To No One’s Surprise, Whistleblower Gets the Axe

11
Posted October 27, 2010 by betty.brink in Blotch

After numerous impassioned and emotional speeches on his behalf, the Fort Worth school board last night voted 6-3 to fire Joe Palazzolo, the embattled ex- assistant principal and whistleblower at Arlington Heights High School.  

Trustees Ann Sutherland, Juan Rangel and Carlos Vasquez voted against the termination, with Vasquez, who took aim at Superintendent Melody Johnson’s “poor leadership,” stating that the district provided no supporting documents to justify Palazzolo’s firing. “I begged them to take the firing off the table,” he said afterwards.

Earlier Sutherland and Rangel told Fort Worth Weeklythat nothing they had seen justified firing the whistleblower. Johnson and Chief of Administration Sylvia Reyna, who oversaw the investigation of both Arlington Heights and Palazzolo, both said the district had “solid evidence” to support the allegations raised against Palazzolo. “They will get a chance to show that evidence at trial,” Palazzolo said, “since they haven’t shown it to me yet.” He was referring to the whistleblower lawsuit against the district that he filed Monday.  

Nonetheless, the board’s action brought to an end an administrative process that began in June when Palazzolo was first transferred to an alternative school in what he called retaliation for bringing complaints about serious wrongdoings at the school to the administration, including, among many, falsifying attendance documents and breaking the truancy laws of the state. Ironically, those allegations have largely been upheld by a district investigation, a point hammered on by Palazzolo’s supporters at the meeting.

Palazzolo said he was disappointed but not surprised. “I have done nothing wrong. The charges against me are based on rumors and anonymous sources. The district went after me for telling the truth, and Johnson was determined to get me because she sees me as the one who was not afraid to expose the corruption at Arlington Heights. She knew about it, and so did [board member] Judy Needham, he said. “They knew long before I spoke out that these illegalities were going on there, but covered them up.”

Heights special-ed teacher and head soccer coach Chad Whitt said he was “putting my job on the line,” by publicly supporter the former assistant principal. He asked the board to vote against the termination stating that Palazzolo was the “best thing that had ever happened at Heights,” he had the support of the majority of the teachers there and he was now “being crucified” for reporting the truth. “We hear loud and clear … that if you come forward, if you do the right thing, you will be retaliated against.” 

Just before the vote on Palazzolo’s fate, one of his supporters, the Rev. Kyev Tatum, was escorted out of the meeting after applauding too long following an impassioned appeal from board member Carlos Vasquez for the board to “do the right thing” and vote against Palazzolo’s firing and fire Superintendent Melody Johnson instead.  “I am a preacher,” Tatum said, grinning, “and when we hear good news, we stand up and shout ‘Amen’ and clap our hands.”

The board was also told last night that two top administrators deeply involved in the Heights scandal — former assistant superintendent Chuck Boyd, accused of unethical behavior, and former Heights principal Neta Alexander who was found to have committed fraud — have resigned with no further charges against them. Two others found to have committed fraud, girls athletic director Isabelle Perry and her lover, assistant principal Harold Nichols, were allowed to resign earlier.

“Firing the whistleblower is terribly wrong, especially when the allegations he raised were upheld by the district’s own investigators and the real guilty parties are allowed to resign with no further action. …That sends a chilling message to employees that retaliation is what they can expect if they speak out or file a grievance,” said Larry Shaw, head of the 7,000 member United Educators Association.

 President Ray Dickerson closed the session with a reminder that while the board was done with the Palazzolo case, it was far from over as the next step in the process will be Palazzolo’s appeal to a Texas Education Agency hearings examiner, with all the rights and privileges of a legal proceeding, including document discovery, sworn testimony, subpoena powers, and the right to cross-examine witnesses. And, Dickerson emphasized, a hearing that will be “fair.”

And of course, there are those pesky investigations by the TEA and the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office.

This paper will be doing a follow-up on this never-ending story in the coming weeks.

 


11 Comments


  1.  
    Standing Up

    I wonder how the Board allowed Judy Needham to not only second the motion, but vote on his termination. Seems like an ethical conflict of interest. Here comes another lawsuit.




  2.  
    clap

    He definitely had the clap….




  3.  
    mr childress

    i hope melody johnson and the rest of the council that voted on this vile action burn for it.




  4.  

    First of all,
    It is obvious that when administrators are corrupt the employees will be corrupt. I found it difficult to believe that anyone would say that Palazollo was a racist, what about Mrs. Alexander? Obviously the district has problems with racism, work ethics, and integrity. If they did not, then they would not uphold Judy Needham, Mrs. Alexander, Chuck Boyd, and Izzy Perry. I think that it is very strange that only the whistleblower is being fired, when clearly he was doing the right thing. This tells me that you want unethical employees working for the district. As for Melody Johnson, she obviously went by what she heard.




  5.  
    maria Melo

    Congratulation to the Board Members who voted “NO” and shame on you who vote “YES” to fire Palazzolo. Needleman with her trembling (fear or old lady) voice defended herself by killing Palazzolo. She continues to be the most powerful member of the board who control the new members.

    Melody, an ephemeral congratulation to you on standing what you considered right! You know how to enchant those that boy (board president). Board Members have something in common: “NO CHILDREN IN FORT WORHT ISD” they do not have children in our system to feel the pain.

    Poor FWISD staff members! Melody, they will tremble in your presence. Hitler did the same thing to his enemies. Thanks to the “YES” we will continue siphoning our tax dollars in courts. Melody does not have anything to loose, she is close to retirement and she does not have children in FWISD.

    My advice to the teachers who denounced the irregularities and corruption at Heights, you need to start packing. You sent a messenger and you were able to see what happened to him. If you have committed any crime or misdemeanor, please talk to Brinks or Ayala and share what you have done. A special investigator will write a anonymous letter to Melody and you will be next. SORRY. If you have not committed a crime then you must enroll as soon a possible in the corporation Teach for America (TFA) to have the possibility of teaching in FWISD. Melody will bring 300 supermen from the East to save FWISD.

    Palazzolo, I hope Melody reveal the documentation she said granted your dismissal. If she cannot turn that “welcome to the millionaire club,” it will take you three to four year to receive that compensation from court. Tax payers, we hope Palazzolo settle in Fort Worth to invest his capital in our city.

    “YES” members of the board, consult your constituents, we are very disappointed at you. “NO” members or the board, thank you for being smart. Open the channel with the district employees and you will see the true picture of this leadership. Carlos, you know them, you worked with them. You know who should be fired!

    If you are an UEA member, an apology to you for reading this long comment. Change this organization soon, too much barking. Melody, Ray, Michael and the rest of perpetrators know that nothing will happen under your leadership.




  6.  
    Desperate Melody

    “Firing the whistleblower is terribly wrong, especially when the allegations he raised were upheld by the district’s own investigators and the real guilty parties are allowed to resign with no further action. …That sends a chilling message to employees that retaliation is what they can expect if they speak out or file a grievance,” said Larry Shaw, head of the 7,000 member United Educators Association.

    Why is Larry concerned? This has been the way in FWISD. UEA always plays the tricks with the central administrators. The foxes are watching the hens. They eat them any time they are hungry.

    FWISD employees get organized and bring or form a real teacher union that can guarantee your rights and protect you.

    Larry your business is coming to the end. If the teachers would have an UNION, non-an association, history would be different for the FWISD employees. Fear factor is the driving force for the central administration who don’t have the capacity to solve the problem. We have a bunch of Board members who are more concerned with their own agenda to maintain their businesses.

    Teachers and other employees, the only way you have to bring down this administration is very simple. Do exactly what the bullies tell you to do with the academic. Follow the curriculum frameworks the way it is, implement all of those prompts from the IFL, learn what the Teach for America do and work for what they pay you. Watch for the results!

    Sorry for many of you who have to go! Melody has $45,000.000 to replace you with the excuse of improving those campuses in addition to the $3.000,000 that the board agreed to give it to Teach for America. She has 75% of the board members under her wing. How does Melody invest the money that is not producing results?

    White people have fled the district to private schools and Home Schooling. Hispanics and African Americans are trapped because they are not organized to fight for their kids. Michael Bell where are you? Panthers, is education a priority for you? LULAC did you move out of Fort Worth? Pastors, most of the children who attend to your churches will have difficulties reading and comprehending the Word of God, public schools are not doing a good job. Businesses continue investing oversea, public education is not producing results to replace the work force in 10 years. Do you know how many students got their High School diplomas under the corrupted school system? Parents, are your children learning in public schools? How do you know?

    TPM camouflaged the scores for the schools that did not make it. If we take the TPM indicator 20% of the schools are recognized, 6% Exemplary, 34% acceptable and the rest (40%) would be unacceptable. The board extended Melody’s contract to bring the district down.

    There is hope in the horizon! This cloud will pass soon. Get involved!




  7.  
    InfoSource

    Rufino Mendoza, Labor Relations Director @ FWISD is a local LULAC “leader” (vice president I think). Says it all doesn’t it?




  8.  
    Desperate Melody

    You are right InfoSource. Rufino Mendoza cannot do any thing to advocate for the employees. He is one of them at least by association. I do not understand why Rufino allowed the district to investigate itself.

    Michael Bell and other African Americans cannot say anything either because the two leaders in charge of the mess are African Americans in leadership power (Robert Ray and Sherry Breed.) Under their regime, they have placed most of their people in administrators’ positions than anyone in the history of FWISD. They are in charge of closing the achievement GAP for African Americans and Hispanic students. They only care for their race, but Hispanics children continue making slight progress.

    Do the math. Look how many bilingual schools where White and African American principals who don’t speak the language of the majority in the neighborhood lead. They get lost in translation. Many African Americans have been promoted to principal’s positions and more Hispanic principals have been displaced. Why is that? Hispanic leaders always represented a threat for the other two minority groups (Whites and AA) who have the control of the district.

    We are getting ready to balance the Board in 1014 election. Let’s wait for this regime to pass they will tangle themselves. Let’s wait for TEA and the Court results. Be patience. Get involved!




  9.  

    Thank you for pointing our that Needham, Jackson, Sims, Moss and Dickerson do not have any children in FWISD. All of Needham’s yard signs were in yards of private school children. Is Melody Johnson married? Has anyone been curious about that? If anyone was paying attention Needham and Leonard placed their signs together. HMMM….anyone curious about that?




  10.  

    Has anyone investigated how to recall board members such as Needham, Jackson, Moss and Sims?

    How many names on a petition is required to recall board members and fire the Superintendent?

    What we need is a revolution to throughout the bums,




  11.  
    mark c

    So what else is new? Public schools are a disaster. Between the horrible TAKS and the fact that good teachers are discouraged from sticking around — it’s no wonder any parent interested in a real education for their child is looking at home schooling or charter schools.

    BTW: Needham should have been booted a decade ago. She’s only there to pad her income and boost her silly star-power on the West Side. On any given day, you’ll find her sitting in some west side restaurant trading real estate tips with the OTHER good old BOYS.





Leave a Response

(required)


− 4 = two