Superintendent Merrill Grant Has Additional Explaining to Do

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Merrill_Grant

There is some pretty offensive rhetoric coming out of Brentwood Union School District Superintendent Merrill Grant this morning which needs to be addressed. I find the comments in today’s Contra Costa Times to be unacceptable, degrading to the parents, students, and to the special needs community regarding the handling of Dina Holder.

My hope is the Contra Costa Times did not portray him correctly in the article or his comments were taken out of context. If not, then his attitude and solutions should earn him an immediate pink slip or letter of resignation resignation.

Simply put, more explanation is needed and more information needs to be made available in the name of transparency to all parents of the District. Right now, its clear the School District is in “cover our butt” mode at all cost.

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To paraphrase the Contra Costa Times story that broke yesterday,  the Brentwood Unified School District has agreed to pay a family $950,000 whose 5-year old special needs child was thrown to the floor and kicked by a teacher (Dina Holder pictured above) nearly 2-years ago.  She was eventually charged with child abuse, but rather than be fired or removed from the classroom, she was simply moved to another school and classroom with no parents receiving warnings. It turns out the teacher was not even credentialed to teach autistic children.

The family sued the school district, Holder and Loma Vista Elementary principal Lauri James in January 2012 claiming battery, negligence, failed mandated reporting duties and other infractions. As part of the settlement, Holder must leave the classroom now and retire at the end of the school year.

So today, we get the spin from the School District that highlights how the Superintendent is not taking a leadership position.  We are talking about children here, you remove the teacher from the classroom! End of story. If there is legal action taken by the teacher, you fight it. It’s what a leader does!

Instead, we get a poor rhetoric when asked why she was not fired. In fact, let’s go through all his quotes.

“Teacher dismissals are very complex, very cumbersome and it takes a lot of time,” said Superintendent Merrill Grant

Excuse me?

He should have worked double duty considering a teacher physically harmed a student and cost your School District $950,000 and a double black eye. I don’t care how hard or what the obstacles are, this is unacceptable behavior and the teacher should have been removed by way of a firm firing—especially with the other incidents being reported as far back as 2008.

Parents in the school district should band together and hold the superintendent responsible for this idiotic statement. The fact that he knew about this incident and prior instances and protected the job makes him partly responsible as well.

“The actions that led to the lawsuit are both appalling and upsetting,” Grant said. “I’m a parent in the district and I reacted the same way as the rest of the community … We’re deeply sorry for what this family and child have endured.”

Really?

But he just said teacher dismissals are very complex, very cumbersome and it takes a lot of time. What if this was his kid? I am sure he would have put in the time to ensure this lady was remove. I know if my five-year old was pushed to the ground and kicked I’d of went public immediately.   Furthermore, the lawsuit was filed last January and proper actions should have been implemented far greater than the poorly thought out solution.

“We changed her grade level and placement and provided her proper oversight with many aides for more accountability,” Grant said. He also explained why she wasn’t moved to a desk job at that point.

Not good enough Superintendent Grant, considering she already had aids in her other classroom and that didn’t prevent her actions. Besides, aids work for the teachers, not the other way around. Changing the environment does not change what transpired because if she put her hands on one kid, it doesn’t mean she couldn’t or wouldn’t do it again.

“I think any option was available … but we felt we had many safeguards in place,” Grant said, including placing adult aides in the classroom with Holder.

My first thought it, how old were the other aids at the time of the incident in the classroom?  I’d further like to know what additional safeguards were put in place and would parents approve if they knew what had transpired.  According to the Times, the incident had 3-adult aids in the classroom when she kicked the child. These safeguards put in place is a bunch of baloney to try and cover the districts butt.

As far as reporting goes, did safe guards include daily reporting? Weekly reporting? If so, are these reports available for public review to see how detailed they were keeping an eye on Ms. Holder?

Finally, common sense says Dina Holder should be in jail but I am neither a judge or jury or law enforcement, that is for them to decide. 4-years probation seems a bit lightweight to me. At the very worst, she should have been removed from the District the moment child abuse was charged–being able to retire at the end of the year from a desk is the icing on the cake for this fiasco.

I’d rather see the Superintendent just keep her on leave until the end of the year if that is how it has to be and ban her from all school grounds.

The handling of this situation from start to finish stinks and is troubling and parents of the school district should request more information and do not stop until they are satisfied.   The superintendent, principal and others involved should be removed immediately if the District is to heal itself.

Use this incident as a tool for improvement

If I am going to find a positive here, which is hard to do, let this be a lesson in the future that all reporting is MANDATORY and I would encourage all districts to review this protocol.  I would encourage drills, education, and policy reviews.  Let’s learn from it and ensure safety is a first protocol for teachers.

Email not responded to

I sent Superintendent Grant an email with 7 questions yesterday at 1:53 pm yesterday that has not been responded to at the request of parents who were also not getting answers.  I’d say that is never a good thing when parents of the school district can’t even get answers.

More Details Likely to Surface

I am sure as time goes on, more details will become available but there is likely more to the story than what is being reported. For now, Brentwood parents have the power to put pressure on the Board of Educators to ensure appropriate follow up action occurs.

In the meantime, from a city council standpoint, given Councilman Gene Clares experience with the School District along with Steve Barr serving as a Trustee on the Liberty Union High School District, both councilmembers may be able to assist parents where needed. I’d encourage you to reach out to both of them to see what can be done.

I’d also reach out to the BUSD Board of Education to share your concerns.

Tobi Laird Benz
[email protected]

Emil Geddess
[email protected]

Heather Partida
[email protected]

Carlos Sanabria
[email protected]

Jim Cushing
[email protected]


10 COMMENTS

  1. Everyone involved is a dirt bag. FIRE THEM ALL! This is totally unacceptable behavior from a school district. WHAT DO THEY NOT UNDERSTAND ABOUT CHILDREN FIRST!!!!!!!!!

  2. In speaking with Burk last night, he made a good point which he did not include in this article. The special needs kids should be propped up, not torn down like this. Shame on those involved with this situation and may they be held accountable for their lack of urgency to correct the situation. Fire them all should be Brentwood parents motto!

  3. My daughters attend Loma Vista where the incident took place. While this whole situation is an absolute cluster, I am very concerned about the response of the Principal Lauri James. According to the article, which references Principal James testimony, she did NOT contact the police nor did she contact the parents in an appropriate amount of time (1 week after incident). She made a report to CPS (2) days after the event and then according to the article did not follow up with any sort of written report. Based on the information that I have read, I would state that she failed to protect those small children under her care in favor of one of her teachers. None of these behaviors are acceptable and do a great disservice to ALL of the children that attend Loma Vista and to us parents who rely on our educators to ensure they are safe at school.

    While I understand that we might not know all of the facts surrounding the incident, the fact that it got to this level has me concerned about what else might be going on at the school.

  4. My heart goes out to the student and family. If the instructor was not properly trained and credentialed for this classroom then the school district needs to be taken to task and corrective action be implemented that would require only fully trained and credentialed instructors be placed in charge of such a classroom.

    This is difficult work that can frustrate almost anyone. Training is essential to develop strategies for working with special needs children.

    It is easy to blame the instructor, but I prefer to give her the benefit of the doubt at this point and assume that she was doing her best given a situation for which she was not adequately equipped. Doesn’t make any of what she did “acceptable”, but talking about sending her off to jail is a bit extreme. This is a horrendous situation – let’s not make the situation worse than it is by attacking the teacher who was ill-equipped for the situation. .

    • This school district needs a house cleaning from the TOP down. It breaks my heart we keep hearing of things over and over and nothing ever gets fixed in any district.

    • Pardon me Tom, what if this were your child? Jail for 6 months is a good thing. These folks need to learn from their mistakes. Bet, also, this wasn’t the first time. Then again this a cover up and we will never know!

  5. I would suggest that any concerned parents at Loma Vista, Krey or anyone else who would like to get solid answers regarding this issue attend the next Board of Educators meeting. The meeting is on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 6 p.m.. I believe the meetings are held at the, District Service Center, 255 Guthrie Lane, Brentwood, California.

    For further information or to view the past meeting minutes, I would suggest that you check out the following link:

    https://www.brentwood.k12.ca.us/district/information/Agenda/board_meeting_schedule_12-13.html

  6. This whole story makes me sick. Our school districts and the way in which they operate need an extreme overhaul. Not just here locally but across the state.

    Its a dirty little secret but here is the truth; Schools all over are able to operate outside of external regulation and meaningful oversight because of outdated laws which were created to prevent segregation. Think about it, school districts are only accountable to themselves. There is no oversight beyond the district itself which includes the county/state superintendent of education. There is no clearer example of the fox guarding the hen house.

    Those days are over and it is time to make school districts more accountable to the society that they serve.

  7. I received this link today from the Loma Vista Parents Club:

    The Brentwood school board on Wednesday will host a presentation by the school district’s legal counsel on laws related to the discipline and dismissal of certificated employees.
    This comes after the district agreed last week to pay $950,000 to a Contra Costa County family after their special-needs child endured abuse from a special-education teacher.
    The presentation by Laurie Juengert will be at the start of the 7 p.m. meeting at the District Service Center, 255 Guthrie Lane. It will be followed by the public comment period of the meeting.

    http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_22426315/brentwood-school-board-host-lawyers-presentation-wednesday?IADID=Search-www.contracostatimes.com-www.contracostatimes.com

  8. It seems that education and discussion and implementation wirh correct educational principals needs to be addressed. At 950,000 dollars per settlement I think smaller charter schools or larger home school settings would be best for the student, family, teacher and school district. Not all children do well in the regular school district setting. I speak from experience.

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