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Protect the integrity of public schools: support whistleblowers

(C) foreversouls on Flickr/Creative Commons

(C) foreversouls on Flickr/Creative Commons

KW: The reasons an institution such as a public school would make special arrangements to overpay fancy lawyers could include things like: wanting to protect administrators from any scrutiny and accountability; wanting to use the threat of slick attorneys to scare parents and students from asserting their rights; specifically wanting to have an attorney who will help intimidate families from getting all the special education services their children need; being a gatekeeper to poor people, renters, or people of color who have the audacity to apply for an education at their public school. I have seen snarky school lawyers take all of the above measures at various times in my life.

So, what if someone inside the school district notices an uscrupulous relationship between the school and a lawyer? What if someone inside the school district opens her eyes and blows the whistle on a scandal against the community and against the tax payer?

It appears that the reward that Superintendent Janet C. Wilson of Harborfields School District is receiving, for helping uncover the Lawrence Reich attorney/payroll/retirement scandal, may be non-renewal of her contract.

I hope that residents, and especially parents, in Harborfield School District will protect the integrity of their school district by doing everything they can to support Janet Wilson in coming back on board. If you let the greedy people take out the whistleblowers, it will come back to hurt all of us in the end.

It is so clear from current events, and what happened to Lawrence Reich, that Janet Wilson was in the right. The community should now support her for her bravery, and understand the talent she could continue to bring to her leadership role.

Story at Newsday.

Janet C. Wilson at Thursday night’s meeting. (Newsday Photo / Robert Mecea)

With the contract of lame duck Superintendent Janet C. Wilson set to expire on July 31, her back-and-forth litigation with the Harborfields Central School District school board wages on.

The latest development involves a ruling in a due-process hearing this week in which a hearing officer held that Wilson was entitled to a $40,000 raise for the 2007-2008 school year.

The board, which met in a closed, executive session about the ruling on Thursday night, had contended that Wilson was not entitled to the increase once she reneged on a settlement with the board on May 13, although she acted on a provision allowing her to do so within seven days.

It’s just the latest in a long line of recent court decisions since the Harborfields school board voted not to renew Wilson’s contract during a special meeting on June 24, 2007.

“It all goes back to that secret special meeting, which resulted in the non-renewal of Ms. Wilson as superintendent,” said Wilson’s attorney, Terry O’Neill of Garden City-based Bond, Schoeneck and King, PLLC. “What they did violated the Open Meetings Law . . . we’re confident that Ms. Wilson will ultimately be superintendent for the 08-09 year.”…

According to O’Neill, Wilson’s contract was likely not renewed because she served as a whistleblower in 2005 by reporting that Lawrence Reich, a former Harborfields attorney, was listed as a full-time employee at the district, even though he never worked there full-time. The Reich scenario was uncovered this February by Newsday, which reported he was listed as a full-time lawyer by five different Long Island school districts at once.

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