OpEd & Reply: Allegedly asked to do illegal things, aide resigns, speaks out

At the May 9, 2013 meeting of the El Tejon Unified School District Board of Trustees, a speech and language aide stood to tell of her concern that the district superintendent was making inappropriate demands and paying too litle attention to team-building.

In an interview, the aide explained that speech and language aides help create the firm foundation necessary for children to be able to be good readers: ‘If the child can hear the sounds and speak the words, they will be able to learn to read the words,” she said.

She serves students from 3 years to 12th grade. She resigned on May 2 after more than 7 years at ETUSD, due to what she describes as a hostile workplace. The superintendent accepted her resignation minutes after receiving it. The board of trustees, however, rejected her resignation and asked the aide to come back to work.

The speech and language aides do not have a professional credential. They work under the supervision of a trained, credentialed speech pathologist. Her statement alleges that Superintendent Katherine Kleier proposed that the aide perform tasks only credentialed professionals may lawfully perform.

The aide’s concern, she said, led her to stand in the public meeting May 9 to make  this statement. Supt. Kleier was invited to respond. Her statement follows this one.—P. Hedlund, Editor


By Barbara Newbold, ETUSD Speech and Language Aide

I’m sure, Ms. Kleier, hearing my named called and seeing me this evening may make you a little uncomfortable. I hope you hear what I have to say and take it to heart to promote growth and change in your life.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Barbara Newbold, a 20-year resident of the mountain. I was employed by ETUSD as a speech aide. I recently tendered my resignation, effective last Thursday. I didn’t give a two-week notice and I would like to publicly apologize to the staff and community for my quick departure. It was an emotional decision.

This school year has been challenging and frustrating. I have been put in situations by the administration contrary to the best interests of your children and the district. When Jessica Carroll (my partner in the district’s speech department) and I were left alone with no direction from a credentialed speech pathologist, we asked, “How does the district want us to proceed?”

We were told ‘just keep seeing the kids.’ [Editor’s note: that would have been about 80 visits with district children without direction from a credentialed professional.] We told our supervisor, the district’s special education director, that we need a speech pathologist to help direct the student speech and language therapy.

The result was that Jessica Carroll was given a pink slip, based on speech student numbers given to the board that are not entirely accurate. [The speech pathologist evaluations have fallen behind because the pathologist job has been vacant, Newbold said.—Editor.]

This year a case manager was out on medical leave. There were some out-of-compliance issues in the case files that needed to be addressed. The administration asked me to make changes in students’ Individual Education Plan (IEP) files for the California Department of Education’s mandated Special Ed Self Review.

I told the school district administration that I couldn’t make those changes. It’s illegal for me, a speech aide, to change an IEP.

I was directed to finish auditing student files for the review. I didn’t know how to do that. I am not formally trained in special education law.

In past years I was only asked to enter data into the State Board of Education program for their required Special Ed Self Review.

In a closed-door meeting with the Special Ed Director, I was told that Ms. Kleier stated that if I did not finish the review and audit the files, I would be fired.

I have been labeled “uncooperative.”

If choosing to do the right thing by obeying the law is “uncooperative,” Ms. Kleier, then I guess that makes me “uncooperative!”

Today I was told I was “hostile.”

If standing up for myself is  “hostile,” Ms. Kleier, then I guess that makes me “hostile.”
You have a lot of buzz words to give titles to your staff. None are very positive or kind.

I know that the board is working on Ms. Kleier’s employment review. I wonder if you have asked her for a list of her accomplishments? Ms. Kleier has definitely accomplished a few things as superintendent.

She has succeeded in being able to alienate, aggravate, trivialize, antagonize, criticize, demoralize, jeopardize, ostracize, threaten and bully almost every employee in this district.
That is quite an accomplishment, Ms. Kleier! It is an accomplishment I hope you are not proud of, but an accomplishment nonetheless.

The Mountain Community is small, but not small-minded.

We are a community of differences, but unified in our passion about one thing—our children! The “hill people” fight for what they believe in and those of us in this room, we are ready to fight for our students’ right to a good—no—a great education.

Ms. Kleier, you have proven you are not trustworthy with our children.

I stand here today and ask the board to be just as passionate and resolute in passing policy, vetting and hirin.


Superintendent Kleier replies:

Unfortunately I am not able to respond to the numerous points made by Mrs. Newbold at our previous board meeting and in The Mountain Enterprise.

Legally mandated district policies often dictate how we respond to these kinds of comments.
Mrs. Newbold is certainly entitled to her opinions; however a back and forth using the media is not, in my opinion, the appropriate forum for dialogue.

It is not appropriate for me to comment regarding confidential personnel issues and student issues such as those raised by Mrs. Newbold, especially in a community newspaper.

As with any issue, there are multiple sides to a story. While Mrs. Newbold is at liberty to express whatever she wishes, I am not able to do so in the interests of protecting confidential personnel and student information.

The El Tejon Unified School District board and I value our community’s input as we work tirelessly to improve academic learning in the Mountain Communities.

This is part of the May 17, 2013 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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