JCD Board’s Reasons For Superintendent Firing Revealed
By Mike Perleberg
(Osgood, Ind.) – A newly released document details the Jac-Cen-Del school board’s reasons for firing the district superintendent.
The Jac-Cen-Del Board of School Trustees voted 3-0 on Tuesday to terminate the contract of Dr. Leanna Phillippe. She had become the small school corporation’s superintendent in 2012 under a three-year contract subject to annual review.
A findings of fact by the board alleges that Phillippe was insubordinate to the board or exhibited incompetence on multiple occasions. Some of the incidents could have cost the school district thousands of dollars, while others seemed like simple disagreements.
The first offense, according to the board’s findings, was in February 2013 when Phillippe recommended that repairs be made to the roof at Jac-Cen-Del High and Middle School. A board member asked about a warranty on the roof installed in 2001, to which Phillippe claimed there was no warranty.
Another board member, Phil Mohr, went to Phillippe’s office in April 2013 to ask if anybody had contacted the installer of the previous roof. Phillippe allegedly claimed that she did not know who put the roof on, but in a packet of information handed to the board member, Mohr found copies of two checks to the roofing company.
Further investigation by Mohr determined that the roof did indeed have a full 15-year warranty that started in 2001. The roof was repaired at a cost of $16,000. Phillippe’s recommendation for a new roof would have cost $296,400, according to the findings of fact.
“Ms. Phillippe, when asked about the warranty, should have investigated the issue, at least to the extent of opening the folder she handed to Mr. Mohr to discover the contact information of the original installer. Her failure to do so constitutes incompetence,” the school board states in the document.
In another instance cited by the board, Phillippe allegedly had a camera and buzz-in security system installed at Jac-Cen-Del Elementary School without board approval in March of 2013. Two months earlier, the board had requested that Phillippe seek more bids for the security upgrades. When questioned by a board member, Phillippe stated that she did not need board authority to have the system installed.
Other allegations seemed to be reaching on the board’s part. The board said that Phillippe’s thoughts about a book assigned to 7th grade students “may not be in step with the community standards of the Jac-Cen-Del Community.”
According to the board’s findings, the book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has been banned in some school districts because it contains possibly offensive excerpts. When Phillippe was called upon by a parent to give her evaluation of the novel, she allegedly stated “The book really has a beautiful story and is not any worse than a bus ride home or prime time TV.”
Several other occasions of alleged incompetence or insubordination were listed in the findings of fact including:
- Failure to provide improvement plans for two educators despite requests from the board.
- A first year teacher was given a salary greater than the teacher contract allows. Phillippe had to go back to the teacher to reduce his salary.
- Made changes in policy manual regarding comp time without calling the board’s attention to the change.
- Wrongly reported to a local newspaper that the school district and the teacher’s association had reached an agreement on waiver days for developing digital curriculum.
- Wrongly stated during a board meeting regarding state law requiring 360 minutes of instructional time each day for high school students and whether the school had implemented the requirement correctly.
- Phillippe failed to conduct exit interviews with two retiring teachers despite the board’s request.
You can read the entire findings of fact by the Jac-Cen-Del Board of School Trustees here (PDF).