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BBITORETHE.

BOARDOFSCHOOLDIRECTORS

OF

HANOVERPUBI,ICSCHOOLDISTRICT

IN RE:

Proposedof Demotionof AndrewSamuelsen

ADJUDICATION

Int@.

'l hismatterinvolvestheproposeddcmotionof AndrewSamuelsen("Samuelsen")

from thepositionof Iligh SchoolPrincipalto thatof classroomteacher.asrecommendedby Dr.

Alan E. Mo.ver,Ed.D

DistrictSuperintendent("Moyer") pursuantto Section1151of thePublic

SchoolCode("Code").24P.S. S11-1151. On July5.2012.Moyercausedto beissueda Notice

of Chargesand Notice of Right to Hearingin responseto which Samuelsenmadea timely

requestfor a hearingandexercisedhis right to havethat hearingconductedin public. Sucha

hearingwasconductedon July31.2012andAugust7.2012.argumentbriefsweresubmittedby

thepartiesonAugust16.2012andthematteris now ripefor disposition.

Prior to the commencementof the hearing,the parties had enteredinto a

Stipulationasto certainf'actsandto theadmissionof certainexhibits(hereinafterthe"Stipulated

Exhibits"). Basedon that Stipulationas well as other mattersthat are not in dispute,the

followingis providedby way of backgroundandchronology.

ll.

Statementof UndisputedFacts.

Samuelsencommencedemploymentwith the HanoverPublic SchoolDistrict

("District")asHigh SchoolPrincipaleffectiveJanuary26, 2009andhasheldthatpositionsince

thatdate. At all timesrelcvantto thismatter.Moyer hasbeenthe SuperintendentandBonnieJ.

Frock ("Frock")

has been the

Director of

Human Resources.

Richard Musselman

("Musselman")servedasAssistantSuperintcndentlrom January2010to July2011. q'hen heleft

to becomethe Superintendentof anotherdistrict;duringthis period,Samuelsenreportedto both

Musselmanand. ultimatelyto Moyer.

Following Musselman'sdeparture.Dr. PamelaSmith

("Smith"), Principalof the Middle School.took on the additionalposition of Director of

SecondaryEducation.at whichtime Samuelsenthenbegana reportingrelationshipwith herand,

again.ultimatelyto Moyer.asSuperintendent.

Samuelsenwas given a positiveevaluationby Moyer and Musselmanfor that

portion of the 2009-10schoolyear during which he was emplol'ed(essentially,the second

semcster).receivinga ratingof 30 (out of a maximumof 30) wilh respectto "Administrative

Responsibilities''and31 (outof a maximumof 35) with respectto "GeneralSkills,Aftitudeand

EthicalStandards."Thatevaluationalsonoted"Strengths"asfollows:

Strongteamworkwith Eric [the AssistantHigh SchoolPrincipall Much improvedcommunication1'romour High School Not afraidto makeunpopulardecisions You continueto win over key staff membersthat were not your advocatesearly in the year High visibilitl'andgenuineinterestin co-andextra-curriculars

and"GrowthAreas"asfollows:

Developpositiverelationswith studentleadershiporganizationsie:

studentcouncil,ke1,club.etc.

Walk throughs Continuedevelopingrelationshipswith districtleadershipteam Continueto build leadershipcapacityamongstaff and especially theteacherleaderssuchasdepartmentheads

Continue

making especiallyon itemsandissuesyouf'eelarenegotiable Let's reallyteam up on the music departmentwith Clay, Deb & Chrismakinsadiustments

to

develop

more

collaborative

decision

(SeeSamuelsenExhibit"8")

Samuelsenalsoreceiveda lesslavorablebut still satisfactoryevaluationfor 2010-

11 schoolyear(StipulationExhibit"B"). receivinga ratingof I 8 (outof a maximumof 30)with

rcspectto "AdministrativeResponsibilities"and 25 (out of a maximumof 35) with respcctto

"GeneralSkills.AttitudeandEthicalStandards." 'fhat evaluationcommendedSamuelsenfor the

follou,ing:

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Building communicationssuchas the monthlynewsletter, appreciationletters. PAC council meetings.twitter are muchimproved

I eacheraccountabilityfor performance PDE 5501 's. LFS

iK[:.:TH*'"T:il::#;ffJ."*",.

Moming collaborationtime

'l'cchnology Tuesdayswereexcellent!

Representsthedistrictwell at specialcvents

Budgetoptionslor family andconsumerscience

LanguageArts andMath

andindicated ''lbcus areas/goals"asfollows:

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Disconnectbetweenguidancestaffandadministrators(Deb

andKerr.n"seemedconfusedat timesregardingexpectations youandEric havefor them.

Or',.nershipof HS programssuch as Keystonetraining, cyberschool(JenGomulka.Bo Koishal.GeneKraus)LIU no buildingadministrator

Careful not to argumentative

Fine to be passionatcbut "cffective compromise"is a behaviorto aspireto

Prioritizecallsofcertainpersonnelmoves

Budgetrecommcndationsandthennotsure

Minimizeemailepisodes

When someone disagreeseveryone becomes"crazy", "ignorant". "btzane''

Down oneadministratorandoneMiddleSchoolTeacher

Prepfor transitionof leadership -

Lessonthecostof"elfective compromise"

Needcreativeideasto makecyberschoolhappen

come

off

as

being

pcrccived as

PamandTom

Moving alongto the 2011-12schoolyear.on October11.2011.the Hanover

EducationAssociation("IIEA),

thebargainingrepresentativefor teachers,contactedtheDistrict

Administrationwith concems/complaintsabout Samuelsen,including an allegationthat a

"hostilework environment"existedat the High School. As a result,the DistrictAdministration

beganan investigationof suchconcems,which includedinterviewswith a numberof teachers,

andon October21.2011.Mo,ver,SmithandFrockmet r.l'ithSamuelsento discussthesemarrers.

Notes of that meetingtaken by Frock were admittedas District Exhibit "26" and. at the

conclusionof the meeting.Moyer reviewedwith Samuelsena list of rccommendations.as

fbllows:

Recommendations-

Sharingat DepartmentMeetings TeamSharingat FacultyMeeting Redundancyat FacultyMeetingandDepartmentChairMeeting Reliain from derogatorycommentsaboutthe union Developmentof a servicealtitude How are(sic)commentsareperceived Approachability

Creatinganenvironment -

Decisionmaking process,collaboration.participatoryleadership (negotiables/non-negotiables)

Demonstratesomelove,empathy,compassion

Demonstrateunitywith districtdecisions/loyalty Positiverelationshipbuilding(highschoolstaffandothers) Supervisoryreferrals

Emails

that$.earein thistogether/leamwork

stop

Followingcompletionof this investigation.Moyer, Smith,andFrock againmet

with Samuelsenon December22,20llr,

at which time he was advisedthat the District

Administrationhaddeterminedthatthe "concems"did not riseto the level ol a "hostilework

environment"butthatmanyof theconcerns:

' Mark Hershner.Principalof HanoverStreetElementarySchool.alsoattendedthismeetingat Samuelsen'srequesr.

"

facilitatea more positive and productiveworking and learning environmentwhereby staff. studentsand administratorsare happy to cometo work andlearneachday-" (StipulatedExhibit ''E")

were

\4.arrantedandmustbe addressedat this time in orderto

At the December22. 201I meeting,Samuelsenwas issueda lettercollaborativelywritten by

Moyer.Smith.andFrockwhichincludedthefollowinglist of concernsraisedin thecourseof the

investigation:

(l)

Workingrelationshipswith High Schoolstalf

(2)

Working relationshipswith the High School building administratorsandofficeteam

(3)

Lackof collaborativedecisionmaking

(4)

Delegationof administrativetasksto teachingstalf

(5)

Staff does not perceive you or your assistant as instructionalleaders

(6)

Lackof approachability

(l)

Lackof empathy

(8)

StatTopinionsarenotvalucd

(9)

Meetings redundancy.lack of participatorydecision making

(10)

Perceivedtoneof communications:written,oral andbody language

(ll)

Leadershipstyle which is requiredto unite your building andmove it lbrward

(12)

Lackofvisibilitywithinyourbuilding

In

an effort to address those concems, the same letter then sets fbrth a

performanceimprovemcntplanwith thefollowingcomponents:

(1)

ln order to assistyou in becominga more positive and

eff'ectiveleader,we havearrangedlbr a supervisoryrefenal to theEmployeeAssistzinceProgram C'EAP'). Topicsto be

addressed will

CommunicationSkills.CollaborativeDecisionMaking and other leadershiptraits cornmonly found in a professional learningcommunity. Mrs. Frockwill contactyou to begin this processupon retum lrom the holidays. Satislactory participationandcompletionof this refenal is essentialin

orderto fulfill districtleadershinsoals.

include

Leadership

Mentoring,

(2)

Regularvisitsto teacherclassroomsshouldoccurto address

(3)

issuesand concemson a more personalbasisbeforethe concembecomesacrisisor aoerceivedcrisis. Developa serviceattitudewith yourstafl i.e.steppingin to

(4)

provideclassroomcoveragewhen possible.modelingLFS strategiesand techniqueslor teacherswho are in need of assistance.assistingwith duty coverage.participatingin. moralebuildingactivitres. Faculty. BIC, DepartmenrChair Meetings should have

(5)

variedagendasand the meeting structure should allow fbr collaborativediscussionand decisionmaking. All opinions shouldbe valued and acknowledgedregardlessof personalf'eelingsconcemingthe sourceof communication. Make every attemptto avoid redundancypertaining to thc separateagendasdespitethe fact that sometimesreminders are required for stafL At various times. district administrationlvill attendthosemectingsto o1-ferassistance andsupport. Refrainfrom commentsthat staff perceiveas dcrogatory aboutthe union and stal}. suchas "r'r'e don't havecoverage, youruniontookcareof that''.and "you ladies".

(6) Work to createan environmentwhere stafl' are welcomed

share pedagogical

and encouraged to

participate and

(7)

infbrmation. Developa sinceresenseo1-compassionandempathyfor all

(8)

staffandstudentsregardlessof yourpersonalfeelings. It is incumbentuponyou asa memberof theadministrative team to demonstrateunity and loyalty with and lbr district decisions.Discussionsanddisagreementsareto takeplace behindcloseddoorswith administrationand arenot to be

(9)

discussedin the public forum. ln addition.CentralOffice directivesand instructionsare to be adheredto and not ignoredor commentedon. As I statedearlierin theyearin a discussionwith you,you areto refrainf-romyourpracticeof expressingopinionsand disagreements.through the use of excessive email conespondence.Emailsareto be usedonly to sharebasic infbrmationandareto be shortin nature.

(10) Thereis an overw'helmingconsensusamongHigh School

staff that administrative tasks are delegatedto teaching

example: delegation of setting up benchmark

assessmentsfor Study lsland to a teacher,assignmentof setting up the CDT's, Odyssyware, analysis and interpretationof relevantdata. Administratorsneed to demonstrateand instruct those actions prior to asking

staff, lor

teachersto undefiakethose tasks. In a collaboration and cooperativelearningcommunity valued membersof the communitymay gladly volunteerto assistwhen needed, you howevermust first demonstratethe klowledge and abilityto assistthemin theirtask.

Samuelsenrefusedto acknowledgereceiptof this letterat the conclusionof the Dccember22,

2011 meetingandrelusedagainwhenrequestedto do soby Frockon JanuaryI l. 2012. He later

did acknowledgereceiptof theletteron February2, 2012. [N.T. 102 221]

On January11. 2012. Frock providedSamuelsenwith an EAP referralform.

pursuantto item number I of the improvementplan. and explainedthc EAp process. (See

StipulatedExhibit"M". AnecdotalRecord#8.) Samuelsendid not submitthe lbrm or otherwise

fbllorvup on the directiveto availhimselfof the servicesof the District'sEmployeeAssistance

Program. [N.] . 221 l

Meanu'hile.on February1.2012,a mathteacher.JenniferGomulka(',Gomulka.'),

followinga meetingwith Samuelsen,sentane-mailto RcaganBitler,Presidentof thc HEA. with

concemsabout Samuelsen'sconductduring that meeting(stipulated Exhibit ''F": Stipulated

Exhibit"M." AnecdotalRecord#9). Thatc-mailuas rhenreferredto Moyer andFrockandthey

met with Samuelsento discussthoseconcems. [N.T. 220] At the conclusionof thatmeeting.

Samuelsenwas directedto do nothingthatcould be construedas "retaliation"as to Gomulka.

lN.r. 2231

On February9, 2012,GomulkaandSamuelsenhadanotherencounterwhichthe

DistrictAdministrationviewedasa violalionofthe prohibitionofanv retaliatoryconducttoward

Gomulka;specifically.Moyer determinedthat Samuelsenhad statedwords ro the effectthat

whenGomulkaretumedto meetwith him, sheshould"bring representation"becauseshe"is not

goingto like my answers.'' [N.T. 224-225;StipulatedExhibit"M," AnecdotalRecord#11] This

resultedin Moyer issuingSamuelsena five day suspensionwithoutpay,which suspensionwas

servedonFebruary13.2012throughFebruary17 , 2012. fStipulated Exhibit .'G',]

On February 21, 2012, Samuelsenwas issued an unsatislactorymid-year

evaluationwith a coverletter fStipulated Exhibit ''I"] thatstatedasfollows:

"The purposeof this communicationis to onceagainconveyto you the primary reasonsregardingyour unsatisfactoryperforrnance as High School Principal;more specifically: the fundamental weakness and deficiencies with your leadership and communicationstyle.the lack of collaborativedecisionmarking. andyour inabilityto provideadequateinstructionalleadership.In addition, your completerefusalto acknow,ledgethal theseissues exist continuesto promotea negativeatmosphereindicativeof a non-lunctional and unproductive environment whereby staff membersarereluctantto communicateoperationalandeducationai issuesof concerndueto a historyof beingtreateddisrespectfully, belittledor criticizedin an unprofessionalmanner,all of which rvasdocumentedin the lettersDecember22,2011 and Februarl, 10.2012.andwerediscussedat somelengthwith you on October

21.2012

The lettero1'February21,2012 also advisedSamuelsenthat the improvement

planhadbeenmodifiedto deletereferenceto theEAP (as to u,'hichSamuelsenhadnot fbllowed

up) andsubstituteda mentoringplan underwhich Samuelsenwasdirectedto contactandwork

with Bradley Arnold ("Arnold"). a former colleagueof Moyer when both had servedas

administratorsat the neighboringSouthwesternYork County School District. {stipulated

Exhibits"I" and"J"l

Samuelsendid contactArnold thatday andthetwo of themmet on eight

occasionsbetweenMarch 15,2012andMay 2.2012.

Amold ultimatelyprepareda reportnith

respectto hisdiscussionswith Samuelsenandwith otherIIigh Schoolstaff.andhisobservations

and impressionswith respectto Samuelsen'sstyle of managementand communicationsand

other issuessunoundinghis leadershipof the school.

(StipulatedExhibit "M."

Anecdotal

Record#17) This reportwasreviewedwith Samuelsenat a meetingon May 9,2012, attended

by Moyer,Smith,Frock,andHershner.

On Jult- 5, 201,2.Samuelsenwas notified that he would be receiving an

unsatisfactoryratingfor the 2011-12schoolyearandthatMoyer wasrecommendingthathe be

demotedto a teachingpositionon the basisof the unsatislactoryratingandthe deficienciesin

performanceunderlying that rating.

At the same time, he received the lbrmal Statementot

ChargesandNoticeof Rightto Hearing.(StipulatedExhibit "N")

The actualissuanceof the unsatislactoryratinglbr 201l-12 was delayeddueto

the seriousillnessof Smith but was issucdon .Iuly23. 2012. (StipulatedExhibit "M")

That

evaluationassigneda rating of

12 points (out of

30)

in

the area of' "Administrative

Responsibilities"and 12 (out of 35) rvith respectto "General Skills. Attitude and Ethical

Standards."lt commendedhim for incorporatingsomeof the ideasand suggestionsfrom the

improvcmentplan and for successfulexecutionof eventssuch as the spring musical and

graduation.However.similarto earlierevaluationsandcommentary,it was criticalof thc so-

called "soft" skills of leadership ''such as relationshipbuilding

empoweringothers,and

collaborativedecisionmaking.''asappliedto bothhissubordinatesandhissupervisors."

'l heevaluationconcludeswith thcse"Itemsof Concem'':

1. You continuenotto acknowledgetheneedfor positiveclimateand leadershipchangewithin the high school. As a result of these beliefs,you havemadelittleor no disccmableeffortsto implement the requiredchangesas outlinedin your improvementplan. You flatly refuse to believe that problems exist and that without significantchangeto your leadershipstyle,you will be unableto successfullyserveasprincipalof HanoverHigh School.

2. On many occasions,we have discussedthe perceptionsof your staff andyour bclief that their perceptionsdo not count,andthat onlyyourversionof truthshouldbeconsidered.

3.

Despiteevidenceto the contrary,you believethat you are very collaborativeand that you provide ample opportunitiesfor staff andstudentsto interactwith you in a oositivematter

Due to your overwhelmingrefusalto implementsuggestionsset forth in

your

eralualion.

improvement plan. you

will

be

receiving an

unsatisfactory

Finally.the evaluationdocumentconcludeswith eighteensetsof "AnecdotalRecords"which

encompassformal evaluations from

2010-11 forward. Samuelsen'sresponsesto

such

evaluations,variouse-mailtrails,correspondencedirectedto Samuelsen,the improvementplan

andreiterationsof it, theAmold Report,andotherrelateddocuments.

IIL

LesalBackground.

As noted at rhe onset,the legal authorityfbr the demotionof a professional

employeederivesfromSection1151ofthe Code.24 p.S. $11-1151.whichstates:

"[T]here shallbe no demotionof any prolessionalemployeeither in salarl or in typeol positionr'.,ithoutthe consentofthe employe, or, it'such consentis not received,then suchdemotionshall be subjectto therightto a hearingbefbretheboardof schooldirectors and an appealin the samemanneras hereinbeforeprovided in the caseof thedismissalo1a prolessionalemploye."

In this case,thereis no disputethat the proposedreassignmentol Samuelsento a teaching

positionconstitutesa "demotion,"as to which Sanuelsenhas not consentetl.Accordingly,a

hearinghasbeenprovidedandthenecessarylegalinquiryatthis pointis properlyfocusedon the

pcrmissiblereasonsfbr demotionunder Section1l5l

proceeding.

and on the burdenof proof in such a

Caselaw involving demotionsof prof'essionalemployeesestablishesthat school

entities possessbroad discretionin persorureland administrativedccisionsthat result in

demotions;anyrationalreasonis sufficientto supportthe demotionof a professionalemployee.

10

SeeBoard oJ'Educationo;fthe SchoolDi.ttrictof Pittshurghv. Thomas.399A.2d 1148,1150

(Pa. Cmwlth. 1979).

The rationaleor basis for a demotion may be establishedthrough

competentdocumentsintroducedin the record:the lack o1-corroboratingevidenceor w.itnesses

\\,ill notrendertheactionarbitrary.Smith\).PittsburghSch.Dist

TTA 2-88(1989).

The Districtdoesnot havethe burdenof establishingjust causefor a demotion.

Harris v. PhiladelphiaSch.Disr

624A.2d

784(Pa.cmwlth. 1993). The Disrrict'sburdenis to

simply explainthe reasonsfor the demotionand establisha recordcontainingevidenceof a

rationalefbr thc demotion. Bosakov. Ostt,ayol:alley Sc'h.Dl.rt

TTA

6-83 (1984). The actionof

the Boardis presumptivelyvalid. SeeId.: Filoon v. Middle BucksArea focational Technical

Sthool. 634 A.2d,726 (Pa.Cmwlth. 1993);Brov,nsvilleArea Sch.Dist.v. Lucostic,297A.2d

5I 6. 518 (Pa.Cmwlth. I972). After theboardexplainsthereasonsfor the demotion,theburden

then shiftsto the employeeto prove that the demotionwas arbitrary,capriciousor basedon

discriminatoryor improperreasons.SeePta::a y. Millville Area Sch.Di.st.,624A.2d 788,790

(Pa.Cmwlth. 1993);Nag,,v. Belle VernonArea Sch.Dist

412 A

2d,172(Pa.Cmwlth. 1980);

ll illiams v. AbingronSch Disr.,397A.2d 1282.1283(Pa.Cmwlth. 1979). 'l he burdenof the

demotedemployeehas beendescribedby the CommonwealthCourt as a,,very heavy one.,'

Abingtonsch. District, Supra. A presumptivelyvalid demotionwill standunlessthe employee

meetsthishighburden.MillvilleAreaSchoolDistrict.at 791.

To provethala demotionis arbitrary,theemployeemustshowthatit is

based on

randomor convenientselectionratherthanon reason."Thomas,at I150. so longasit hassome

rationalbasis,a demotionis not arbitrarysimply becauseit doesnot effectuatea policy in the

mostefficientor ellectivemanner.1d

Allegationsby theemployeethatare"unconvincingand

11

unsupportedby credibleevidence"will not supporta finding that a demotionis arbitrary.

Suporitov. WarrenCountySch.Dlst

i I'A 6-92 (1994).

IV. Statementof lssuePresented.

Giventheextraordinarilybroaddiscretiongivento schooldistrictswith respectto

demotionsof professionalemployees,thepresumptionthatsuchdemotionactionsarcvalid,and

thatthe burdenof proof is placedon the emplo,vee.the issuebeforethe Boardcanbe statedas

fbllows:

HAS SAMUELSENCARRIEDHIS BURDL,NOF PROVINGTHAT TFIE

\'.

REASONSFOR DEMOTIONADVANCED BY THE SUPERINTENDENT AND TIIE DISTRIC-IADMINISTRATIONAREARBITRARY.CAPRICIOUS

AND/OR BASED ON CONSIDERATIONS?

DISCRIMINATORY OR IMPROPER

Positionsof thePanies.

A.

TheDistrictAdministration.

The essenceol the District Administration'sposition is that Moyer's

recommendationIbr demotion is basedon Samuelsen'sunsatisfactory/performanceand, in

particular.on his lailure to demonslrateappropriateinterpersonalor "relationship''skills

(sometimesreferredto as the "soft" skills of leadership).even after repeatedattentionwas

focusedon the needlbr improvementin this areaof performance. 'The DistrictAdministration

reliesprimarilyon thetestimonvof Moyer.Musselman,andAmold (andtheAmold Report)and

on a numberof evaluationsand directiveswhich were communicatedto Samuelsenin that

regard.

More specifically.theDistrictAdministrationpointsto repeateddirectives

to Samuelsenwith respectto thefollowingconceptsand/orthemes:

12

that he needsto developa more collaborativemodelfor decision

making which valuesthe views

Exhibits"D'' and"J": SamuelsenExhibit"20"1

of others: [N.T. 207; Stipulated

that hc needs to avoid being perccived as argumentative and autocratic; Di.T. 178. 186, 188;StipulatedExhibits "D" and "J";

SanruelsenExhibit"20"l

thatheneedsto focuson "efTectivecompromise"; [N.T. 188,247;

SamuelsenExhibit"20"l

that he needsto build positiveand respectfulrelationshipsw-ith thosewho report to him andthoseto whom he reports; [N.T. 247; StipulatedExhibits"D" and"J"l

thatheneedsto avoidexcessivee-mailcommunications(whichare

often more susceptibleof misinterpretation)I

188, 210;

StipulatedExhibits"D" and"J"; SamuelsenE,xhibit"20"1

[N.T.

thathe needsto refrainfrom derogatorycommentsdirectedat the teachers'union: [N.T. 209;StipulatedExhibits"D'' and"J"]

thathe needsto be moreapproachableandto demonstratesincerc empathyandcompassionfor othersr [N.T. 209;StipulatedExhibits "D" and"J"l

thatheneedsto developa "service"attitudetowardhis staff; [N.T. 201-208:StipulatedExhibits"D" and"J"l

that he needs to be mindlul of the style ar.rdtone of his

his body language; [N.T.

communicationsandthc signalssentby

207 -209: StipulatedExhibits "D" and"J"l

that he needsto realizethat the perceptionsof othersmust be acklowledgedandaddressed.irrespectiveof whetherhe percerves them as "the truth." flti T. 207-209;StipulatedExhibits"D" and

"J'l

The District Administrationalso relies on a number of cascswhere

analogousconductor behaviorhas beendeemedas suflicientto justifl demotionsincluding

Lomas y.

Bd. Of Sch.Directorsof NorthwesternLehigh Sch.Dist

444A.2d 1319,1325-28(pa.

Cmwlth. 1982).Stuckpolev. Sch.Dist oJ'Pittsburgh,TTA l2-86. 26 SLIE 19(1989),Katruska

l3

v. Bethlehem-CenterSch.D1.rl

TTA

4-97.35 SLIE 54 (1998).and Bronn y. ParklandSch.

DLsl.,TTA 7-97.38 SLIE,68 (2001). Thesecaseswill be reviewedaspartof theDiscussion

sectionbelon'.

B.

Samuelsen.

For themostpart.Samuclsendoesnotdirectlyattackor contradictmostof

n'hat the District Administrationhas advancedas its rationalefbr the demotion. Rather,

Samuclsenarguesthat the reasonsadvancedby the DistrictAdministrationare not the actual

reasonslor the demotionbut rathersen'edas a pretextfor thc demotion:and that it rvasthe

DistrictAdministration'soppositionto his "consistent advocacythat Boardpolicy be lbllowed"

andthat"soundschoolpractices"beadheredto thatactuallyresultedin hisden.rotion.

Specifically.Samuelsenpointsto a numberof instancesof his "repeated

dcfcnseol' Boardpolicy andhis narningsagainstthe casualdisregardof policy" by Mo-verand

othercentralollice administrators.Theseinclude:

. his report in Septembcr2010 ol an offensivesign in the High Schoolkitchen;

his reportin December2010 that therewere "phallic items''on displayin thelligh Schoolkitchen;

his advocacybetwcenJanuarythrough March of 2011 that the DistrictAdministrationwasnot adheringto BoardPolicy217with respectto certainlimitationson academiccredits;

his advocacythat, in three different circumstances,studentsin possessionof klives or drug paraphemaliashould have been subjectto hearingsbeforetheBoard;

his advocacyin December2011 that a High School volunteer neededto undergoa backgroundcheck.

14

Againstthis backdrop,it is arguedthatMoyer washostileto Samuelsen's

delenseo1'policy and, despitehis statementto the contrary.made the recommendationof

dcmotionin a vindictiveand retaliatorymanner.which is, in tum. assertedas proof that such

recommendationwas"arbitrary, capriciousandbasedon improperconsiderations."Samuelsen

fufiher argues that his interactions with Gomulka were "grossly distorted" and that. to the

contrary.hisconductwasprofessionaland"matterol-fact."

Samuelsenalsoarguesthathecarriedout his specificgoalsandobjectives

for 2011-12. "cngaged with his teachersprofessionally.andwas not combative.demcaningor

condescending."Otherthanasto the issueofthe burdenofproof. Samuelsen'sArgumentBrief

doesnot cite caselaw specificallrapplicableeitherto the reasonsadvancedbv the District

Administrationor to thereasonsclaimedro betheactualmotivationlbr thedemotion.

VI.

Discussion.

As notedabove,thelegalcontextfbr theanalysisof demotioncascsunderSection

l15l ol the Codeis ratheruniqueandquitedifferentfrom the contextof dismissalcasesunder

Section1122(or dismissalcasesbasedon 'Just cause"undercollectivebargainingagreemcnsJ.

Specifically,the presumedvaliditl' of dcmotionsandthe placementof thc "vcry heavy"burden

ol'proof

on the employee,make it extremelydifficult for any professionalemployeeto

successlullychallengea proposeddemolionin thepublicschoolcontext.

In thiscase,theDistrictAdministrationhaspresentednumerouscontemporaneous

documentsaswell ascredibletestimonythat Samuelsen'sstyleof leadership,tonc andmanner

of communications,argumentativenature,autocraticdecisionmaking,lack of sensitivityto the

l-eelingsandopinionsof others.andoveralllackof interpersonalskillswererepeatedlycausing

problemsat the High Schooland that significantchangein his approachto being the High

t5

SchoolPrincipaln'as required. The District Administration'sreasonsfbr demotionbear a

strikingresemblanceto conductandbehaviorthattheCommonwealthCourtandtheSecretaryol'

Educationhavefound to be a properbasisfor demotionin the casescited by counselfbr the

DistrictAdministrationrefercncedearlier. Specifically.in Lomas.Supra.,the Commonw-calth

Courtupheldthedemotiono1-anelementary.principalwheretherecordshowedshewas,among

otherdeliciencies, ''unable asa resultol-her actionsrvithrespectto her subordinatesto inspire

the cooperativeefforts of thoseteachingcolleagues"ar.rd"insensitivcto the emotionaland

inlerpersonaldimensionof her rolc as principaland to the eff'ccton her colleaguesandother

membersof the schoolcommunityof herfbrcefulandoccasionallyabrasivemanner." 444A.2d

1319,1:125-28(Pa.Cmwlth. 1982). In Stackpole,Supra.,the Secreraryof Educationupheldthe

demotionof an administratordue to his "inabilit-v to communicateappropriatelyu'ith his

supcrvisorsand subordinates."TTA

12-86.26 SLIE 19 (1989). In Katruska,Sup!4

the

Secretaryupheld the demotion of a principal to a classroomteacherbased,in part, on

"ineffectiveintetpersonalskills." The Secretaryconcluded:"while whentakenin isolation.any

onc interactionr.,"'ithan employeemay appeartrivial. the District clcarly establishedthat. as

viewedin the aggregate. [the employee]hadfailedto establishsatisfactoryor effectiveworking

relationshipswith many of his staffl'' TTA 4-97, 35 SLIE,54 (1998). In Brown, Supra.,the

Secretaryalfirmed the demotionof an elementaryprincipalwhere,upon review of the record.

"the picturethatunmistakablyemergcdr'"'asol'a principalwho lackedself-understzinding,who

lackedtheabilityto work collaborativelvrvithhersubordinatesor inspirecooperationamonghcr

staff, who underminedboth her subordinatesand superiors.and was thus unableto perform the

leadershipfunctionsfor whichshehadbeenemployed." 'l-l'A7-97,38 SLIE 68(2001):

l6

The maintenanceof an efficient and competentschool system is a recognizcdobjectiveof any schooldistrict. In orderto achievethis goal, the District expectedthat its principals possesseflective technical. interpersonaland conceptual skills. Brown l-ailed to meet these expectationsand,in theopinionofthe administration,couldnot breachthe

resultingschismthathademergedwith manyof her stali

decisionto removeBror.r'nlrom thepositionof principalandto retumher to the classroomwas neither arbitrary nor improper, but rather a sound determinationbasedon thc educationaland managementneedsof the Disrricr

fhe District's

1d Finally.in Brunson.Supra.,theSecretary.citingto Lomas,foundthedemotionof a principal

wasnot arbitrarv$'here.amongotherissues.the recordsupportedthe DistrictAdministration's

chargesof' "inappropriate conductand demeanortoward many membersol the professional

staff'and "rudc.indifferentremarksto variousteachers."TTA 1-02.40SLIE21 (2003)

Such precedent is

directll, on

point and

strongly supports the District

Administration'spositionthat Samuelsensimplr lacksthe cfl-ectiveinlerpersonalskills needed

lbr the job. lt bearsrepeatingthattheAdministration'sslatedreasonsarepresumedto bevalid;

sucha presumptionis evenstronger.andSamuelsen'sburdensomewhathigher,in light ofthese

analogousprecedents.Thcreis alsosubstantialevidencethatSamuelsenwasin completedenial

thattherc\!'asany validity to any of thesecriticisms(andremainedso at the hcaringsin this

case). [N.T. 142-113]

As counseltbr theDistrictAdministrationhasargucd.to hold thatSamuelsenhas

canied his burdenof proving that the reasonsadvancedby the District Administrationare

"arbitrary,capriciousor basedon improperconsiderations,"the Boardr.l'ouldhaveto effectively

disregardor deemasfabrications:

the performanceevaluationsissued to Samuelsenby Musselman,andSmith; [Stipulated Exhibits"K" and"M"]

17

Moyer.

the recommendationsmade by Moyer at the conclusionof the meetingon October21.2011; [Stiputated Exhibit"C"l

the correspondenceof December22. 201I n'ritten by Moyer, Smith,andFrock: [Stipulated Exhibits"D" and"E"l

theAmold Report:and [Stipulated Exhibit"L"]

theteslimonyof Moyer,Musselman,Arnold,andFrockaswell as thatof Gomulka.

It is alsoworth notingthat the samethemesthat emergefrom the oerformanceevaluationsand

directivcsissuedpriorto Amold's involvementarealsocchoedin hisreport.

Thelbllowingexcerptsfrom Amold's reportareparticularllinsrructive:

Someconversationccnteredaroundthe conceptof "truths' versus perceptions. Dreu seeslittle Valueor merit in being able to delineatcbetleen stall' perceptionsand what he deemsto be the truth. He seemsto disn.risstheneedfbr a leadcrin his positionto monitorandadjust1brtheperceptionsof thepeoplewith whomhe interacts. \\'hile othcrs' intcrpretationsare not alwaysaccurate, nonethe less.thcl do plal a key role in establishingthe climate within andthedirectionin whichanorganizationis moving.

Mr. Samuelsenand I formally met on the following dates: 3/15, 3121.3127.3/29.413.4118.4126and 512. He sharedseveral thoughtsandconclusionsthathcdeemsto bethetruth:

l he teacherassociationis counterproductiveandnegative. It seemsas if the organizationneedsto havc problemsto justi!,' theirexistence.

Oneconcemexpressedby thesuperintendentis a perceived lack of "approachability" of the principal. Mr. Sameulsen

would

approachabilitylooklike?"

like

an

answer lo

the question "What

does

Mr. Samuelsenbelievesalmostall of thc criticismsof his leadershipofthe high schoolarenot basedon factsandare generallyjust nottrue.

It would serveDrew well to belcsscombativewith suggestionsor

thoughtslrom centralofficeandthehigh schoolstafi

18

Beingmore

opento suggestionsand/orchangesthatcouldbe beneficialto the working climate in the district and his personalprofessional relationshipsmay be valuable. Many times it appearsthat Drew dismissessuggestionsbeforereallyprocessingthem. Sometimesit appearsthat he has all of the answers;this perceptionmakesit difficult lbr him to relateto others'pointsof view.especiallythose thatmayconflictwith hisown.

Adheringto districtpoliciesasr'"'rittenis a high priority with Mr. Samuelsen.Followingpolic-vis important.bu1sometimesspecillc situationsrequirea flexible approachto governanceand may even conflictwith the adoptedpolicy. Wheneverpossible.the needsof individuals inrolved and the specific circumstancesshould be seriouslyconsideredand perhapschosen,even when it conflicts with establishedpolicy.

SometimesDrew likes to mentallydissecteveryparagraph.word and svllableto the degreethat he missesthe largerintentionor meaningof a sharedcomment. Considerationof the intentof the messageevenif it is not perfectlypresentedduring a discussron may help him betterunderstandthe concernsraisedby thosewith whom he interacts. fStipulated Exhibit "M." AnecdotalRecord

#171

While SamuelsendismissesAmold asan ''old buddy"of Moyer N.T. 128].it is not unusualfor

a superintendentto call on a formercolleaguewhom he or sherespectsto assistin a matterof

this nature;additionally.it is notedthatthe notionof bringingin someonefrom the outsideto

assistcameasa resultof Samuelsen'srefusalto obeythe directivethathe avail himselfof the

serv'icesof theEmployeeAssistanceProgram.

Statedotherwise,a determinationthatSamuelsenhascanicdhis burdenof proof

would requirea findingthathis perceptionof the variouseventsandcircumstanceswascorrect

andthatthe perceptionsof Moyer,Musselman.Smith,Amold. andFrockwerenot,and/orthat

all of theseindividualsactivelyconspiredto maketalseallegationsagainstSamuelsenandthen

to createinaccurateandmisleadingevaluationsof his performance.Thereis no evidencein the

record,otherthansheerspeculationby Samuelsen,thatsuchcouldpossiblyhaveoccuned. As

l9

notedearlier,allegationsby the employeethatare "unconvincingandunsupportedby credible

evidence"will not support a finding that a demotion is arbitrary. Saporito v. I4/arrenCounty

Sch.Dist

TTA

6-92(1994).

With respectto the one arean'hereSamuelsenhassubstantivelychallengedthe

reasonlbr demotion,the DistrictAdministrationpresentedevidenccof two contentiousmeerings

betweenSamuclsenandGomulka. Followingthe first incidenton January31.2012,which was

repofiedto theDistrictAdministration,StipulatedExhibit "F." Samuelsenwasdirectednotto do

anl.thingwhich could be perceivedas retaliationagainstGomulka. lstipulated Exhibit "M,"

AnecdotalRecord#9; N.T.222-225). Samuelsenignoredthatdirectiveand. just oneweeklater

on February9,2012. had anotl.rerinteractionwith Gomulkawhich, in the estimationof the

DistrictAdministration.constitutedretaliationandjustified a disciplinarysuspcnsion. IStipulated

Erhibit "G"; StipulatedExhibit "M." AnecdotalRecord#11 N.'f.222-2251.

Gomulka credibly testified that Samuelsen'stone was "condescending" and

"belittling"andthatsheI'elt"attacked.unappreciated"to the extentthatshebeganto "look lbr

another job." [N.T. 732-7381. As to the February9. 2012 incidenr,Moyer testifiedthat he

regardedthe incidentas "a r'ery inappropriateconversationin a very public areain the high

schooloffice that was extremelybelittlingand disrespectfulto a really good staff member."

N.r.2e2l.

While Samuelsenattemptsto characterizeGomulkaasa pushystalfmemberwho

attemptedto "monopolize" and"interfere"with histime,Samuelsen'sversionof eventsdoesnot

rebutthefactthathe disregardedMoyer'sdirectivenot to furtherengageGomulkain a negative

way following the first incident. [Ni.T. 222-225,292] It is acknowledgedthattherewassome

inconsistencyin the testimonyaboutthe precisewords usedby Samuelsenduring the second

20

meeting. [N.T. 421 , 7l7 . 736) However,any commentto the eff'ectthat sheshould"bring

representation"becausesheis "not going to like [his] answer"was both inappropriateand in

violationof Moyer'sdirective. N.T.221-2251

Indeed,as noted,with the exceptionof this disputeover his interactionswith

Gomulka,Samuelsendoesnot mount any seriouseffort to rebutthe reasonsadvancedby thc

District Administration,other than to assertthat suchreasonswere "pretextual"and not the

"real" reasons [N.1'. 275-276];rather.his fundamentalargumentis basedon theassertionthathis

demotionwas retaliatoryandbasedon his allegeddefenseof boardpolicy. [N.1'. 23-'+4] This

approachis problematicin the faceof caselaw which mandatesa presumption thatthe reasons

advancedby a schooldistrict'sadministrationarevalid andu'hichstronglysuggcststhata failure

to rebutthosereasonsis latal to a challengeto a demotion. This. in tum. raisesthe issueof

r.hetherit evenmattersif Mor'er'sdecisionmav havebeeninfluencedin someway by a desire

to retaliatefor Samuelsen's "del'ense of Boardpolic1." nhere reasonableandlegallysufTlcient

groundsfbr thedemotionhavealreadvbeenestablished:hou,ever,thatissueis not evenreached

unlessproofofsuch rnotivationis tlrstestablished.

Out of' an abundanceof caution (and perhapsan obscssiveregard lbr "due

process")and over repeatedobjectionsbr counselfor the District Administration,Samuelsen

was permittedto introducea significantamount of testimonyand documentsrelatedto thc

"dcfense of

Board policy" which he assertswas the real motivarion for his demorion.

Accordingly, it is now appropriateto analyze that evidence,both to detcrminc w-hatactually

transpiredandasto whetherthereis supportfor the argumentthat suchmatters,in fact, servedas

themotivationfor thedemoticxr.

21

First,Samuelsenpointsto his September2010reportof an oflensivesignin the

High Schoolkitchenas an exampleof a delenseof Boardpolicy lalling on deafears. On or

aboutSeptember7,2010, Samuelsenreportedby e-mail to Moyer that lood servicestaff had

displayeda sign in the kitchenareawhich read,"sexualharassmentin this areawill not be

reported:hop.ever.it will begraded." fSamuelsen Exhibit"l0"]

Moyer agreedthisconductwas

inappropriateandcrediblytestifiedthatthe matterwaspromptll'addressedwith the employees

in question. [N.T. 233-240] Samuelsenput forth no credibletestimonyor evidencesuggesting

that his legitimatereport of an inappropriatesign nearly two yearsago has an)1hingto do with

hisrccommendeddcmotion.2

Second.Samuelsenarguesthat his December2010 rcport to Moyer aboutan

inflatablepenishe observedin the High Schoolkitchenhad somebearingon his demotion.r

[N.T. 30-32] Here.the recordreflectsthat Samuelsen,usinga reportform for complaintsof

unlawfulharassment,reportedthathe hadobsen'edthisandother"phallicitems"in thekitchen.

fSamuelsen Exhibit"12"; N.T. 265-267] Again,theDistrictAdministrationdid not disputethat

theconductwasinappropriatenor did it questionSamuelsen'sreportingof thematter. [N.T. 267-

268] Moyer crediblytestified:"We wholeheartedlyagreeaboutthe inappropriatenessandthe

'Counsel for the DistrictAdministrationhasappropriatelynotcdthat.at leastundertraditionaldiscriminationlaw analysis,lor evidenceof "protectedactivity"to be acceptedas evidenceof causation(with respectto subscquent adverseaction).theremustbe closetemporalproximitybetweenthe protectedactivityandtheadverseaction. See

Smithv. Allen Health Sl.tstems,Inc 302F.3d

intervalof two months"so dilutesany inlerenceof causationthatwe areconstrainedto hold asa matteroflaw that

thetemporalconnectioncouldnotjustily a linding

827 (8r"Cir.2002), whereinrhe couft referencescaseswherean

ofcausallink."

HereSamuelsenhasnotclaimedmembership

in a protectedclass,nor is thereany basisto assertthathis "defenseof Boardpolicy" is "protectedactivity." (See Footnote3) However.theconceptoftemporalproximityis almostalwaysat issuewhereoneis assertingthatEvent

wascausedby Event"A." 'The

'8"

testimonyindicatesthat this object was apparentlvusedto "cel€bmte"birthda)'samong cafeteriastaff members,while this wasobviouslynot an appropriatemeansof celebrationin a public schoolsetting,therels no clearevidencethatthisobjectwasplacedwithin view ofstudentsor staffotherthanthosein thekitchen. ISee N.T.

5e3l

22

stupidthingthatwasdoneby severalmembersof our food sen,icesteam. And thatis why we

took swift and appropriateaction." [N.T. 26] -268)

fSamuelsen] bringing it to our attention." [N. f. 268]

He further testified:"We appreciated

Upon the conclusionof the District

Administration'sinvestigationof andresponseto thematter.Moyer notifiedSamuelsenthat"the

caseis closed" ISamuclsen Exhibit "12"; N.T. 266].althoughSamuelsenrefusedto acceptthat

andcontinuedto sende-mailsaboutthis issue. To theextentMoyer may havebeenirritatedor

annoyedoverthesee-mails,it wasnot becauseSamuelsenhadproperlyreportedinappropriate

conductbutratherbecausehewould not "move on" afterthematterhad.at leastaslar asMoyer

\\,.asconcemed.beenresolved.a decisionwhich he,asSuperintendent.hadeveryright to make.

Samuelsenarguesthat Moyer "threatcned" him whenhe sentan e-mailthat said"lf that'snot

good enoughfor you or anyoneelse pleasef-eelfree to apply fbr employmentelsewhere."

[Samuelsen Exhibit"l2": N.T. 267-268] However,this q'ould notappearto bea threatsomuch

as simply anothereffort to encourageSamuelsento "move on" with respectto an issuethat

Moyer had determinedhad becnresolved. Moreover,this was an incidentthat had occurred

some eighteen(18) months prior to the demotionrecommendationand, again,there ls no

credibleevidencewhichestablishesthisincidentasnotivationfor thedemotion.

Next, Samuelsensuggeststhat his vocaladvocacyfor Boardhcaringsin several

studentdisciplinarymatterscontributedto the recommendcddemotion.

He advocatedin

September2010thata middleschoolstudentin possessionof a knife shouldbe broughtbefore

the Board [N.T. 587-588;SamuelsenExhibit "11"] and in May 2011 that a differentstudent

shouldbe broughtbeforethe Board [N.T. 601-603;SamuelsenExhibit"17"].

In August2011,

he arguedthat Board hearings should be held lor two studentscaught in possessionof drug

paraphemalia [N.T. 612-614;SamuelsenExhibit "27"].

23

Moyer indicatedthat he considered

Samuelsen'sviews but ultimatelydisagreedfor severalreasons.includingbut not limited to.

questionsaboutthespecialeducationprotectionsofthe studentsinvolvedandtheauthorityofthe

schooldistrictn'ith respectto off-campusmisconduct. [N.T. 520-523;531-533] And again.

Samuelsenhas profTeredno

proof

to

establish a

connection between the

demotion

recommendationandtheseevents$'hichprecededthatrecommendationby time inten-alsof ten

to t$,'cnty-onemonths.

Samuelsenalsodevotedconsidcrableattentionin thehcaringsto hisdisagreemcnt

with the District Administrationin early 2011 aboutwhetherBoard policy 217 permitteda

studentto take an extra courseand eam more than eight credits(againa disagreementthat

occuned somc eighteenmonths prior to the recommendationof demotion).

Samuelsen

adamantl.vbelieves,thenandno\\'.thalPolic.v217prohibitsa studentlrom doingso. [N.T. 252;

SamuelsenExhibit"14"] Movertestiiledthat.in hisopinion.thepolicyprovideslbr ''reasonable

lcverageandflexibility

toallow

thatstudentto takethecourse" fN-.T. 509],aninterpretationas

to which Musselmanagreeda. [N.T. 334-337] As with the other policy disagreements,the

District Administration does not

disputc that Samuelsenand Moyer had professional

disagreementson variouspolicy issuesover the years. However,in the absenceof actual

evidencesuggestinglhat suchpolicy disagreementsplayedany role in the demotiondccision,

Samuelsencannotevenbeginto meethisburdenof demonstratingthatthe),constitute

improper

considerations"'underlyingthe demotion. It is not unusualfor schooladministratorsto have

professionaldisagreementsover the interpretationand applicationof policy, over whethera

particularstudentdisciplinarymallernecessitatcsa hearing,or overperfbrmanceanddisciplinary

o Musselmantestified: "Our schooldistrictpolicy doeshavervaiverwithin the polic),thatallowsthe principalthe rightto acruallygivethatchildadditionalcredits." fN.T.336-337]

1 t

mattersinvolvingemployees.However.aswith anyorganization,it is necessarythattherebe a

"chain of command''and a way of resolvingsuchdisagreements.In that regard.it is widely

recognizedandacceptedthatthoseat the top of the organizationchartandwho areultimately

responsiblefbr theorganization'sactivities.arealsogiventheauthorityto makethosedecisions.

While Samuelsenhad a right to voice his opinion (and did so).he also had an obligationto

acceptthedecisionsmadeby thoseto whomherepofiedand,wheresodirected.to "moveon."5

VII.

Conclusion.

It is the determinationof the Boardof SchoolDirectorsthat Mr. Samuelsenhas

not caniedhis burdenof provingthatthe reasonsfor his demotion,asadvancedby the District

Administration, arc

"arbitrary. capricious or

based on

discriminatory or

improper

considerations."To the contrar.v.lhe testimonyand documentationpresentedby the District

Administrationclearlyestablishthat Mr. Samuelsenlackslundamentalintcrpersonalskillsand

that his autocratic leadershipand decision making, tonc and style of

communication.

'

Samuelsen'sditficulty acceptingthe vieu'sof others.includinghis superiors.is illustratedby the following excerptlrom thetranscript:

"4. Do you recalla commentwhereyou usedtheword ignorance?

A. I did. I did useit in a mectinsthatMr. Musselmanalludedto toda1,.And I calledit ignoranceon

parade. Ijust statedit like that. I said,Rick. it seemsto me it is ignoranceon parade.He is a militaryman. I did a few -vears in theMarineCorps. Beingon parademeanssomething.And to me.it wasthisson oflike ignoranccon parade.It wasthisparadeof ignoranceandhis inabilityto

capturewhatwasbeingdoneu'ithPolicy217."

On a relatednote,the U.S. SupremeCoun hadheldthata publicemployeeactingin the courseands