Saturday, February 26, 2011

Did MV schools fulfill 2009 settlement terms?

In August 2009 the Mount Vernon Board of Education agreed to a partial settlement with the Dennis family. Eighteen months later, portions of the settlement may have been left unfulfilled.
As part of the agreement the school board promised that there would be two presentations given to employees of the Mount Vernon City Schools on the subject of religion in the public schools. The board also said that after they made their decision regarding John Freshwater’s employment they would issue a statement included in the settlement.
The presentations
The first presentation was given in August of 2009 by two attorneys. The second presentation, according to the settlement, was to be given by Melissa Rogers or a speaker “with similar credentials.”
The 2009 settlement stipulated that there were to be two presentations. asked the schools’ superintendent, Steve Short, whether the second presentation had been given. Short wrote back, “I have forwarded your request to our attorney for a response.”
If and when the attorney, Sarah Moore, responds this article will be updated with her response.
The settlement gave a deadline for the second presentation: September 2010.
(See here for a copy of e-mails to and from regarding the second presentation. PDF 65KB )
The statement
The school board promised to “make a public statement” using wording included in the settlement. The statement was to be issued after the board made its decision regarding Freshwater’s employment.

The school board in 2009 agreed to make a public statement after the hearing concluded. asked the school board’s president, Dr. Margie Bennett, about the statement. Bennett wrote back, “I understand Mr. Short sent the Press Release to the local media and the Columbus Dispatch.”
Following Bennett’s response, a copy of the press release was requested from the school via a public records request. When the response is received this article will be updated with the response.
(See here for a copy of e-mails to and from regarding the statement. PDF 69KB )

UPDATE 3-1-2011:

Moore has not responded to the request for comment.

The school has not replied to the public records request.

UPDATE 3-3-2011:

Rogers replied to a request for comment from, saying: “I suggest you contact David Millstone. I'd be happy to talk to you, but Mr. Millstone knows much more about this matter.”

(Millstone is one of the two attorneys that gave the first presentation to school employees on the subject of religion in the public schools. Millstone, however, did not handle the settlement with the Dennis family.) had sent the following questions to Rogers: “Were you contacted by anyone to speak at the school? Did you give a presentation at the school on the subject of religion in the public schools?”

(See here for a copy of e-mails to and from Rogers. PDF 69KB )

UPDATE 3-4-2011:

The second presentation

Short told that the second presentation has not yet been given.

“We are in the planning stages for the second speaker,” Short said. “We anticipate that we will have the second speaker in May.”

The speaker will be someone other than Rogers. “Unfortunately,” Rogers explained, “we could not work out the scheduling.”

(See here for a copy of e-mails to and from regarding the second presentation—updated on 3-4-2011. PDF 12 KB )

The statement

Short supplied a copy of a press release that contains the statement that was required pursuant to the August 2009 settlement. The press release is undated but would have been issued sometime after the school board made the decision in January 2011 to fire Freshwater.

(See here for a copy of the press release. PDF 48 KB)

(See here for a copy of e-mails to and from regarding the statement—updated on 3-4-2011. PDF 10 KB )

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