view as too close to the administration might cause issues for the school.

“The thing that was obvious when I was attending board meetings is that Wayne [Granger] was speaking at it from ‘I remember this when I was president of the board.’ It was like ‘Whoa, wow, you’re not in this role anymore.’ You can’t come at it from ‘This is what the board should be doing.’ They’re your boss now and that line was very weird. So yes, they’re very, very tight. However, what I find interesting out of that whole thing is that his approval to be the executive director was split and some of those people are no longer on the board but that speaks to something in my mind. What it is I don’t know,” Dr. A says.

• • • • 

Perhaps the most convincing evidence that there may indeed be an issue at Flagstaff is that parents are removing their kids and teachers are leaving.

In the past year, in addition to Dr. A and the business administrator resigning, two teachers left the middle school, one left fourth grade and one mid-level administrator was reassigned late in the summer. Dr. A says she’s never seen such turnover, especially at the beginning of the school year. She contributes the exodus in part to academic leadership.

“The teachers are expecting more and the teachers are expecting that things could be better,” Dr. A says. “When we were doing the curriculum review teams for science and reading and social studies, the teachers were all saying, ‘This is what we needed. We needed to all come together and we needed to have this camaraderie around our curriculum.’ They want more and I think they expect better and I think they’re all just sort of hunkering down.”

But Dr. A also contributes the exodus to disciplinary and administrative leadership.

Recently, an incident concerning the way a teacher was treated by administration in response to a classroom incident resulted in that teacher and another leaving the school, alleges Dr. A. The way that incident was handled by the administration (which is confidential due to personnel laws) rubbed teachers and parents the wrong way, Dr. A claims, and that led to a potential overreaction from administration during another incident involving two fourth graders in October.

According to the Longmont police, there was an incident in a fourth grade classroom that involved “possible sexual contact,” but that “much of the behavior may have been appropriate for the age level” and that it was certainly “not a criminal event,” according to Longmont police spokesman Jeff Satur.

“It was not communicated well,” Dr. A says of the school’s reaction to the fourth grade event. “Do I think it could have been handled in a different way had the teacher situation been handled differently? Absolutely. I think that … the teacher situation was handled so poorly that it just left everyone on edge. I think it was an overreaction to [the prior teacher incident].”

Satur says Granger called in the fourth grade sex event personally to the police department and that the school “did everything appropriately.”

Parents have also said (on anonymous web forums, bear in mind) that they’re concerned with an increase in bullying that oddly coincides with an alleged inconsistent discipline policy, that Dr. A calls “Draconian.”

The policy (which, although discipline is under the purview of the chief academic officer, was given to Kevin Pugh, who was on the executive director hiring committee that hired Granger) is called restorative justice and is an overarching credo that doesn’t accurately reflect the way discipline is administered in the school, Dr. A says.

“It’s just this sort of attitude of ‘Screw you, kid,’” Dr. A alleges. “Particularly in middle school you have to play this respect game. You have to be firm but respectful. It’s an incredibly Draconian kind of feel to discipline, particularly in the middle school. In the elementary school it’s interesting to me that it either has this harsh tone or nothing at all. There’s never this consistency, which is what kids really need in discipline.”

Granger says the system was put in place by the former principal but that he’s seen “first-hand how great it works” at the school.

• • • • 

All things aside, Flagstaff is moving forward with Granger as executive director. Dr. A alleges he isn’t qualified for the position he currently has and says she believes it is to the detriment of the school.

“He was not qualified for this position in any way, shape or form. It is abundantly clear to me,” Dr. A says of Granger. “I’m working for someone that cannot see the big picture. Someone who does not know how to turn a ship. I think he just does not have the personality or the skills or the experience to be in that position right now.”

Board President Enssle disagrees: “I continue to strongly support Mr. Granger based on his background, qualifications and his outstanding performance in the job over the past 16 months. Mr. Granger was hired to be an impactful strategic and operational leader who gets the most out of our staff and provides the very best environment for our students, and for my part, I believe he has been enormously successful in doing exactly that during his tenure.”

The board will now hire a new chief academic officer to replace Dr. A, but it is anyone’s guess how much influence that person will have over the academics. If it is any indication, the majority of the committee that will hire the next chief academic officer is made up of a lot of familiar faces: Granger, Enssle, Warren, elementary school Vice Principal Terri Long, registrar/secretary Sheila Strukel and board member Angela Groeninger have served together in the school for several years now.

It has also been speculated by a source that a current or former board member may be throwing his or hat into the ring for the chief academic officer position. In response to that, Enssle says; 

“No former or current board members, administrators, or teachers have submitted an application at this point. I’ll note that the hiring committee is really just getting started, and has not yet put out a call for applications. We are open to finding the best candidate whoever that may be, and I seriously doubt that our hiring committee would reject anyone’s application out of hand, so yes, I think current or former members of the Flagstaff community would be welcome to apply if they felt qualified and interested in serving.”

Either way, you wonder if Dr. A is speaking just of her former position when she says, “I’m worried about the next person who comes in because they’re being set up to fail.”

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com