QCSD Stonewalls Explanation Of Principals' Walkout

October 29, 2012

Two weeks ago, this column revealed that at the October 1st meeting of the QCSD Education/Curriculum Committee, temporary high school principal Rod Stone, Strayer Middle School principal Cindy Lapinski, and Trumbauersville Elementary principal Jim Moczydlowski got up and walked out when the issue of the district's terrible new PSSA results was raised.

Director Mitch Anderson stated "I brought up the poor PSSA scores, and the administration said they are addressing the issue. But they gave no indication as to how it is being addressed. David Leight (one of two community members on the committee), who also teaches at a local community college, sees the same deficiencies that I see. But when we attempted to discuss that the schools are not doing well, the admins just walked away. It is not clear whether this was pre-planned, but Rod stood up as he and I were talking, and I think that started it. They then stood as well, and walked away even though the conversation was not over."

That conversation is still not over. Several days later, Stone sent Anderson an email challenging his version of the events. Anderson then wrote to me:

"I received an email from Rod Stone, the principal of the High School, contesting my view of events at the last ed committee meeting. I called (director) Fern Strunk, and she corroborated Mr Stone's view that he was the most engaging of the administrators, and was the last to leave. I was wrong to lump them all together. I have no excuse and please correct the record and lay the blame at my feet. I also apologize to you. I am frustrated by the academic situation and that clouded my view but it is my fault, fully and completely."

Anderson man-upped and acknowledged his mistake (which our admins never do), but, truthfully, the precise explanation makes little difference. Stone doesn't deny that he walked out, only that he wasn't the first. Whether our high school principal was the first, second, or third administrator to walk out on the committee is rather irrelevant. Such behavior is totally unacceptable, especially from a public figure and a supposed role model for QCSD students.

Anderson sent his mea culpa to me (copying Stone), adding that he does not believe that it was pre-planned, and asked me to publish the statement. I have done so. But just as the conversation didn't end with Stone walking out, it won't end with an apology over the order of withdrawal. Our administration still must be held accountable for their actions, and since none of them have voluntarily come forward to explain to the community exactly why they walked out of a discussion of the most important topic in our district, we must seek another way to question them.

I started with the man who claims that he was the most cooperative guy in the room, Rod Stone. I sent him an email on October 17, to his published school e-address, rstone@qcsd.org, the same address he used to correspond with Anderson: "Rod - Mitch Anderson has sent me an explanation of his error, which he copied to you. I will be pleased to write a correction - but only if the ENTIRE story is told. Therefore, please answer the following questions.....

Even though you may not have been the first admin to walk out, did you in fact walk out?

If you did walk out, why?

Please explain why you feel that as a public employee you were justified in walking out of a scheduled meeting of a vital committee in QCSD?

As principal of QCHS, what is your explanation for the school's yearly poor performance on standardized testing? If your response is that you haven't been here long enough to form an opinion, how long will it take for you to do so?

Exactly what steps are the QCSD administration proposing to improve our performance?

Thank you for your cooperation."

When I had not received a response by October 19, I sent it again, with the large red headline "SECOND REQUEST", copying Alice Bishop, the Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent, and the Secretary for the School Board, who also sits on the Policy Committee. I immediately received an automated message from Alice "Thanks for your message however I am out of the office until Monday, October 22 and will respond to your message at that time."

When nothing had arrived from either of them by 6:30 pm on the 23rd, six days after my initial email, I sent a blue-headlined "THIRD REQUEST" to both Stone and Bishop. Could it be that the man who fancied himself the most cooperative guy in the room - the man who told Anderson that he was "not interested in being the focus of QCHS this year" - wasn't going to explain his inappropriate behavior to the community?

Since Stone wasn't exactly being cooperative, I also sent an email that evening to Moczydlowski and Lapinski: "Jim and Cindy - Below is an email that I have sent to Rod Stone on three different occasions since October 17. I have received no response, so I now ask if either of you wish to explain your behavior at the October 1st meeting of the Education/Curriculum Committee. I understand that Cindy has contacted Mitch Anderson regarding his quote, but has not made her comments publicly. If you wish to respond, please do so by Saturday, October 26, so I have time to include it in my column for next week. Thank you very much."

Not surprisingly, no one has responded. It isn't much of a stretch to imagine that a certain superintendent in the Quite Commonly Secret District has "advised" her subordinates not to reply, continuing the long district tradition of ignoring problems, and stonewalling the community. But an unidentified school board member did call Anderson and suggest that he back off because the issue could be "toxic" for him. My reply:

"Mitch - I don't see how this can be toxic for you.... the administration doesn't like you anyway, but the community should be thrilled that you are fighting for them, and letting everyone know exactly what our principals are doing. I can't imagine any scenario where the community - the voters - would be in any way upset by what you have said, but the administration clearly would be.

If the admins won't answer, then let the people know it. THEY are the ones paying the salaries, and it is their kids whose test scores are terrible. The fact that the admins won't even talk about it with the directors should be told to everyone.

I have never backed down from the truth, and you shouldn't either. You were elected to serve the best interests of the community, not to serve a director who apparently wishes to remain anonymous. You are apparently being manipulated by that director, who seems to care more about protecting the administration than being honest with the community."

The fact that you are reading this column shows which side Anderson chose.