Counseling for Controversy

School district veterans say they were forced out while a supervisor’s friend was hired.
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Posted June 13, 2012 by SARAH ANGLE in News
Left to right, Nelder Stewart, Raul Duran, and Carolyn Turner say their former boss set out to discredit them. Sarah AngleLeft to right, Nelder Stewart, Raul Duran, and Carolyn Turner say their former boss set out to discredit them. Sarah Angle

Carolyn Turner and Nelder Stewart say the problems began for them in August 2008. For colleague Raul Duran, it felt like a new front in the fight he’s been waging off and on with the Fort Worth school district for a decade.

August 2008 was when the district’s prevention and education department was placed under the direction of Kathryn Everest, the current director of guidance and counseling.

Turner, Stewart, and Duran are longtime district employees and former prevention and education specialists. Such specialists, Duran said, are state-certified, highly skilled trainers who teach parents, students, district employees, and community groups about drug abuse, violence prevention, and how to stop and prevent bullying. They teach from a curriculum approved by the federal government.

But during that first week of school in 2008, instead of attending the standard professional development meetings, the six employees who made up the prevention and education department were given another task: cleaning out a storage room.

“I thought it was kind of cruel for us to be doing that since they have maintenance staff.” Turner said. “That’s how they treated us.”

…the six employees who made up the prevention and education department were given another task: cleaning out a storage room.

“Basically, she made us all manual laborers that week,” said Duran. “We were insulted by it.” What’s more, Duran said, the room they cleaned out was filled with thousands of dollars’ worth of workbooks and manuals, all of which got trashed.

“She [Everest] said in our first meeting that we had been parading around as counselors, but we were not counselors,” said Stewart. “She let it be known that she was out to discredit us.”

The problems between Everest and the prevention and education department would devolve into layoffs, employee grievances, racial remarks, the hiring of Everest’s alleged personal therapist, and a complaint being filed with the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners.

From the first, Everest treated the prevention and education specialists differently from the rest of the department, the former workers said.

Turner remembered Everest saying that she didn’t need a prevention staff, because she could buy metal detectors and call that prevention. “We felt unworthy in her eyes,” said Turner. “Every meeting we had, she was tearing us down.”

At one meeting, Turner recalled, prevention and education specialist Paula Matthews told Everest, “I feel like I’m being treated like the black sheep of the group.”

“Oh no, Nelder is darker than you,” Turner said Everest replied.

“I was beyond speechless,” said Stewart, an African-American. “I think I forgot to breathe.”

“I was so embarrassed for Nelder,” said Turner. It wasn’t a statement about race, she said, but a description of how Matthews was being treated.

“Everyone was appalled,” Stewart recalled.

Prevention and education employees figured they could see the handwriting on the wall. Over the next two years, two of the six transferred out, and a third retired. That left Turner, Stewart, and Duran — who indeed received letters in March 2010 stating their jobs would be terminated at the end of that school year because the Safe and Drug-Free School and Communities grant money, which funded their positions, had been eliminated.

Since then, neither Turner nor Stewart, who are both 62, has been able to find a full-time job. Duran, 56, found a position with a nonprofit organization.

While their jobs with the district were in jeopardy, however, one new person was hired — Cynthia Bethany, brought on at the beginning of 2009. She was given the title of critical incident specialist IV, a new position created by Everest after one of the prevention and education specialists retired.

According to district documents, the critical incident specialist “will be the point person to field, manage, and deploy trauma response assistance as needed throughout FWISD.” The job also includes consulting, referring, responding, deploying, tracking, and evaluating critical incident response within the district. And like the prevention and education specialists, this position educates students and faculty about current “safe school initiatives.”

Bethany’s starting salary was $62,000 a year. When Duran got laid off after 18 years with the district and eight years with the department, he was making $50,000. Bethany has a master’s degree in social work and is a licensed clinical social worker. She also has a broader range of responsibilities as a critical incident specialist. But those aren’t the only disparities between Bethany and the rest of the prevention and education department.

“We noticed that Cindy was being treated differently than us,” said Duran. “Then things just started slipping out.”

Those “things” involved information about the two women’s previous relationship and continuing social relationship outside of work.

Everest told the others that Bethany was her personal therapist, Turner said. According to Turner, Stewart, and Duran, Everest had begun seeing Bethany for counseling after Everest worked with students and faculty affected by the 1999 Wedgwood Baptist Church shooting.

How long that patient-client relationship lasted and whether it’s still ongoing is not known. Calls to Everest and Bethany were referred to district spokesperson Clint Bond.

Bond said Duran has signed an agreement with the district involving settlement of a previous discrimination complaint, “so we can’t talk about those details.”

Fort Worth Weekly’s questions had little to do with Duran’s earlier complaint, but no further response was provided.

What’s more, Duran said that there is no provision in the settlement of that earlier case that prevents either party from discussing it.

Last year the district paid Duran $250,000 to settle Duran’s allegation that, due in part to racism, he had been denied a promotion in 2007 to coordinator of equity and advocacy despite being the top candidate for the job. As a condition of the settlement, Duran dropped his complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and agreed not to apply for future jobs with the district. However, the settlement didn’t affect the job Duran had at the time the settlement was reached — at least not on paper.

“I think this is one person trying to dig up the past, and it’s shameful,” said school board member Carlos Vasquez. “Raul decided to take that settlement — he could have kept fighting or gone to court.”

Six months after getting laid off, Duran filed a new EEOC complaint, based on the loss of his prevention and education specialist position. He’s convinced that he was laid off in retaliation for his earlier complaint.

Duran has also filed another complaint, this one with the Texas State Board of Social Workers. He alleges that Bethany has maintained “an unethical dual relationship and conflict of interest” with Everest.

Because social workers, like other kinds of therapists, are likely to have influence with their clients, the ethics of their profession frowns on situations in which, for instance, a social worker would date or enter a business arrangement with a client. Working for a client would seem to fall into the latter category.

Some social workers believe in avoiding dual relationships completely, while others believe the prohibition is more flexible.

Vicki Hansen, executive director of the Texas chapter for the National Association of Social Workers, said that typically a licensed clinical social worker should do everything reasonable to avoid a dual relationship with a client or former client. A big part of the reason, she said, is to avoid power differentials.

“The best-case scenario is to avoid those dual relationships,” said Hansen. But, she added, “It always boils down to specific situations and people.”

Licensed clinical social worker Claudia Dewane wrote in Social Work Today that it’s the potential for exploitation or harm to a client (or former client) that makes dual relationships problematic. “Dating, bartering, and entering into business arrangements with clients represent examples of situations that are best avoided,” she said.

In February 2010, a month before federal funding for the prevention and education department ended and the department was cut, Bethany and her critical incident job were transferred to the guidance and counseling department.

According to documents received through an open records request filed by Duran, Bethany’s job was reclassified to be paid for with general district funds, but her title remained the same.

“They didn’t offer to do that for any of us,” Duran said. “They kept the person that was being paid the most … with the least seniority.”

Turner said, “We were treated like peons that didn’t matter; she [Bethany] was treated like an executive.”

Austin attorney Martha Owen, general counsel for Texas American Federation of Teachers, said Texas teachers’ unions have seen a lot of this type of manipulation of funds and jobs in recent years, as districts deal with continuing financial crises.

“I think it’s really a shame,” she said, but it’s not illegal.

Like Bethany, Turner has a master’s degree in social work. She had been with the district for 16 years.

“I kind of feel like I was blackballed because I asked too many questions,” said Turner. “I am a licensed social worker working for minimum wage washing tables and sweeping floors.” If she hadn’t gotten laid off, she would have been able to retire next year.

“I got booted out without being able to retire … . That really hurt,” she said.

Turner said her old position as an intervention specialist is open right now at the district, “but they won’t put me in it.” This is the third time in two years that she’s applied for that same job. And she has a feeling that Everest is “swaying the hiring process.”

“I’m sure she does sway the hiring process,” said Vasquez, the schools trustee, laughing. “I’m not going to hire somebody who hates me. … No business would do that. Why should we do that in our schools? When people are in positions where they get to hire people, people are going to hire who they think is going to be loyal to them, who is going to work hard, and who they can trust.”

Vasquez said that, having worked with Everest when he was a school principal, he does not believes she is racist.

The district has no legal obligation to hire back an employee who’s been laid off, Owen said. But she also said it doesn’t make much sense for a school district to go to the expense of retraining new workers when someone is available who is already trained.

Stewart said that over the past two years she has applied for more than 40 jobs with the Fort Worth district and been called in for interviews fewer than half a dozen times.

“My 16 years of experience was just slipped under the carpet,” she said. “It was kept really quiet what they had done.”

Like Duran, Stewart filed an EEOC complaint but couldn’t afford to hire an attorney to represent her.

She wasn’t surprised to hear that the district had declined to comment on her situation. “It’s like opening up a can,” she said. “It’s going to [show] what kind of district they are.”

Vasquez acknowledged that in the past there has been a “culture of fear and intimidation” in the district and that supervisors played favorites. But things are different now, he said.

Stewart, Turner, and Duran don’t see much change in that culture.

“You’re dealing with children every day and teaching them right from wrong, and here we are,” Stewart said. “We’ve been bullied and treated as less than what we are.”


Fort Worth freelancer Sarah Angle writes for national and regional publications.


14 Comments


  1.  
    R U Kidding?

    “Vasquez said that, having worked with Everest when he was a school principal…” Now Carlos, you don’t REALLY want to go there do you?




  2.  
    Justice for All

    So my tax-paying dollars are going to fund an institution that laughingly admits that the hiring process is subjective and left to directors who unethically hire their therapist and retaliates against employees who exercise their equal employment rights? I hope that TEA, EEOC, the U. S. Departments of Education and Justice are reading this. Vasquez uses the word “shame” against these folks. Shame on him in his comments from last week’s article and this week’s exposure of his acceptance of Republican PAC money. I love the way he equates $17,000 with $100,000. I hope he wasn’t a math teacher! He’s an embarassment.




    •  
      Teacher

      If you think this is bad, wait until the Palazzolo/AHHS case goes to trial. Taxpayers will be shocked at how Sylvia Reyna and Judy Needham spent their $$$ to get Joe and silence us.




  3.  
    Get a clue

    Before each of you intelligent scholars partakes in defending Mr. Duran or his colleagues, please feel free to do your own research on the amount of times he has filed suit against FWISD. Clearly he wasn’t qualified for a position with the district & feels that he should take down anyone and everyone. If you know anything about the media- you know it is not all truthful, so before you begin to bash an institution & people you know little to nothing about, get your facts and your story straight.

    Oh, and ‘Justice For All’, if you were a manager, boss, director, etc. & you are telling me you would hire someone who has openly bashed, degraded & disrespected you- then you have no respect for yourself. Thanks.




    •  
      Got a Clue

      Didn’t you just trash Sharon Herrera in last week’s cover story? You are the problem. No doubt part of the Communications Dept. – or Reyna’s office. Don’t clean up the corruption, nepotism or cronyism throughout FWISD (retire/rehires etc), instead shoot the messengers.




    •  
      Funny Response

      From us intelligent scholars, the amount of times does not matter if he kept having a valid case. Assuming the district was innocent and upstanding, he would never have had even 1 victory. You cant tell me there is no discrimination that ever happened or is still happening at FWISD or else why does EEOC even exist…

      As far as hiring managers, i dont know many people that apply for a job once they know they hate the manager or company; so yes, i would assume that person was interested and wanting to be an active team member. Its called being a professional manager. subjective people like Everest and Valdez apparently only hire their friends.




  4.  
    Justice for All

    Get a Clue, you’re saying that the district kept a guy on for 18 years who was not qualified to do his job? Isn’t that more of an issue of inefficient management? But then didn’t opened district records show that he was the most qualified, or did FWISD just throw $250k at him because he filed a frivolous lawsuit? Another example of inefficient management? Who’s spending all of this tax-payer money? I wonder how many complaints were filed during the civil rights era that brought about equal employment and equal education rights for all Americans? It’s not as much how many complaints are filed as much as when leadership accepts the need for change. So, you’re okay with the director of guidance and counseling using state and federal funds to hire and keep her therapist? Seems like you want FWISD— a majority-minority district, to keep up its “plantation mentality” so that minority employees remain silent “little childen” or Nuremburg Rally, lockstepping cheerleaders for a district that fails in its purpose to educate all children. Get a Clue, look up the Third Reich, it didn’t work for that administration either.




  5.  
    disgraceful social worker

    The author failed to adequately cover the repercussions of dual relationships and conflict of interests. Our code of conduct and core values stipulate the need to avoid either. there is no “flexibility” written in the code, it is clearly stated. What we as social workers want is 2nd to what the broader group wants.

    1.06 Conflicts of Interest

    (a) Social workers should be alert to and avoid conflicts of interest that interfere with the exercise of professional discretion and impartial judgment. Social workers should inform clients when a real or potential conflict of interest arises and take reasonable steps to resolve the issue in a manner that makes the clients’ interests primary and protects clients’ interests to the greatest extent possible. In some cases, protecting clients’ interests may require termination of the professional relationship with proper referral of the client.

    (b) Social workers should not take unfair advantage of any professional relationship or exploit others to further their personal, religious, political, or business interests.

    (c) Social workers should not engage in dual or multiple relationships with clients or former clients in which there is a risk of exploitation or potential harm to the client. In instances when dual or multiple relationships are unavoidable, social workers should take steps to protect clients and are responsible for setting clear, appropriate, and culturally sensitive boundaries.




  6.  
    Quixote

    As a former FWISD employee It is amazing how much things have not changed since I left. The “Good Old Boy (and Good Old Girl)” network is alive and well, as is the “it’s not what you know but who you know” employment model. Both affirmed by the heavily-jowled Mr. Vasquez in his laughed off comment. Someone remarked about the number of times Mr. Duran has filed suit against the District. Does it matter? Anyone remember what King said about injustice? It takes a great deal of courage to stand up against a wrong – real or perceived. This time, however, very real. The District would have saved far more than $250K if they had retained the three employees, and promoted Mr. Duran to one of the many positions for which he applied and was more than qualified. Mr. Vasquez knows something about that – he was passed over for promotion into the middle and high school ranks and chose to leave the District, only to return as a Board Member with several axes to grind. If only board members would do as they are empowered to do: set policy and approve the budget and not meddle in the day-to-day affairs of District operations. I applaud Mr. Duran and his two colleagues. They deserve far better treatment than that which they received.




  7.  
    Purveyor of truth

    You said it “Disgraceful Social Worker”! Bethany should have never been allowed to be hired or even put herself in that position in the first place! She has wronged her profession! Makes me wonder what other unethical things Bethany has done, if she accepted a job with Everest. Someone should dig deep in her still existing practice. However, Everest believes Bethany is the best thing since sliced bread,, so whatever Everest says evidently goes (hiring her therapist/friend). Everest is a fraud, plain and simple! She hides behind so many accolades, wanting to make Dansby and the others think she is indispensable and the pioneer of all that is sacred in counseling. NOTHING is going to happen to Everest, because she was appointed by loser Rick Perry to the board of Licensing and Certification. And here’s another little nugget of info. Everest is in the job she’s in, because she needs the status to maintain her own business, which is “The Everest Edge”. Check out her website http://www.theeverestedge.com/bio.htm and see how she blows herself up to be the creator of not only the world, but also counseling. And here is a little blurb from her bogus website, which I am sure she wrote all herself! “Ms. Everest continues to work in a management position in central administration navigating all human relations issues and inspiring high standards of professional growth for personnel.” What a bunch of phooey!

    Here’s the real skinny! She is a closeted lesbian, who hates gay people, especially those who are trying to fight for LGBTQ rights within the district. She IS A BIG TIME racist, who hates Hispanics and Blacks equally! This article in question is not lying; it is telling the truth about a shameful person, who is slick and corrupted. She throws whoever she wants under the bus, who is not someone like her…WHITE! Counselors in this district can’t stand her, because she is so selective who she likes and advocates for. And the worst part of it; she disgraces parents, when they call in, who can’t speak English! She says she is in it for “all human relation issues”, but what she is really saying is “all WHITE human relation issues…” The INOK program is the ONLY reason she is still with the district and she illuminates it like it was something SHE solely created and implemented. I call BS on that one! Everest is in it for one person…herself! When you see a bio full of crap as hers, you can automatically tell this person is trying to inflate who they are; they are trying to mask their insecurities.

    This district doesn’t EVER want to address anything that will make them look like bigger heals than they already are. Everest has kept her job, in spite of the entire backlash from Duran and the other prevention workers. And over a quarter of a million dollars later…do you think she’s going anywhere? Maybe SHE needs to pay back the settlement for Duran! Hell no! She’s got her nose so far up Dansby’s derriere…she is untouchable, regardless of spending MY tax dollars on her prejudices! All these lawsuits are going to continue, (and I wouldn’t be surprised if they come from counselors) regardless if they settle Palazzolo or not, or if they already settled with Duran and Chavez. They will keep the corrupt and disgraceful, e.g., (Dunbar nipple pincher), b/c they supposedly want to avoid a lawsuit, even though he admitted to pinching nipples!? Yet they fire a whistleblower for being the messenger (Palazzolo)? I call BS on that one too! Furthermore, this district allows admin and campus bullying and sexual harassment to continue within the district, as if it was the culture norm. So you see, it doesn’t matter who does what or who is corrupt or not…it is all an inbred thing that will never go away or change. NO ONE touches this district, but don’t think it’s from a lack of trying. As far as Everest goes…let’s hope she does! This district will be better off without her and the counseling dept will be better too. She can take her therapist with her too, considering she doesn’t do much anyway, in the way of making a difference that some other high paid employee can also do in her place. And another tip as far as Bethany goes…talk about inbred and unfair. I am sure she not only got her job b/c of Everest, but her husband is the Safety guru for the district! Can you say “favoritism”?




  8.  
    Purveyor of truth

    I almost forgot to address the Vasquez comment stating Everest wasn’t a racist. Damn Carlos, you are losing your touch! Your lies are getting all twisted, much like your personal life! Did you and Everest have drinks at your favorite gay bar to make sure you would support her in this article? You did work with Everest when you were a principal and chummied up to her then. Of course you are going to support her now! And to not support her would mean you put your faith and trust in someone who failed you. Talk about corrupt politics and being shameful and disgraceful!!! You Carlos, are all that and more. You backstab whoever and whenever you get a chance, You have your own personal agenda and have had it for years! You definitely had something to grind, especially when you were fired by MJ. So you come on the board and you work hard to get rid of her, at the expense of lying to employees and the public to get your agenda addressed, which incidently was your failed political journey. I hope you remember who you have crossed on your way, because from where I sit, your political days are numbered come next election for the board. The only board you will be sitting on is the teeter totter in the park with Everest on the opposite side!




  9.  

    We must remember that not all dual relationships are unethical. Some are actually mandated (i.e. in the military and in forensic settings) and other are clearly unavoidable (i.e, rural or small communities). Then other are normal part of communal living. For more info http://www.zurinstitute.com/dualrelationships.html




    •  
      Raul Duran

      Dr. Zur,
      I am sure that readers appreciate your post that explains that in certain cases dual relationships can and will occur. This is not one of those. Fort Worth is not a small town community and the situation does not involve military forces. Opened records show that Everest created the Critical Incident Specialist position, got the pay level approved, formed and was chair of the screening, interview, and final selection committee (with her excessively high scoring of Ms. Bethany making all the difference) and that she was the driving force behind secretly moving Bethany over to her department’s general fund, thus saving, only her, an Anglo female with less seniority and higher pay, from being cut “due to lack of funds”. Readers who believe and demand fair employment practices to ensure that their tax dollars are spent on the most qualified candidate should also know that the candidate who scored second to Bethany’s unethical hiring, was an African-American candidate— who did not have the benefit of being Everest’s therapist or same race.




    •  
      Insider

      Lest we forget, her husband Mark is also an FWISD employee in a likewise created and highly paid position.





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