Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Incompetence Exhibited in Handling of Recent GMSD Scandals

An Editorial Statement 

This is post is a follow up to my last three blog posts.  

When Truth is Stranger than Fiction-GMSD Scandals 101

Sources Say that Former Houston High Principal Failed to Report Allegations

Jason Manuel Wants New Contract from GMSD Board 

Please note: The discussion below has nothing to do with the merits of the complaints in question against Choir Director Billy Rayburn. My comments concern what steps should be taken in the face of any allegation, and some of them are legally required. 

Here are a few of my questions and editorial comments about the school district scandals detailed in the above posts. First the questions:   

I. The Original Cherry/Ladder/Flip Flops Incident

A. Was an "internal" investigation the appropriate way to handle the August 2017 Cherry "stepladder/flip flops" incident? I would argue that an internal investigation is virtually worthless, as the individuals leading the investigation report directly to the superintendent, and thus are unlikely to conclude anything different from what the superintendent desires. I guess I am wondering how an internal investigation could "clear" someone in the face of the admitted facts. How does that work?

B. Were the Board members consulted about the way to deal with the case? When were they informed? Was anyone at the City notified by the police? The police report stated that there were no charges filed in this case because the teacher involved did not want her employment with GMSD affected. That alone is a reason that Mr. Cherry's employment could have been terminated at that point. The implication is that charges may have been filed had he not been the victim's boss. Now, months later, she actually changed the police report, saying that it never occurred to her to press charges. She is still employed at GMSD.

C. If Mr. Cherry's employment had been terminated in August, would we even be dealing with many of the concerns about the investigation of Billy Rayburn?

D. If the Board decided that it was important to keep Mr. Cherry as principal, shouldn't he have been required to at least attend a program that addressed his alcohol dependency, and perhaps given him an unpaid suspension?  After all, Billy Rayburn earned a three day suspension in October for merely publicly criticizing the administration when the choir did not get to sing the national anthem at a football game as planned. Does Superintendent Manuel believe that the Cherry/ladder/flip flops incident was less serious than a teacher criticizing his administration because the entire choir was disappointed?

E. How did the reporters know to check the police records for the August Cherry/Ladder/Flip Flop incident months later? Did someone tip them off? If so, who? If people that worked with Mr. Cherry knew about the incident, it could have given them leverage if any "problem" arose. And, as we were told by the parent involved, Mr. Cherry never reported the incident concerning Billy Rayburn to GMSD HR. The mother told me that she had to do it.

II. The Allegation Against Billy Rayburn and Resignation of Kyle Cherry 

A. What is the complete timeline of events in the Rayburn case? In news reports, Superintendent Manuel was evasive about when he learned of the allegation against Dr. Rayburn, and he stated that he had to consult his records. When he consults his records, could we please have that date, and the dates when school board members were told of the allegation? Were City officials told, and if so, when? A complete timeline is in order, including the date when Tennessee Child Protective Services was informed.  This story indicates they may not have been notified in a timely way, as CPS did not acknowledge the investigation to News Channel 3 on April 19, although they had the report by the 26th. 

B. The parent of the alleged victim contends that there was a nine day period between the time that an incident of a sexual nature was reported to Mr. Cherry, and the suspension of Dr. Rayburn without pay, and that she had to report the issue after the failure of Mr. Cherry to do so. Was the child accusing Dr. Rayburn expected to attend choir classes with him during this time frame? What provisions were made for her physical, mental, and psychological safety? If her report is accurate, why would this situation not have magnified the effect of the original occurrence? That could lead not only to further damage to the girl, but leave GMSD open for even greater possible legal damages, should a lawsuit result from this incident.

C. According to the accuser's mother, GMSD HR department officials suggested that she confront the teacher directly with the charges. Is this GMSD policy?  Is this considered safe, for either the teacher or the student?  Is this the school policy, to suggest that the accuser meet with the accused? If it is not school policy, why was it suggested?  If it is school policy, shouldn't this policy be changed? I would argue that this is a manipulative way for GMSD to try to discourage formal complaints, and that even the hint of a suggestion that this an appropriate way to address complaints such as this is dangerous and risks dire consequences. We need to use a dash of common sense when we formulate policies and suggest remedies. And, by the way, the goal is truth and justice, not a cover up.

D. Has the superintendent been entirely candid with the public in his interviews with the press? The truth matters if we are to live up to our motto of "excellence always". Some of his statements are contradictory. As an example, at one time he has characterized the $25,000 given to Mr. Cherry upon his resignation as "severance pay" that is available to all upper level employees when they resign (see this report). Does that mean that any principal that quits without notice in the middle of the year gets paid $25,000? What if Mr. Manuel quits in the middle of the year? As revealed in Jason Manuel Wants New Contract from GMSD Board, Mr. Manuel's current contract specifically states that he owes the district $15,000 if he abruptly resigns, in order to pay for a search for a new superintendent. Why would a principal's contract be more generous than that of the superintendent?

At another point, he suggested that the money was paid to Mr. Cherry to help avoid a lawsuit, or at the suggestion of attorneys. What type of lawsuit? If Mr. Cherry quit, why would he be suing the school? Why would a $25,000 payment to the ex-principal be called for? If the $25,000 was the inducement given for Mr. Cherry to resign rather than be fired (which would leave open the possibility of having to endure various appeals), just say so. If so, the Board should have made that call. Under this set of facts, I would argue that appeals would have been unsuccessful.

Was the School Board consulted about this payment?

Please note that I am not saying that the payment was a bad idea. I am saying that the published reasons for the payment are both contradictory and illogical, thus insufficient to justify it.

At another point, Jason Manuel stated that police had been contacted. In fact, no report had been filed. He had simply talked to the police officer assigned to the school about the case.  Link 

E. What is the likelihood that the district faces a lawsuit that in part may be due to this matter's inappropriate handling and untimely reporting?  Did some of the errors in judgment, plus the failure to report have the possible effect of compounding the damages? And did the August Cherry/Ladder/flip flop incident have anything to do with Mr. Cherry's failure to report the allegations against the choir director?

F. What are the hiring practices at the school system? Are there instances of teachers being hired after they have been asked to leave other school systems? If so, does that hiring practice put our students at risk? Should there be a firm policy in place to avoid hiring teachers with checkered records from other schools? Should we value performance in the classroom as highly as awards given for student activities and sports? What policies are in place against nepotism in hiring practices? Have hiring practices at the high school since August been influenced by the awareness by teachers and staff of the Cherry/ladder/flip flop incident?

H. What else has been hidden? How can we be assured that there are no other ladder/flip flop issues lurking?

I. Why is this the appropriate time for the GMSD Board of Education to extend the superintendent's contract, a contract that does not end for two more years?   


When I moved to Germantown, even though I had no kids school age, I was excited about having our own school system. I went to a suburban district very similar to Germantown-- three elementary schools, one junior high and one high schooI, and had a very good experience. Houston High School has many good things going for it, and I am sure most kids and teachers have a good experience. But I tend to hear about the underbelly, and there is one. Yes, Houston is a good school.  And yes, we can do better. We must do better.

I occasionally get contacted by parents of GMSD students because of this blog. Although I do learn some things, and I appreciate that, this is actually frustrating for me, because I am not in a position to help them. Naturally, when they turn to me, I know they have exhausted established remedies within the school system. I also have no means to verify the merit of the complaints. Unfortunately, I have noticed there are common threads to the communications that lead me to believe that GMSD needs do some serious self-reflection. Perhaps the most disturbing thing I hear is that both parents and teachers are fearful of lodging complaints with the school system because of possible retribution.  Appearances seem to take precedence over substance. The recent scandals seem to support the idea. Despite a reassuring sounding email from the chairman of the Board of Education, safety for an individual reporting wrongdoing does not seem to be a high priority for the GMSD administration. Examples from the fact situations above: 

From I.B. above: "The police report stated that there were no charges filed in this case because the teacher involved did not want her employment with GMSD affected." I tend to believe the first police report rather than a corrected one months later by someone still employed in the system.

From II.B. above: "
Was the child accusing Mr. Rayburn expected to attend choir classes with him during this time frame?" 

From II.C. above:  "According to the accuser's mother, GMSD officials suggested that she confront the teacher directly with the charges. Is this GMSD policy?" The school system needs to establish a safe reporting environment for both parents, teachers and students.

Most of the City's past week's negative publicity could have been avoided if issues had been faced forthrightly, honestly, and competently with the overall goal of doing the right thing and confronting issues rather than deflecting them.

I also get contacted about alleged bullying not only by other students, but sometimes even hear about bullying and cussing by teachers. There are enough incidents reported to me (of all people?) that yes, I realize, Houston, we have a problem. No, of course I have no way to document these complaints. Other than fluffy written notices to the parents saying the safety of children is important, are policies against bullying being strictly enforced? There should be zero tolerance. Our school system should not permit any bullying, and it should not permit foul language, by students or teachers. No teacher should be protected because of cronyism, who they know, what they know, or nepotism.  I cannot comprehend why viewing a girl wearing a sleeveless shirt or a dress one inch too short is somehow more harmful to our youth than listening to profane language in the halls and being bullied by other students or teachers. We need strong leaders that will insist on civil behavior at all times by everyone in schools. Awards, accolades and self-congratulation are not the preferred method of judging a school. Addressing weaknesses, and not papering over them is true strength. The willingness to identify and clearly address problems, without finger pointing and deflection, is essential for a healthy school system. 


Per the GMSD website, the next GMSD Board meeting is Monday May 7, at City Hall. The Work Session begins at 4:30 and the meeting begins at 6:30.

The names and email addresses of the Board Members: 

Linda Fisher 

Betsy Landers  

Suzanne Jones 

Lisa Parker 

Amy Eoff


  1. I'm speechless....

    1. As you can see, I am not speechless. BUT I am dumbfounded!

  2. "Perhaps the most disturbing thing I hear is that both parents and teachers are fearful of lodging complaints with the school system because of possible retribution. "
    I thought Germantown was supposed to have some of the best schools. Why aren't they taking parent's complaints seriously? What kind of retribution can they possbily take to schools?