Palazzolo Loses First Round

33
Posted February 27, 2011 by betty.brink in Blotch

It was not the outcome he wanted but it was the outcome he expected, said Jason Smith, attorney for Fort Worth ISD whistleblower Joe Palazzolo, given the fact that the judge was being paid by his opponent.

Late Friday night he and Palazzolo got the long-awaited news that Texas Education Agency Hearing Examiner Rick Rickman had upheld the Fort Worth school district’s firing of the former Arlington Heights High School assistant principal last year on all but one count.

“Because of the appearance of impropriety, the hearing examiner’s decision lacks reliability, but we now look forward to presenting Joe’s case to a jury that is not being paid a fee by the Fort Worth ISD,” Smith said. “Can anyone really believe they are getting a fair trial from someone who is being paid by the other side?”

Smith was referring to what he called a huge conflict of interest on the part of Rickman, an attorney from Dallas who was appointed by TEA as an “independent” judge to hear the appeal of Palazzolo’s firing by the district after he reported allegations of illegal and improper acts by a number of administrators and a coach at the venerable old school in 2009-2010, most of which were found to be valid by a five-month-long district investigation. The principal, a coach, an assistant principal and an assistant superintendent have all resigned or been forced into retirement after being found to have committed fraud, engaging in improper sexual relations, using foul and vulgar language, and violating district policy. The illegalities were first reported by this paper last August. Palazzolo contends that he was fired in retaliation for reporting the offenses because of the embarrassment it brought to the administration of Superintendent Melody Johnson.

However, the question of Rickman’s independence has been raised because under the Texas Education Code, the examiner’s $125 an hour (not to exceed $8,000) fee must be paid by the district. And in fact, that cap can be waived in special circumstances, and Rickman said in trial that he has not ruled out asking for a waiver in order to increase his fee (even though it made him “uncomfortable” to do so) given the volume of documents to review, the large number of witnesses called and the length of the trial, which was one of the longest in TEA history.

For that kind of money, the district should have gotten a carefully crafted document that would have no holes in it, but Rickman’s ruling is peppered with errors, the most glaring of which has turned a Caucasian girl into an African-American to prove his and the district’s contention that Palazzolo “implemented disparate disciplinary consequences for some minority students,” one of several reasons the district used to fire him.

Rickman wrote of an instance of “disrespect, bullying, and unprofessional conduct” by Palazzolo that was “reflected in a January 14, 2010 email” about a “situation that involved student S.S., an African-American.” According to Rickman, the kid was pulled out of class by Palazzolo and told she was going to fail and he wrote of other insulting accusations allegedly made by Palazzolo against the girl, leading Principal Neta Alexander to conclude that “Palazzolo did not work well with African-Americans and was constantly in conflict with them.”

The trouble with that whole scenario which took up two-thirds of a page in Rickman’s 46-page report is the fact that S.S. is Caucasian.

When asked how he could have made such an error, Rickman responded by email: “The transcript was more than 2300 pages and there were quite a number of exhibits.  Meeting yesterday’s deadline was no small challenge.  I will go back and look at the record in light of your comment on S.S.  It is possible that a mistake could have been made, and if so, I will address it.”

If “a mistake” has been made, it is a significant one for Palazzolo’s case, since Rickman used this so-called incident to underscore his support of the district’s allegations that Palazzolo discriminated against minorities, said the Rev. Kyev Tatum. Tatum, head of the Tarrant County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is a frequent critic of what he calls the district’s disparate treatment of students of color, and who has filed complaints with the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division, one of which is now under investigation by the department. He was also one of Palazzolo’s witnesses.

“This was nothing more than a Kangaroo Court,” Tatum said in an email. “We are offended they are trying to use the African-American community to spew their hateful, mean spirited deception of justice. We will stay the course  …we must get this case out of their court or “process” before we will get a fair trial. The Fort Worth Way is the wrong way.”

Tatum testified that the former assistant principal was a friend of minority students and that the discrimination against minority students at Heights began long before Palazzolo came there two years ago. Other Palazzolo supporters from the school testified that he was the best thing that had ever happened for minority students, turning many of their lives around. And even though Tatum and eight teachers and coaches from Heights countered the few (and as it turned out at least one inaccurate) accounts from a couple of witnesses for the district that Palazzolo disciplined minority students disproportionately to whites, not a word of that testimony on Palazzolo’s behalf turned up in Rickman’s report.

Trustee Carlos Vasquez, who voted against firing Palazzolo, wrote in an email that he “was very surprised with the outcome. I want to look at the transcripts and make up my on mind on the merits of this case. From what I read on the [Fort Worth]Weekly blog and the Star telegram this hearing was a circus. I need to look at the evidence and take it from there.”

One of the more troubling moments of the trial, the accusation by Chad Whitt, a witness for Palazzolo and the head coach for boys’ soccer at Heights, that he had been threatened by the five lawyers for the district that he could be fired because of his testimony that he had been arrested when he was a teenager for “kicking a car,” was also not found in the report, even though tampering with or threatening a witness is a criminal offense. The lawyers denied that they were threatening Whitt, but Whitt testified that he felt threatened, intimidated and fearful for his job. “I have a family to support,” he said, “and I cannot afford to lose my job, but these lawyers made it clear that they were going to recommend to the district that I be fired,” he told the Weekly after the trial was over.

The district also tried to show that Palazzolo was a bully who brought a “hostile work environment” to the school. Not true, said the teachers who worked closely with him. They testified that he brought a positive work environment to Heights, was highly supportive of teachers and students and could always be relied upon to step in and help when they needed him. None of those statements showed up in Rickman’s report.

“This report is totally devoid” of any of the positive testimony [of the teachers who worked with him], Smith said.

Even worse, he pointed out, Rickman ignored the testimony of both Johnson and one of her administrators, Sylvia Reyna, who helped conduct the investigation of Palazzolo, that the 80 or more supportive emails the district received prior to Palazzolo’s firing, many of which asked that he be kept at Heights because of his positive influence on the kids there, were never given to the board before the board was asked to vote on Johnson’s recommendation that he be fired for cause. Neither was the board given the folder-full of positive evaluations that Palazzolo had gotten from Principal Neta Alexander, with “exceeds expectations” in most areas and with glowing statements of his positive influence on kids.

Rickman reported that Alexander testified that she had gotten many complaints about Palazzolo from parents and teachers but never documented them, did not put them in his personnel folder and did not put him on a growth plan as required by district policy. The reason she ignored policy, she testified, was because she “didn’t want him to tear her school apart.” When he didn’t get his way, he “wreaked havoc,” on a school, she said. What Rickman did not report was the fact that while she found Palazzolo to be an “out-of-control” administrator, she had nonetheless recommended him for the principal’s job at Metro High School, an alternative school for troubled kids. Alexander said it was because she thought his penchant for harsh discipline would be a good fit for the kids at Metro and that she wanted him out of Arlington Heights. Rickman did not report that.

Nor did he refer to the testimony of Sharon Herrera, formerly of the Office of Professional Standards, the department that investigated the allegations that were brought by Palazzolo and at least 15 other teachers at Heights before it turned its sights on the whistleblower. Herrera worked closely with Palazzolo and other teachers there to bring the allegations of wrongdoing to light and she testified that she believed that Palazzolo’s firing was retaliation. Not only that, she said that she was fearful for her job because of her testimony. Herrera was transferred out of the OPS after the investigation of Palazzolo began. She also testified that while working for OPS she was pressured to find something to fire a certain teacher for because he was considered a troublemaker (he was an advocate for teachers and an activist with the United Educators Association.) “They wanted me to ‘fudge’ the report” on this teacher, she wrote in a text message to a colleague. She testified that she refused and was told by her superiors at OPS that if she didn’t help them, they would never be able to get rid of this teacher.

UEA president Larry Shaw also testified on behalf of Palazzolo, shooting down accusations that he acted improperly with a student when he asked her three times to leave the 2009 homecoming dance because four of the kids she arrived with were found to be drinking. The girl said he touched her on her shoulder in an effort to lead her out of the dance. The district argued that that was “inappropriate” but Shaw, who knows the law and the district’s own regulations, said that teachers can put their hands on a student in order to remove them if they refuse an order to leave a certain area as this girl did. That incident was also used as a reason to fire him even though the girl testified that Palazzolo was not aggressive and that he did not hurt her. She was just angry because her friends couldn’t enter the dance. This girl’s prominent Westside family filed a complaint with the district in August of 2010, even though the incident occurred in October of 2009.

As for the dance, two police officers who were there and who determined that certain kids were indeed drinking, testified that Palazzolo acted in a “professional manner.” This accusation was the only one that did not pass Rickman’s muster. He wrote that the district failed to prove “by a preponderance of the evidence” that Palazzolo “had … inappropriate physical contact” with the girl in the act of removing her from the dance.

As for the other accusations against Palazzolo, Rickman found all to be valid, writing that the district had proven that Palazzolo was a bully, he created a hostile work environment, was disrespectful to students, and was “verbally” counseled on all of this by his principal, Alexander. Almost all of the evidence against him that was brought by a handful of teachers and a couple of counselors, was hearsay. Even Palazzolo’s critics admitted under oath that they had no solid evidence of their accusations, just a “feeling” that he had done something inappropriate. He also found that Palazzolo gave false information about two prior bouts with the law, both decades old. Both have been covered at length in this paper: One dealt with a conflict with his ex-wife over child support, which he settled and was fined $10. The second one was a $400 fine he was assessed by an Oklahoma administrative court because as the owner of a security firm, he was responsible for an employee who had let her security license expire. He paid the fine and believed both had been expunged from his record. He also testified that the application for employment that he filled out did not require an applicant to reveal misdemeanors, even though current ones do. He also failed to report that he had been terminated from employment from the General Services Administration some years ago following his report that some high administrators there were profiting from real estate deals. His firing was on appeal, he said. Johnson testified that the misdemeanors found on his record would not have kept him from being hired. And his testimony that he had undergone background and fingerprint checks more than eight times over the years, three by the Fort Worth district, and no criminal action showed up, was not disputed by the district.

While Rickman took the word of Alexander about Palazzolo, even though she provided not one shred of evidence to support her allegations, he also never mentioned that Alexander had resigned “in lieu of further action” after being found guilty of fraud by the district investigator Michael Menchaca. Menchaca wrote in his report that she had overseen the alteration of attendance records and admitted ordering a staff member not to report juniors, seniors, and “students of color” to the truancy courts in order to keep Heights completion rates up.

And an independent consultant from California, asked by the district to review the findings of the investigation into the allegations of misconduct at Arlington Heights found that the school under the leadership of Alexander was out of control.

Next stop for this case is the board which can vote to uphold the examiner’s report or reject it. If that happens, the case goes to the Commissioner of Education for a final decision. Then, it is on to district court, Smith said, where he has already filed a whistleblower lawsuit on Palazzolo’s behalf.  But before that happens, a fuller report by this paper will be coming out, reviewing the testimony and the depositions. This story is far from over.

There are numerous stories about this case and the wrongdoings at AHHS that have been reported in this paper and on the blog since the August 11, 2010  “Powder Keg at Arlington Heights” first broke the story. You can find them by searching for Arlington Heights, Palazzolo, or Fort Worth ISD on this web site.


33 Comments


  1.  
    Disgusted taxpayer

    Thank you Betty Brink and Fort Worth Weekly for REPORTING the FACTS. Rev. Tatum is correct: this truly was a kangaroo court. NO ONE believes for one minute that Rickman authored his report alone. Apparently both Johnson and Reyna testified that they withheld information favorable to Palazzolo from the Board prior to the vote to terminate him. Is this not criminal? It is no secret among FWISD employees that Needham is lobbying hard to get Alexander back on the payroll. Principals were already told of discussion to return Boyd. This is utterly disgusting. Needham should be indicted for her role in covering this up for YEARS. Yet nothing about her is mentioned. Melody Johnson is the most overpaid and inefficient superintendent in Texas. ANY cut in employees or pay should begin with a public review of her compensation package: the Lexus, the home, credit cards, country club, TCU stipend and salary. Now we get to brace ourselves for yet another lawsuit. Dear Board, The message is clear: get rid of Melody Johnson NOW.




  2.  

    I am disturbed at the lack of balance in this decision. The newspaper reports don’t cite any evidence that Mr. Rickman considered any testimony from Mr. Palazzolo’s side.

    But I will look at the 2300 pages of testimony before MAr 8 when we have to vote.




  3.  
    the truth shall prevail

    There are many things that happen within the district that are not revealed because the whole game is about saving face.
    The results are surprising because there was balanced evidence on both sides for and against and a lot was weighed on the districts behalf. The part of falsifying records of criminal records are nothing compared to other employees who have federal records. I know of two where I used to work and they are still there. Not withstanding the arrest of the teacher at the mall in Arlington who has a record and a history of bad behavior and yet she was allowed to be around students. I agree with Ms. Sutherland there was no evidence cited from Mr. palazzolo and that may be considered by a jury in a impartial way at the trial. What we do know is that the district needs to start cleaning house because there are many skeletons still hidden. if the district decides to bring the other administrators back who were involved that would completely make the district an embarrassment.




  4.  
    Maria

    Certainly there is celebration of few people in the high to central administration since Friday. The question they are asking is what should be the next step. They know that this is an ephemeral victory because the documentation of this investigation unleashed the distrust of employees and outraged the public opinion. The vote of the “yes board members would not change due to the compromise with the hidden agenda.” If they were honest or at least political correct, they should wait until the final decision of the State Education Commissioner to make final vote. They should put a moratorium for a final vote until this case rest on verification.

    This is the case of district employees investigating themselves, paying the cost for lawyers and an acting arbitrator. This investigation reported the way this administration conduct their public business with public funding. We can guarantee you that if these findings were address in a private corporation, the entire management personnel would be fired under the premises of misconduct and tampering with the truth.

    The judge decision will benefit the plaintiff in a civil court. This is a judge (with human characteristics and unilateral judgment) who was trying to make sense of the sequence of events. The unfortunate thing in court cases in the United States courts is that judges everyday made gross judgments when they discern what is the right, what is relevant and the evidence reveals. Then, appeals are the everyday solution when verification of investigations is not used to serve to the purpose of fairness and to fulfill the law.

    The board members will be at the same spot they were before when they dismissed the plaintiff. The advantage they should have now is they would have access to the information and they would be able to make a judgment based on the evidence collected during the arbitration. The most important questions for the board are: Do you know if you system is transparent and support fairness? Can you rely on the present administrators? Would you imagine if Palazzolo would not be involved in this case?

    The question if Palazzolo is a whistleblower would become irrelevant with the vast evidence collected in this process. Definitely, he was one of the whistleblowers who have the courage of challenging the system, probably the most influential due to his status in the system. What this landmark case will reveal is that the system in place in this district is far away from transparent.

    We wonder! Why the principal was moved to another key high school if the investigation was leading to inappropriateness? Why investigators in this case were moved to other positions? Why do the testimonies from the plaintiff were not considered when they blew their whistles about illegalities in Arlington Heights? Why did Superintendent not act promptly in this case by acting fair? What is going on in other high schools were middle class children are not attending? What is the message this administration is sending to their employees when they voiced concerns? What would happen if Palazzolo would be black or Hispanic? How do these administrators would handle the case if these incidents would happen at Dunbar H. S. or other minority and disempowered community? What would happen if an influential board member would not be involved in this case? What would TEA do with these shocking evidences about irregularities in the attendance issues? What would be the outcome in a civil court when the plaintiff and district lawyers present these testimonies and exhibits to an independent judge and jurors? How do school employees report irregularities from now and on?

    We have hundreds of questions to wonder but it won’t matter for this case. We would like to have access to each piece of documentation included in this preliminary judgment, and as Sutherland, Rangel and Vasquez, we will get our own opinions. We do not expect other board members change their opinions because they are hoping to be right. The reality check is, not matter what we think about this case it won’t be significant. The only thing that would matter to us is to open our pockets, continue paying inequities, irresponsible administrators, feel the distrust, and wait until some of these people retire.

    The lesson: When you make the right decision, no investigations and appeals would be necessary. For the record, this case will be a landmark case in Texas, “Palazzolo vs. Fort Worth ISD.” We have seen many cases that started with a setback but through appeals it resolved.

    It is intriguing that this arbitrator used “verbal recount” as documentation to get to a final decision. This district is under exigency but don’t forget it has several millions at the board disposal to take a case as long as they want. These funds come from the children funds to be educated. All of this is an embarrassment.

    We appreciate the Weekly for advocating of what should be right. Other medias are timidly reporting because…




  5.  
    Parent of ex-AHHS student

    When I spent time at the school, my impression was that Mr. Palazzolo was disliked by many students and employees. I observed him interacting with students and to me he seemed to always be condescending and his comments demeaned the students. I felt he showed favoritism and seemed abrupt and less understanding with minority students. I also felt uncomfortable after conversations with others involved in this embarassment. I was not at all surprised by allegations and accusations made and suspect most all of them will be found to have substance. This is why I am the parent of an ex-AHHS student. We left before this went public because most of this behavior had been evident for a while. It was an intolerable environment for my child. Legally wrong or just morally wrong, same to me.




  6.  
    Maria

    Wao! With parents like the ex-AHHS student schools won’t have a chance to improve. How in the world you did not denounce this administrator? Why did you leave the other children on the mercy of a such person?

    We my respect to you and your child, with your lack of action you sustained immorality at that campus. If you would act at that time and reported to the central administration or to Ms. Needland, we would have saved a hard time to this wonderful administration.

    Thank you for being so con-descendant with the immorality and left the other children on the mercy of a person like him. We understand your child does not belonged to the minority group, your actions are justified.




  7.  
    Clarity

    Thank you Maria for exposing “parent of ex-AHHS student” for the fraud they are. Anyone can see Rickman had an agenda – save whats left of Melody’s reputation. Where is the teacher testimony? What about the threats to witnesses by the Walsh Anderson attorneys? If the Board is truly reprsenting our interests, they need to review the hearing transcripts and compare them to this ridculous “recommendation”. Please vote based on FACT not Dickerson/Needham public relations for Melody. It is pretty obvious that if this were Dr. Hinojosa from DISD, the Startlegram would have posted the original teacher complaints – which they have had for months,l




  8.  
    Parent of ex-AHHS student

    You are amazing Maria and Clarity. You remind me of Palazzolo – always so very judgemental and right, even with no facts. I did report it and I am not the only one who complained. Did you reallly think they made up everything. Please notice I am not defending either side in this conflict as I do not know if they followed procedure in his termination. I certainly don’t know who is lying or telling the truth and frankly no longer care. However,I did complain for over a year about prejudicial treatment of students and inappropriate behavior by a select few teachers, coaches, and administrators. Nothing changed and no one seemed inclined to listen or care, including other parents. So I told other parents and left. I did not hire Palazzolo and couldn’t fire him so it was not I who put anyone at his mercy.
    By the way – my child is a minority student! So how am I a fraud? I lived it. I experienced it. This makes my opinion valid even if you do not agree with it. Did you personally experience this or are you just another keyboard on the sideline. What have you done that is more than what I did? This sort of presumptious and judgemental response is why I never post my opinion and never will again. Enjoy your on line experience.




  9.  
    Maria

    Thank you Parent of ex-AHHS student for expressing your opinion. This is what makes USA a great country. I personally do not care about the plaintiff in this case. What I question is the system that does not serve the purpose of why is created. We agree that your child’s former HS was a terrible mess. Palazzolo’s case revealed the corruption in the system which is affecting thousands of children in Fort Worth. Not all children have the opportunity of getting out of the problem like your child did. if you leave Palazzolo behind you will realize that thanks to his stubbornness the system that served the children is not working for the best interest of them.
    We have experienced your same challenges when dealing with the system. I bet you wouldn’t your child be exposed to a such environment but guess what, from the board member, superintendent, leadership (central and AHHS) were knowledgeable about the problems but they prefer to coverup their incompetencies and corruption by acting in the way they did.
    My apology if I offended you and your child, but get involved and express your opinion. Never forget we live in USA.

    Don’t forget this is not about Palazzolo, this is about a corrupted system that affect thousands of children in Fort Worth. This messages are read by many citizens who care about their schools and city.




  10.  

    I am choosing to use my real screen name learning
    FWISD is holding a dossier on anythng I am writing on this blog or any others. FWISD is running scared because they do not want you to know the truth about their “scare” tactics against the public, and or employees who are aware of the corruption being played out against employees others who know how your taxpayer dollors are being used against teachers or administrators who are looking out for your children. FWISD paid $8K Richman to find against Palazzolo…$more than $8K…to find in THEIR FAVOR…I have seen the falsificartion of federal documents which I have turned over to the Office of Civil Rights for investigation. Our minority students and poor white students have been forced to be treated as second cclass students through being sent to truancy and other legal authorities…to be expelled or sent to alternative campususes by Alexander and her criminal minions…just because they do not have parents or other means to defend themselves. Everyyone deserves to be presumed innoncent until a court finds otherwise. Palazzolo worked hard to protect students. He didnot arbitrarily prosecute students but followed the law. However Alexander played favorites with WHITE students. Minority students were treated as presumed guilty. She used excuses to maintain her status as PRINCIPAL. She placed all students at risk due to this attitude. Alexander followed Superintendent M. Johhnson’s edict to forego POLICE intervention with full knowledge she was placing ALL students at risk…..i/e the riot in the Spring prior to TAKS testing. Alexander and the board placed students at risk when traveling abroad over SPRING BREAK….when inexperienced students were allowed to travel abroad. To return to Mr. Richman refers to lack of leadership at AHHS, you only have to looik to Alexaner and her cabal of Vice Principals with TENURE to examine how Palazzolo was left in the cold when he attempted to bring order to a school clearly out of control under Alexandrer’s leadership. If you recall, Alexander was campaignig to be the leadership at Paschal, However she lacked the “grit” to fill the shoes of the principal leaving Paschal. Fort Worth could not afford to place her in that role as “too much dirt at AHHS was on her shoes”. Perry, Nichols, Cormier, Needham and others had been groomed by Alexander,. Palazzolo was the “sane”administrator” on this campus,. was the only administrator attempting to bring order to this campus. My daugher was a student at AHHS for 4 yyears. I had countless issues gone unaddressed by Alexander and Needham at AHHS. so I know first hand how difficult it was to get action on issu, Needham started out promising emphatically promising correction would be accompllished. Another student I represented.whose parents were told his “dsyllexcia” was cured by the TAKS testing” even thought this student couldn’t pass his basic core subjects! I could go on on, Finally I have used my actual name versus a screen name because I have learned FWISD is keeping a dossier on my postings because I disagree with M. Johnson.I disagree with her leadership and her choice of advisors on matters concerning how she treats board members who wholehearatedly want to improve the education of our children Alexander is corrrupt…absolutely corrupt…She is only interested in furthering her career, her wealth, and feathering her next position with the BROAD FOUNDATION! GET RID OF HER. Our taxpayer dollars will then actually go to our kids versus her inflated salary and perks like a house, car and other perks which she has not earned when all the while she is attempting to eliminate good teachers or at the very least frighten teachers who would otherwise come forwad to expose her GESTOPO Administrative tactics. Jus think if she eliminated the Office of Professional Serviess ,,, paranoid staffers…many taxpayer dollars would be saved If you thin TOCOO was bad, i.e. look at Judy Needhams new driveway…just look at what M Johnson has done to the budget look at the white boards. It takes $359 to replace a light board for every white board in every classroom in EVERY classroom. Is that pfiscally prudent? Thank you, Linda LaBeau, RN




  11.  

    If you think you are protected by using a screen name be assured, if you are writing against FWISD, your screen name will be “found out” and this administration will find your true name to begin a dossier on your postings. This is a corrupt administration. You or your child could become targets. My phone has been tapped, my car has been vandalized, and I have been followed by OPS at FWISD. These people are ruthless. They will attempt to influence your employer, they will hide your mail, they will do what they can do to tarnish your reputation. These peole are ruthless against anyone who disagrees with them. Mellody Johnson will direct her staff to come after you. She must be fired. She iinst your children and only after furthering her career.. Until the public shows up for school board meetings, you will not be fully informed on how Needham buys votes on the board. Moss, Jackson and others are beholded to her for financially to her to financer their campaignes. This is the most corrupt board of education with the exception of a few who actuallly work to for the people. I encourage anyone whho cares about their tax dollars much less the education of our children to become involved. I am using my name versus a screen name because I have learned they have a dossier on my screen name. This could happen to you if you disagree with Melody Johnson.t




  12.  
    FORMER HEIGHTS TEACHER

    As former teacher, I can say Mr. Palazzolo was universal disliked by the teachers and his fellow principals. True there might have been a few staff members that liked him, but there were also a few Germans that liked Hitler.




  13.  
    CURRENT Heights Teacher

    In reply to “FORMER HEIGHTS TEACHER”:
    Key word here is “FORMER”. You could be any one of several who owe their recent departure to Palazzolo’s report. Though you obviously never taught history.




  14.  
    DeVonna Tinney

    Wow, reading this scandal sheet is a neverending one-sided story. Let’s not confuse people with the facts. Joe Palazzolo is just a poor guy who always seems to get abused wherever he goes. In a plot worthy of Hollywood, he’s the lone righteous dude fighting the huge conspiracy of sinister evil-doers, who always manage to thwart him.

    Arlington Heights wasn’t his first claim of being mistreated as a whistle-blower. He did the same thing at the GSA when he was demoted and then fired. He is never in the wrong. It’s always those evil-doers he’s forever fighting that do him in. Check his employment history. It’s a pattern.

    Interesting thing: Joe never thinks to report the evil-doers until he has received a bad performance review, a demotion, or a termination. At Heights, he claims he spotted record-tampering as early as November of 2009 – but he didn’t think to report it until May of 2010, and that was only after he got a bad evaluation and had been notified of a demotion.

    He claims the record-tampering was to get Heights off of the state’s “unacceptable” list for graduation rates. Two problems with that explanation: 1) Graduation rates don’t factor into a school’s acceptability rating; 2) Heights was already off the unacceptable list at the time Palazzolo claims he discovered tampering. The principal had been aware of that since September. So what motive did she have to tamper with records? None. She didn’t tamper with a thing. The official investigation verified that.

    I’m very surprised that anyone thinks it unfair that the District paid for the Joe’s hearing examiner. Well gee, who else would pay for the hearing? Joe? Ha, right. Joe is too busy spending our FWISD money to protect the little kingdom he built for himself at Heights. We just lost another $8,000 in public money while Joe fights to get back a job he never should have held in the first place.

    Unfortunately, we have three board members (Ann Sutherland, Carlos Vasquez, Juan Wrangel) who are making our school board look like the Dallas Commissioner’s Court. They are the contrarians, voting against anything the rest are for. All three made up their minds about the Palazzolo charade at Heights before they even heard the full story. They did this because it provided political advantage in pursuing their dislike of the superintendent. Forget the facts. They’re too busy playing politics.

    Too bad. We have big budget deficits to make up. Wasting money fighting petty and frivolous suits like this is a huge waste of taxpayer money – money that should be spent on our children. As for Joe Palazzolo, he’s a man who should never be in a position of influence over any child.




  15.  
    jeff.prince

    @ IINDALABEAU — FWISD does not have the capability of looking into our protected web site and seeing the email names and identities of readers making comments.




  16.  
    Current Teacher

    To “DeVonna Tinney”: You really need to check your facts. Since you were not at Heights and are addressing him as “Joe” I take it you know him personally? You are part of the problem in this district. This is not about Palazzolo. It is about every employee who tries to report wrongdoing, is discovered, hunted down and retaliated against. The biggest waste of taxpayer dollars is sitting in the Superintendent’s office. As was pointed out in previous stories, check her record in Rhode Island. Much the same. Melody is about Melody and has been out of a classroom far too long to be effective.




  17.  
    Current Teacher

    To Devonna Tinney: Just checked you out on Linked in. Now I understand your warped sense of reality. You are the folks (TCU) paying MJ the stipend under the table aren’t you? Obviously you work with Neta’s husband at TCU. You are pathetic. You and your friends had to search long and hard to dig something up on Palazzolo – now you’re attacking the only Board members with integrity enough to expose Alexander, Johnson, Needham and Dickerson. The District’s own report proved Alexander has been lying about attendance and other issues since she arrived. We’re not impressed.




  18.  
    Maria

    I guess if all of us see this case as Palazzolo we are missing the real problem. The real problem is CORRUPTION. At the moment some of the board members who decided to bring to Fort Worth a superintendent who had a poor record of improving school in her previous job, that’s when the real problem started. Have you noticed that under Melody employees are more disempowered than before she came? People are afraid even make any type of comments (face to face, e-mails, blogs, report issues, facebook etc.) because everybody know someone who have suffered from making the simple fact of voicing a concern. The establishment of the fear factor is compared to any dictatorial regime. Employees have to refrain from their constitutional rights of making any comments that would be considered against the district. Just look at the recent approved board policy about media communication. If Palazzolo was investigated even out State to incriminate him and invalidate his case, why not to be apprehensive that Melody and her team would not be looking for who says what. Each employee knows what could happen if they bring concerns. When do you think employee would trust this system?

    The case of this AHHS is the tip of the iceberg of the CORRUPTION. We insist that this embarrassment reveals the way this district function as a whole. They provide inaccurate information to the board, they have created a subculture of informants; they have done the best that they could to keep the board members away from the schools they represent. Some board members have questioned some of the rumors about certain administrators making some restrictions.

    We are just looking a case in a “prestigious campus” and the disturbing information that we have received merits TEA to take control of our destiny if the board members do not act. You do not know how many millions of dollars Melody has funneled to consultant companies and organizations in her tenure as superintendent. Just look the TAKS result under her tenure, there have not been any significant improvement. We are behind Dallas! Who can hold this administration accountable? We don’t believe this board would. Some board members are blind by choice, others members are warming their chairs, others have not even made a single statement in weeks. Just watch any recent board meetings, only few members are questioning the system.

    When the CORRUPTION is going to stop? We are waiting for the full report of the testimonies in this case to learn a little bit more. When they are going to make it public?

    We believe this administration has to be dismantled soon. Melody has brought the same people and companies from Rhode Island ISD to continue experimenting with our children at the expenses of our money. The majority of the board members are too unsighted and disconnected with the reality of the district that the 2,300 pages would be a challenge to discern the right thing.

    Our hope is Sutherland, Vasquez, Rangel and at least two more boards use these findings to challenge this corrupted administration and colleague. We do not want to continue donating our money to support corruption.




  19.  
    DeVonna Tinney

    Now, I see who is really corrupt. You have hunted me down to find out my connection. Now will you egg my house, vandalize my car? First of all I graduated from Heights and care about the school. Second I worry when I read how corrupt Melody is, if you have facts. Where are they? Present them. I read where the FWISD has retaliated against all the people who followed the “bully”. Were they all removed from Heights? Do they no longer teach there? Show me some evidence that they are reliating and I will listen. This has been one sided from the beginning. This is not reporting the is an editorial for a man who makes a habit of suing.




  20.  
    Betty brink

    I am not going to respond to any personal opinions made on this blog, but as the reporter who wrote the AHHS stories for this paper and read thousands of pages of documents, I feel that where facts are concerned, readers are entitled to their opinions but not their own facts (with apologies to Laurance O’Donnell).In response to a comment above, Joe Palazzolo filed his first complaint against the district for retaliation AFTER he had submitted almost a dozen complaints from teachers about the alleged wrongdoings at the high school. He reported the record tampering BEFORE he received a poor evaluation from Neta Alexander and a demotion to a lesser position with a cut in pay. Those actions were taken AFTER he had filed the complaints, contrary to what one writer above asserts. In fact, the demotion and poor evaluation was rescinded by Superintendent Melody Johnson because there was literally no documentation in his file to support the poor evaluation or the demotion. Both Johnson and Alexander testified to the truth of that in the recent trial. There were no documents to show that Alexander had ever counseled Palazzolo, advised him that she was unhappy with his work, nor did she put him on a growth plan as required by district policy. Earlier evaluations were full of praise for his work. Further, the facts regarding completion/graduation rates are also inaccurate in the above comment. Completion rates, which are figured by the number of students who enter the 9th grade and complete high school by graduating four years later, must meet a certain percentage each year. If the completion rate falls below what the state requires, this drops the school’s rate to academically unacceptable no matter what the students do on TAKS. In 2008-2009 AHHS was rated academically unacceptable for that very reason. In the 2010 Michael Menchaca/Sylvia Reyna report on the district’s investigation of the allegations of attendance fraud (and all of this has been reported in this paper) Neta Alexander admitted that she ordered one of her staffers to NOT report truancy cases for juniors, seniors and “students of color” that year in order to make her completion rates high enough to pass state muster. Menchaca found that that constituted attendance “fraud” — his words not mine. That report is a public documemt.




  21.  
    Dave Woffard

    It is amazing how much courage people have when they can behind pseudonyms, such as Current Teacher and Maria. In my opinion, it is regrettable Mr. Joe Palazzolo’s firing is linked to whistle blowing. The appearance of retaliation is unfortunate, but ultimately the right action took place. Joe and Mrs. Alexander were removed for due cause. In the long run students, staff and administrators are better off.




  22.  
    Another Current Teacher

    Woffard: You tried to add your nail to P’s, coffin but it didn’t work. He brought Joel Riling who recreated what you had destroyed. Get over it. You were on the CCC and knew full well what was going on. You did nothing. It is too bad the public cannot see our statements to know what Needham, Boyd and Alexander allowed Perry and Cormier to get away with all these years. Even our testimony was ignored. Like him or not, if not for Palazzolo, those people would still be here hurting kids and so would you.




  23.  
    Reader

    Just curious. Having read the alleged “report” – which by the way, doesn’t read like any legal decision I’ve ever read, nor the product of an attorney – I have a few questions.
    Why is Judy Needham not named anywhere? The drinking, dinners, texting, etc. That fact that Palazzolo 3rd partied her grandson. What about the pressure Alexander exerted on teachers to raise her son’s grades? (The reason Ballard is teaching freshman this year) Tobin stood his ground as an A.P. teacher in spite of repeated “visits” from Alexander’s husband and downtown. The report tells the fiction about Palazzolo bullying Libby Bogart, but not of her report to him that Alexander’s son came to school hungover, late, even under the influence, and that teachers were forced to give him parts in school plays. Nothing about Cormier lying on her loan application. Time to shift the focus back to the bad guys.




  24.  
    Dave Woffard

    Cowards hide behind names like “another current teacher” and personally attack anyone that does not share their viewpoint. The issue should not be about what I did or didn’t do for that matter. It should be about Palazzolo and the AHHS administration.

    So let’s stick to that issue please. Is the school better or worse now that Joe is gone? Is the working relationship between faculty and administration more productive?

    BTW, I am sure you don’t have the guts to disclose your name.




  25.  
    Another Current Teacher

    Its never been about Palazzolo. He was simply a diversion to protect the inflated reputation of Johnson and her cronies like Judy Needham. Its not about being a coward (though you should know all about that). It is a question of survival. After what they did to Palazzolo, AND several of his witnesses – one of who is currently on leave – no one in FWISD dares give their name. Check out any story – Connects for example. The issue is corruption. You made several false claims about Palazzolo – none of which panned out. They were anonymous. That took “guts”. Nothing brave about that. He is bearing the burden for every employee and parent who is sick of what went on at AHHS for nine + years. Again Woffard, you were there and did NOTHING. Your idea of “working relationship” was looking the other way. You are and were a disgrace. Your contract was not renewed by Alexander – remember?




  26.  
    Dave Woffard

    The personal attacks continue. A coward’s comments are just like the coward himself, worthless.

    Man up or shut up!




  27.  
    Current Teacher

    I think that is what that person has been trying to tell you Dave. These are not personal attacks. Your comments were personal attacks on Palazzolo. Bitter and baseless at that. Follow your own advise. By the way, the fourth witness for Palazzolo known to have been threatened or intimidated by attorneys for FWISD has now resigned. This is the third minority Staff member in a year. He was a good man who could not fight the battle Palazzolo is.




  28.  
    Dave Woffard

    Yes, I still hold some resentment. I am sorry I said anything. It brings me back into a bad place and is not what I should do as a Christian. I will pray for forgiveness, the school and for Palazzolo, especially for Palazzolo.

    Again, I am sorry and God Bless,

    Dave

    .




  29.  
    Observer

    Looks like FWISD used a lot of people to preserve Melody’s image. With all of the contradictions in this ridiculous “report” I pray that more than just three of the Board members take their blinders off to see what a witch hunt this has been. Rickman is a disgrace to the legal community. No ethical Court would have allowed the intimidation of witnesses the way he obviously has.




  30.  
    FWISDleaks

    Rickman’s verdict and wording reveals he was frustrated with the plaintiff and his team. Judges report their conclusions based on accurate and tangible evidences. His response and recommendation leave a lot to be desired. We would like to see these evidences presented in a independent or civil court. Jail time for the perpetrators!

    Melody and her team reported on the district website some excerpts from Rickman that highlights his frustration on the plaintiff. The nonsense makes sense in the district posting. Many district employees do not know what are they talking about in this report. Now a lot of people are wondering what’s going on with this Palazzolo’s case. We do no see the “hi five” celebration, but what do we hear is the OMG!

    Let’s see how the board members handle this embarrassment. Employees are waiting for the board members’ reaction. We will see the voting on March 8.




  31.  

    I would be happy to show anyone interested in the paperwork showing when and who altered the attendance records. This fraud began in the Spring of 2010 when Alexander realized the school would fall into the “unacceptable” category again. Secondly, if Jeff Prince is correct, which I believe he is a reliable witness, I would like an explanation for an entry from the person who posted my name, when I had clearly used a screen name. Knowing FWISD has copies of my emails, I can only suspect my computer was hacked by FWISD when I know my phone was tapped, my car was vandalized following the first FWW report and I was followed by FWISD paid investigators. Izzy Perry, who was in charge of the Booster Club funds and has been returning checks this year to AHHS; also she used profane language about her love affair with Nichols which Alexander knew about, she exposed the pregnant teenage volleyball player using profane language in front of students, spoke grafically to students about her bedroom behavior, yet no action has been taken by CPS against her behavior and no attempt has been made to revoke her teaching certificate to prevent her from ever entering another classroom to teach children. Alexander made her a “substitute principal” while Alexander was off campus giving her authority she was not certified to do. This started with Boyd when he was principal at AHHS and no one has brought to the public’s attention that he took a $5000 loan from Perry or brought attention to whether this was paid back. It is alleged this money came from Perry by way of the Booster Club funds. One board member has been pillioried for requesting FOIA documents yet Reyna and Johnson admitted under testimony they hid positive reports from board members prior to the board meeting s,. So is it any wonder board members have to FOIA the district for information when they are clearly not being fully informed on important board issues. One has to ask if Johnson and Reyna lied under oaath, then what else have they lied about to the public and the board members. Throughout the investigation, OPS was busy falsifying documents about Palazzolo and others supporting what Palazzolo reported. So how many lies were given to Rickman by this administration in the preparation of his report? I was present when a FWISD administrator attempted to hide positive information about Palazzolo from the Walsh Anderson attorney as well. Throughout the investigation Palazzolo conducted himself in a forthright and professional manner. I am 63 years old and have worked with many people in litigation. Joe Palazzolo has the highest integrity of anyone I’ve encountered. I consider myself a good judge of character and found Palazzolo to have the highest character and integrity of anyone I’ve encountered in my 63 years on this planet. Thank you. Linda LaBeau




  32.  
    Clarity

    To DeVonna Tinney:
    “Let’s join forces as Christians and start a Jesus Christ revival! Press like if Jesus is your Savior!!!”
    Spoken like the true hypocrite you are.




  33.  
    Former Student

    Izzy Perry has got to be one of the most disgusting human beings on the planet. She was foul, profane, disgusting. I remember she was athletic director and she rolled around all 1/2 ton of her on a 6 wheeled Jon Deer tractor yelling at kids. How the hell does a morbidly obese woman become athletic director? She played favorites, hated me, cant you tell? She tried to get a police officer to arrest me for yelling (not profanities) at a baseball game. She had no clue. Also, after she had bypass surgery she used to smush that math teacher with the mustache who drank diet cokes, smoked cigs all day, and talked about how depressed he was. How much more depressing can it get than smushing out that bag of skin?





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