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A RESPONSE TO

THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS


OF EVERETT SCHOOL DISTRICT No.2
RESOLUTION No. 1015
Censure of School Board Director Jessica Olson

Respectfully submitted by Jessica Olson, Director Position No.4

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The interesting thing about the censure process is the format. It feels like a court
hearing - charges are levied, a vote is taken, and the censure pronounced. Bear in
mind, it is not a hearing. A censure is simply a list of allegations, with no evidentiary
requirement. There is no burden of proof, simply accusations. Charges are worded as
if their veracity is a foregone conclusion, but no real proof is offered. The outcome is,
of course, predetermined, and not in doubt. This document is the resolution of
censure and my responses to the charges. Unlike the resolution itself, I have
attempted to provide evidence to back up my positions, listed as EXHIBITS in the back
of this document..
Worth mentioning is the fact the Board and Sup't Cohn often wring their
collective hands at the wasted time and resources involved in these sorts of events,
and the distractions they cause from our real work. I would like to point out that many
of the accusations brought up tonight were brought up initially on November 2, 2010,
at a board meeting wherein the three of the four other directors each brought in a
prepared statement critical of me. One wonders how the four person majority
coordinated their efforts so well without Violating the OPMA, but at any rate, many of
the issues in this resolution were discussed at some length. At the conclusion, Board
President Petersen stated he hoped we could put this all behind us and move forward
to work together as a team.
On January 25th , the four board members again took time to evaluate me at
length, bringing up once again the many of the same issues that appear in this
resolution. At the conclusion, Board President Petersen stated he hoped we could put
this all behind us and move forward to work together as a team.
Three days later in the Friday report, Sup't Cohn regurgitated many of the same
complaints, this time re-packaged as distress over their implications on the safety of
directors and staff.
And now, less than a month later, here we are rehashing many of the same
issues, reclassified as a "censure". Undoubtedly we will have heard tonight of better
things to do with our time and what needless distraction this is. We may end with
President Petersen enjoining us to put this all behind us and work together as a team.

I feel it merits mentioning that the past president of the Washington School
Board Directors Association offered to mediate a meeting between myself and
President Petersen to put this all behind us and work together as a team. I accepted
the invitation; President Petersen declined. I also met with President Petersen in early
February and asked him if he would be willing bring in a professional mediator from
WSSDA, Jeff Turner, who is well-known at assisting with board relationships and was
helpful at our board retreat President Petersen refused unless I could promise change
to his satisfaction.
Attached is Board Resolution 1015, my censure. Since the -Soard was given 50
minutes to levy these charges and I was only given 10 to defend against them, I have
taken the time to address these allegations here. When considering this censure,
please consider who it is that wasting this time and resources - it is not I who have
requested a rehashing of the same basic complaints four times. And when considering
the charges against me, consider the source.
A RESOLUTION OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
OF EVERETT SCHOOL DISTRICT No.2
RESOLUTION No. 1015
Censure of School Board Director Jessica Olson

WHEREAS, the Everett Public Schools Board of Directors is deeply committed to the effective
operation of the Everett School Board in order to provide governance and leadership for the
District; and

WHEREAS, the board of directors needs all five members to contribute to a positive working
environment for staff and for colleagues on the board; and

WHEREAS, the board of directors did during its November 16, 2010 and January 25.2011
reqular board meetings present evidence that Director Jessica Olson acted improperly in her
role as an elected director; and

WHEREAS, the board of directors openly and properly committed itself to upholding policies
providlnq for open. honest. and respectful communication. adherence to state law and policies
governing the board's actions and behaviors, and to acting in a concerted fashion to set an
example of positive leadership for the Everett Public Schools; and

WHEREAS. Director Olson has, acting individually without board authority, caused unnecessary
costs and embarrassment and has tarnished a valued high school principal's reputation through
forcing disclosure of his identity after closure of a competent investigation that found spurious
charges completely unwarranted, by demanding an unnecessary investigation review estimated
to cost in excess of $23,000 , including wasting 150 hours of precious staff time and incurring
$11,344 of legal fees; and

Sup't Cohn and Ed Petersen continue to repeat this mantra, hoping if the public hears
it enough it will become the accepted narrative. Keeping in mind how difficult it is to
prove a negative, let us examine the facts around this document's claim that I "forced"
disclosure of the identity of the principal.
FACT: I did not inform the Everett Herald of the investigation into the principal. In fact,
the Herald knew before me. Sup't Cohn only informed the board after the Herald asked
him about the investigation.

FACT: I did not inform the Herald of the identity of the principal. They had a letter from
the complainant that identified the principal. Again, the Herald knew before I did.

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However, the principal's name NEVER appeared in the Herald in relation to the
investigation.

FACT: The principal's identity was first publicly revealed by Sup't Cohn in a Newslinks
publication on September 14, 2010.

FACT: 1 never revealed or asked for the revelation of the principal's identity. I never
questioned his innocence, or stated the claims against him were anything but
spurious. In fact, I never cared about the principal's identity because his identity
wasn't germane to my issues with the investigation.

My issues with the investigation were two-fold:

1)The district performed an investigation into a district employee in which the liability
level was sufficient to expend resources on retaining a law firm, and the Board was not
informed of it I feel the school board is NOT on a "need to know" basis, and should
have been informed of the investigation and it's content as it occurred. This must not
be too unreasonable, as the board eventually voted to change the policy so that Dr.
Cohn will have to inform us of such investigations in the future. Not that we needed it
- by not telling the board members, Dr. Cohn clearly violated the "no surprises policy"
already in place:

The superintendent will let the board members know as soon as


possible of any major issue that may arise which could be
problematic for the district, and will share information in a timely
manner with people anticipated to be affected. The .team is
mutually committed to practicing a "no surprises" policy. We
consider a major issue to be one in which student or staff safety,
significant liability, or broad public concern could reasonably be
attached. (From the Board-Superintendent Operating Protocol
9/22/09) [SOURCE: EXHIBIT #5, page 2J

Note the protocol in place at the time didn't state that the superintendent let the board
president know of an investigation, but would let the board members know. He did not.

2) When asked by the press if there was an investigation, the Everett School District
minced words to deliberately deceive the public. "Are any principals, assistant
principals or other administrators under investigation?" was asked of Mary Waggoner
by the Everett Herald. Reporter Andy Rathburn also mentioned the principal by name.
Mary Waggoner answered, "No. No member of our administrative staff is under
investigation by this district. I got that straight from HR." [SOURCE: EXHIBIT #1]
Only there HAD been an investigation - just not exactly at that moment. Like the child
who, when mom asks if he's eating a cookie, swallows first and replies "no!", this
mincing of words was an effort to deceive. An effort to decieve the press, and by
extension, the public. The District said it needed to answer in this way to protect
confidentiality. While I respect the fact that discretion was needed, it is possible to
answer such a question - without deceit -- through a variety of phrases well-known
throughout the public relations community, without revealing the identity of the person

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being investigated: "We investigated, and found the accusations baseless." "We don't
comment on investigations in which the accusations were unfounded." "We can
neither confirm nor deny an investigation."
These are the only two issues I had regarding the investigation. Neither of them
required the superintendent (or anyone else) to reveal the name of the principal. I
challenge the board or Sup't Cohn to find any email, any statement to the press, any
statement at a board meeting, or any mention in board minutes where my issues are
anything other than the two I just identified. Find any information anywhere in which I
questioned the Principal's innocence, stated the investigation was inadequate, or
demanded his identity be revealed. [See public quotes in EXHIBIT #1,2 and 3)
In fact, at the September 14th Board meeting that the principal in question attended, I
stated that I hoped "he had not been strong-armed into revealing his identity and the
criticized by my peers. The principal indicated he had come forward of his own
volition. [SOURCE: EXHIBIT #4, page 2)
I did not try to force disclosure of the principal's identity, for his identity was not the
source of my issues with the investigation. I did criticize Sup't Cohn for keeping
knowledge of the investigation from the board, and for the district's unseemly lack of
frankness when responding to the Herald. This sidestep and equivocation is what
brought the media attention in the first place. The Herald reports that the investigation
itself was a non-story. [SOURCE: EXHIBIT #3, page 1) Had Sup't Cohn done the right
thing from the beginning (informed the board and answered the press forthrightly), the
media interest - which was limited to three articles anyway - probably would have
been reduced.

WHEREAS, Director Olson has, acting individually without board authority, abused the power of
the elected board position by an unannounced appearance that surprised the staff at a student's
confidentiallEP meeting, announcing herself as an advocate for the family without informing her
board colleagues or the superintendent in violation of the "no surprises" operating protocol
adopted by the board, and disrupting the meeting, which had to be disbanded due to the
intrusion, resulting in wasted staff time; and

This allegation is an example of applying vague verbiage and wordsmithing techniques


to limited information to make a situation appear more dire than it really is. The
allegation is threefold:
1. I abused my power by intrUding at a student's IEP meeting that was confidential
2. Surprised the staff in violation of the "no surprises" protocol
3. The meeting had to be disbanded due to the intrusion, resulting in wasted staff
time.
Addressing these points one by one:
1. I did attend an IEP meeting on Feb. 11,2010. I did not intrude; I was invited by
the parent to be their advocate. This is their legal right:
WAC 392-172A-03095 IEP TEAM MEMBERSHIP
(1) (f) At the discretion of the parent or the school
district, other individuals who have knowledge or
special expertise regarding the student, including
related services personnel as appropriate
This invitation made me a part of the IEP team. While IEP meetings are
confidential, they are not kept in confidence from the IEP team itself. The word
"confidential", seems to have been inserted into the allegation to convey that I
was someplace where I had no business being - an example of massaging
words to create implication. My presence there was as an invited member of the
IEP team per the WAC. The use of the word "intrusion" to describe my presence
is also incorrect, as intrude is defined as "to thrust or bring in without invitation,
permission, or welcome." Whereas this is the exact opposite of my status, this
is not clever wordplay, it is an out and out lie.
2. The "no surprises" protocol applies to major issues (excerpt from Board-
Superintendent Operating Protocol 9/22/09) [SOURCE: EXHIBIT #5, page 2):

The superintendent will let the board members know as


soon as possible of any major issue that may arise
which could be problematic for the district, and will
share information in a timely manner with people
anticipated to be affected. The team is mutually
committed to practicing a " no surprises" policy. We
consider a major issue to be one in which student or
staff safety, significant liability, or broad public concern
could reasonably be attached.

Apparently, the Board feels an IEP meeting is a major issue. To be true, an IEP
meeting must affect student or staff safety, significant liability or has broad
public concern. An IEP meeting does not fit into any of these, and thus this
citation is a misapplication of the protocol in place at the time.

2. The district states the meeting "had" to be disbanded. Again, the use of the word
"had" is clever wordsmithing. It did not "have" to be disbanded - the district
unilaterally chose to cancel the meeting, over the protests of the parent. There
was no legal or policy reason that compelled cancellation of the meeting, as the
phrase "had to cancel" suggests - the district elected to cancel the meeting,
resulting in wasted staff time.
WHEREAS, Director Olson has, acting individually without board authority, undermined public
trust and has regularly sought to intimidate fellow board members by falsely accusing them of
violating the Open Public Meetings Act dUring and after lawful executive sessions held to
evaluate the superintendent's performance: and

Again, this allegation has three elements, and again, it is long on opinion and short on
specifics:
1. I falsely accused the Board of violating the Open Public Meetings Act
2. I regularly seek to intimidate fellow board members by these accusations
3. I undermined public trust.
The Open Public Meetings Act was designed to provide transparency in government,
and has very few exceptions for when governance discussions may be held out of view
of the public. It is a great law, which has a serious flaw: reporting and enforcement.
Once an agency is behind closed doors in executive session, no one hears the
discussion except for them, and thus they are the only ones who know if the law is
being violated. If no one at the meeting has the knowledge or ethics to bring up a
violation, no one will ever know they have occurred.
I have walked out on executive sessions when I felt the law was being violated.
Unfortunately, this only has the effect of keeping me out of the discussion and
decision making process. On one such occasion, Director Dutton admonished me to
"sit down and for once do my job". On another occasion, when I announced that we
appeared to be in violation of the OPMA, Director Andrews admonished "Then why
don't you just leave!". My third option is to report to the public those things
discussed in executive session inappropriately. This action, of course, is mentioned in
this very document as one reason I am being censured. This is the ultimate Catch-22.
The board apparently has the perception - presented as fact in the censure resolution,
of course - that my intent is to intimidate them. It is not - my motives are exactly the
same as they were when I was elected: to ensure that the public's business was
conducted transparently when possible. If the public trust has been undermined,
perhaps the board ought not look at the whistle blower, but at the Everett School
District's legacy: the hidden camera in Kay Power's room and the public denials of the
same; the hiring of the current superintendent behind closed doors; the deliberate
mincing of words to mislead the press (and by extension, the public) about a district
investigation, and their misuse of executive sessions.
One example of what I believe to be an inappropriate use of executive session:
One area in which discussions are clearly allowed to be held out of public view is to
"evaluate the performance of a public employee". Executive session is not required,
but it is permissible and legal. At a meeting in March 2010, Sup't Cohn requested the
board go into executive session to discuss HIS performance. Sup't Cohn led the
discussion of his own performance review, which consisted of listing a compilation of
all director requests I had made (some were simple questions that Sup't Cohn had
elected to label director requests on his own.) Sup't Cohn indicated that he was unable
to perform his job effectively because of the sheer volume of my requests

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(notwithstanding the fact that it was under Sup't Cohn's watch that the protocol
requiring that all director requests go through the superintendent was passed). I
objected that this appeared to be an evaluation of my job performance, not his, and
that I would prefer to have it in open session. Sup't Cohn maintained that it was his job
performance that was being evaluated, and how the board wanted him to spend his
time, and the board concurred. Please note that this was the only aspect of Sup't
Cohn's "performance" discussed in this session.
I maintain that this was NOT compliant with the OPMA - and even if technically legal,
couching words to circumvent the law is unseemly for a public organization. The
eventual result of this "evaluation" was that the following was adopted into the Board-
Superintendent Operating Policy (1715):
The superintendent will determine (in consultation with
the board president when in doubt) if information requests
from individual board members are easily resolved or will
advance the established goals approved by the
board (board goals or goals for the superintendent).

You read that correctly: when his bosses make a request of Sup't Cohn, he makes the
initial determination if their request advances the board goals enough to merit a
response.

WHEREAS, Director Olson has, acting individually without board authority, publicly aired false
and misleading statements that constitute inappropriate evaluative comments designed to
pUblicly discredit the superintendent without any evidence of wrong doing, which statements
were by subsequent review revealed to be totally unfounded, and has frequently and
inappropriately attempted to distort or misconstrue the superintendent's communication; and

This charge is so vague and lacking in substantiation of any kind that it is


difficult to respond to. Suffice to say, when I feel Sup't Cohn's behavior
merits criticism, I am critical. I expect that an employee earning $219,905*
in taxpayer dollars should not be insulated from criticism.
"SOURCE: 2009-2010 F196 report
WHEREAS, Director Olson has, acting individually without board authority, diverted the
superintendent's time from the board's educational priorities by false accusation of Public
Records Act violations ; and challenged the veracity of the superintendent's communication; and
falsely accused the district of being unable to generate electronic data which 'could be required
in a public records request; and continued to do so after being presented fully documented
ability by the district to generate email data and thereby comply with Public Records Act
requests; and
1. Though this item is a simple a re-packaging of a previous charge in this resolution, I
stand by my accusations of OPMA violations.
2. Actually, the email issue has yet to be answered to my satisfaction. Once I raised
this issue in open session, I was finally given a direct response in the next Board
Friday Packet. The tech department produced an image of a screen shot of the email in
Outlook with the blind copy recipients in the header of the email, but they have never
produced a printout of the sent email itself with the blind copy recipients showing in
the full header of the email, which is what a public agency needs to be able to do in
order to comply with the Public Records Act. Perhaps the District can produce such a
document - the fact is, they have yet to.

WHEREAS, Director Olson has, acting individually without board authority, violated the district's
records policy by removing documents from a file containing student records, refused to allow
private student information to be deleted before unauthorized removal, and refused a direct
request by district counsel to return the file items in exchange for a properly redacted copy; and

FPCO (Family Policy Compliance Office -- the federal entity responsible for enforcing
FERPA) ruled long ago that no violation of FERPA (Family Educational Rights and
Privacy Act) will be construed by the release of student identification information to
school board members, as it is presumed that school board members are among those
school personnel that are deemed to have "legitimate educational interest" in records
containing personally identifiable student information (absent, of course, obvious
information indicating the contrary, the same standard to which o.ther school
personnel are held). Furthermore, this OSPI complaint letter is really no different than
viewing a contract, voucher or field trip form containing student information as far as
access to student privacy information under FERPA is concerned. And the entire board
has certainly received that type of information for its review -and possession- in the
past. [SOURCE: EXHIBIT #6: Letter from US Dept. of Education]
The Board can make a complaint to FPCO if they feel I am acting unlawfully - or, they
can ask the Everett School District legal counsel. I did [SOURCE: EXHIBIT #7, page 2]-
but she was directed to not respond to my question. I asked at the November 2, 2010
Board meeting who ordered her to not respond - neither President Petersen nor Sup't
Cohn would answer, but an email from Sup't Cohn to Director Petersen informing him
that the attorney would no longer respond answers the question for us. [SOURCE:
EXHIBIT #7, page 1] Up until this point, I had been in contact with the District attorney
via multiple phone calls/emails. Why when the legality of my actions was finally going
to be answered would the District lawyer be directed to not respond? Why when an
answer would guarantee lawful behavior? The answer seems obvious - they had no
legal leg to stand on, so they once again changed district policy to make it impossible
for me to get information - Sup't Cohn suggests President Petersen to change the
policy.[SOURCE: EXHIBIT #7, page 1]
Subsequently, District Policy 1715 was revised to state "The board president will be the
official spokesperson for the board, and is the only director authorized to seek legal
counsel on behalf of the board."

WHEREAS, Director Olson has, acting individually without board authority, unlawfully requested
disclosure of the superintendent's Americans with Disabilities Act presumed status,
communicated disrespectfully, in a condescending fashion, and with disregard for Policy 1715,
the Board-Superintendent Operating Protocol, which requires directors to communicate with
courtesy and tactfulness; and

The ADA issue arises from an issue Sup't Cohn and I discussed via email in 2010. Over
the course of eighteen emails, Sup't Cohn either could not or would not grasp the
information for which I was asking. Having a disabled child myself, prior to assuming
it was the former and his responses were disingenuous, I thought it best to ensure that
it wasn't the latter and there wasn't some mitigating factor behind the problem.
This resolution states that my inquiry was unlawful. Here is an excerpt regarding the
legality from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website
(http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/ada18.html):
Once you have been hired and started work, your employer cannot
require that you take a medical examination or ask questions about
your disability unless they are related to yourjob and necessary for
the conduct of your employer's business.
To be unlawful, my question would have to be unrelated to Sup't Cohn's job and
necessary to the conduct of the employer's business. Although you might not guess it
from the manner in which our board operates, we are the superintendent's employer:
RCW 28A.330.100 Every board of directors of a school district of the
first class, in addition to the general powers for directors
enumerated in this tltlel shall have the power:
(1) To employ for a term of not exceeding three years a
superintendent of schools of the districtl and for cause to dismiss
him or her, and to fix his or her duties and compensation;
The remaining question Is to whether effective communications and mutual
understanding with a board director is necessary to the conduct of the Board's
business. According to the Board-Superintendent Operating Policy (1715) it is:
The board and superintendent will work to minimize
misunderstanding and reduce conflict and strive for mutual
understanding and support.
WHEREAS, Director Olson has, acting individually without board authority, photographed un-
redacted attorney invoices, an action equivalent to the removal of attorney-client privileged
information without the board's permission; and

As an Everett School director. I am the client. As the client, I am entitled to unredacted


attorney-client information.

WHEREAS, Director Olson has, acting indiVidually without board authority, violated the Open
Public Meetings Act by intruding upon a meeting in which the board president and vice-
president were meeting with staff and legal counsel for the sake of careful agenda planning in
accordance with board policy, and in response to Director Olson's request to consider certain
real estate matters outside of an executive session ; and

The Open Public Meetings Act is very specific - if you have a meeting with a majority
of board members, it must be announced and open to the public. A "meeting" is
defined as a meeting where action is taken. "Action" means the transaction of the
official business of a public agency. Therefore, if three board members are together,
and district business is transacted, and the meeting was not announced, a violation
has occurred. Nothing precludes three of us being in a room together. in a car together,
or anywhere else t0gether as long as no business is transacted,

The charge against me is that when I entered the room where Sup't Cohn, his lawyer,
Director Russel and President Petersen were, I violated the OPMA. Note that I can't
violate it alone - if I am guilty, so are Director Russell and Petersen. You may note
there is no resolution for their censure - and for good reason: no district business was
transacted after I entered. The meeting ended with no action having taken place. If no
action takes place, it is not a "meeting" as defined by law. If there is no meeting, no
violation occurs. I would consult with the district lawyers to verify this for you, but in
the Everett School District, board members are not allowed to consult with district
counsel. Still, you don't need to take my word for it - the OPMA (RCW 42.30) and
Washington Ombudsman for Open Government make it pretty clear.

WHEREAS, Director Olson has. acting individually without board authority, violated the Open
Public Meetings Act by repeatedly emailing all board members, even after receiving multiple
trainings and instructions by attomeys and an assistant attorney general; and

The same legal standards apply to emaits as do meetings, as demonstrated in the case
Wood vs. Battleground School District: you must have a majority of board members,
and action must occur. When I e-mailed all five board members, we had a majority.
However, no one replied. This is known as a "one-sided" email. Since no one replied,
there was no discussion and therefore no action was taken. This fails the test for a
violation. Again. don't take my word for it. Look at the advice given by Ogden Murphy
Wallace, specialists in municipal law who currently represent more Washington Cities
than any other law firm. In a memo [SOURCE: EXHIBIT #8, page 7]directed to "All
Cities", they state the following:
One sided informational emails to a majority or more of governing
body members are probably consistent with OPMA.

In a presentation to our board, the Washington Ombudsman for Open Government Tim
Ford also stated that, while not a best practice, an email to all five members is not in
itself a violation of the OPMA. Note that I am not being accused of violating best
practices - I am being accused (falsely) of violating the law.

If the board is convinced that these were in fact violations of the OPMA, have they
been reported to the proper authorities? If not, why are we shirking our civic dUty?
The answer is, we are not, because clearly, since no action was taken in either case, no
violation occurred. When ignorant of the law, these accusations were merely
embarrassing for the Board. If the board continues to make accusations now knowing
they are false, it is a lie and slander. Either show what "action" was taken, or cease
these repeated, false allegations.

WHEREAS. Director Olson has, acting indiVidually without board authority, publicly disclosed
confidential information from executive sessions about the nature of potential real estate
f3ufeh~§@§ 6R f6Ur separate occasions. ana aone so in violation of !SoUcy 1246 and Poiicy 1=; 15
and after receiving attorney advice that the content was confidential and properly subject to the
executive session provisions of the Open Public Meetings Act; and

Again, the Open Public Meetings Act helps us to see who really deserves to be charged
in this instance. The OPMA does in fact have some provisions to discuss real estate
transactions in executive session, out of the public eye. From RCW 42.30.110
(Executive sessions):
(1)Nothing contained in this chapter may be construed to prevent a
governing body from holding an executive session during a regular
or special meeting:
(b) To consider the selection of a site or the acqUisition of real
estate by lease or purchase when public knowledge regarding such
consideration would cause a likelihood of increased price

The law is very clear -- you don't need to disclose the site or bUilding you are going to
purchase, for obvious reasons: if a seller knew what property the district was
interested in, or if the public knew the maximum the district would be willing to pay, it
might result in an increased price. The Everett School Board was well within its legal
rights when it discussed the site of the building they wished to acquire in executive
session.
But we discussed much more than that: we talked of potential tenants; we talked of
partnerships with other public agencies; we spoke of financing the purchase through
leasing portions of it; and we spoke of the percentage we would occupy, among other
things. These are things that in no conceivable way would be likely to increase the
price if the building identity itself was unknown. In this censure the Board would have
you believe that they are careful guardians of the OPMA - this proves they are not.
In any case, I never revealed to public the site or maximum price we were willing to pay
of our potential acquisition, as that information was legally confidential. Details not
protected by the OPMA - that is to say, everything else discussed illegally in executive
session -I did not regard as confidential, because it should not have been. I do not
feel beholden to keep confidences that are not ethical.
Regarding legal advice that such information was confidential: the district's attorney
(incidentally, also Sup't Cohn's personal attorney) also provided "counsel" that all
notes taken in executive session were confidential and needed to be collected due to
ethics laws and the fact that they would be disclosable as public records. He was
wrong about that, too.

WHEREAS. Director Olson has, acting individually without board authority, removed from an
employee's district office public records she requested without paying for them, records which
were carefully prepared for her as a public records request. including the redacting of social
security or business license data , and this request for documents was not made through the
superintendent's office as required by Policy 1715, and by removing the documents without
~§yiR§ f6f tRem Director OlsoR appears ts ~ave committee! tneff of e!istfict property; and

Someone should ask Sup't Cohn to produce the public records request I sent the
district in this matter. He won't be able to, because I didn't make one. I made a request
for the records in person through Jennifer Farmer, as I was already in her office
viewing other documents. I asked for the records in electronic format, if it wasn't too
much trouble. She responded that electronic format was in fact easier.
Sup't Cohn seemed peeved that I hadn't made the request through him (despite the
fact that he in the past has told the board he is overworked by my director requests).
would understand if he had told Jennifer to deny my request until submitted through
proper channels. Instead, Jennifer Farmer emailed me that she had been asked to
treat this as a public records request - I was not aware that a public records request
could be made without my authority on my behalf, but I wasn't concerned as long as I
got the records and they were in electronic format
Except there was a problem. Jennifer Farmer emailed me the following:
These records are native in paper form and are not stored
electronically. Due to the size of the response to your request, it is
not reasonable or feasible to convert the documents to an electronic
format.
This seemed strange, as earlier she had told me it was easier to provide records in
electronic format, and now it wasn't feasible. Doubly strange, because I wasn't going
to examine the original documents, I was going to examine paper copies. Copies made
on Jennifer Farmer's copy machine - a Copystar model 6030. It is a wonderful machine
that not only makes paper copies, but also makes scans by pushing the same button
pressed to make a copy. Someone had decided to go to the extra trouble of making
paper copies, which had to be stapled, collated, cost the district money to produce and
used up our precious natural resources. The only reason I can think of to go to that
extra trouble and expense would be to make my examination more difficult - but who
would make such a petty decision?
There's no way I could be sure, but I was sure that 1wasn't going to pay for paper
copies of a public records request that I didn't make. I took the documents, and have
told Sup't Cohn I will return them to the district if they have a use for them. Sup't Cohn
has not yet indicated he wants them back. He did send me a bill for $84.45. I
presented him with the bill at a board meeting, knowing that he will be able to use his
position as superintendent to find out who made the ridiculous decision to generate
paper copies and ensure they pay for the wasted resources.

WHEREAS, Director Olson has. acting individually without board authority, repeatedly
intimidated. bullied . and individually directed staff members, issuing explicit instructions to staff
regarding how public announcements for a meeting would be worded, explicitly directing staff
not to share content of conversations with the superintendent, and then interrogating staff about
communication directives and thereby placing staff in a very awkward and uncomfortable
position in opposition to the support called for in Policy 1711;

The board and Sup't Cohn in particular seem to have a very low threshold for what is
considered bullying, threats and intimidation. It is amazing to me that when I am
outnumbered and outvoted 4 to 1 on every issue that I am sernehow intimidating;
when policies and procedures are enacted to keep information out of my hands, I am
the bully. While others ask questions, I'm told I engage in interrogations.
On three separate occasions, fellow directors have read prepared statements in open
sessions condemning me. One of these situations was a complete ambush: the
agenda indicated we would be discussing policy 1715 - but most of the discussion
involved three directors discussing not the policy, but criticizing me in prepared
statements in a coordinated effort. [SOURCE: EXHIBIT #9, page 6] Essentially, this was
an evaluation of my performance, and I should have been presented with the option of
having it done in executive session. (I would have refused, of course - but the
procedure was improper.)
I've been subjected to comments such as "if you had a job you'd be fired", "why don't
you sit down and do your job", "why don't you leave if you don't like it" and "Unlike
you, 1have a job" - comments that would seem to violate Policy 1715. District staff
have been instructed to send a report to Gary after any interaction with me - I am the
only director with this requirement.
When including materials in the Friday report, Sup't Cohn cherry picks those items
which make his position look good and de-emphasize mine. When reprinting posts
from the WSSDA Iistserv board, he includes those that are critical of me and my
issues, and leaves out those that support them. The same has occurred with reprints
of letters to the editor. He managed to include an editorial that was critical of my tenure
on the board from a weekly Marysville newspaper with a circulation of 20,000, yet
somehow missed an article on the front page of the local section of our own Everett
Herald announcing an award I received for my open government efforts. It's not about
presenting my side - it's about presenting all sides. Otherwise it's just propaganda.
I have been marginalized almost since I first came to the board, and yet you won't find
an email or public statement where I claim to be bullied and harassed. I bring it up now
only because of the startling juxtaposition between reality and the claims in this
document.
Sup't Cohn, on the other hand, often sees himself as a victim. He feels bullied. By a
woman in her 40's. Via email.
He feels threatened. He recently informed the board that' was a threat to staff and
director safety, and listed 8 items in the Friday Report [SOURCE: EXHIBIT #10] that he
felt could no longer be ignored, including:
• an incident in which I said "shame on you" and walked down a narrow hall, while
he cowered against the wall
• an incident in which I sent Sup't Cohn a text that included "symbols" that he
perceived as taunting. The symbols? Colon-dash-parenthesis. To wit: :-)
• Knowing the staff must report all interactions with me to Sup't Cohn, on one
occasion I told Jeff Moore to "say hello to Gary".
[My response to this list is EXHIBIT #11]

Prior to being hired by the Everett School District, Sup't Cohn was the superintendent
of the Port Angeles School District. While I do not have first hand knowledge of how
successful his tenure there was, there apparently was some amount of opposition -
one Port Angeles director refused to sign his 2007 contract extension, and in 2008, his
contract was not extended. A contract that is not extended is not a firing, but is
commonly used to end a superintendent's employment without the burden of showing
cause (there may be other reasons I am not aware of to allow a superintendent's
contract to expire, and I was not present when the decision to let Sup't Cohn's contract
expire). The above events are described with respectful and dispassionate recitation in
order to provide context for what follows.
Director Russell received the following email, which Sup't Cohn forwarded to the rest
of the board with the title "Threatening E-mails". Here is the text;
From: *****UAUUU
Sent: Mon 1/24/201110:12 PM
To: Russell, Jeff
Subject: gary cohn
My name is S****n H****n. I am very familiar with Gary Cohn as I delt with him in Port
Angeles while he was here. I see from the board docs that you plan to go after Jessica.
I would be careful as I will be collecting the information she will need to prove that
what she says is valid. If you want to talk to me i would be more than willing. [name]
To me, this email threatens nothing more than collecting information - a small threat
by any measure, and certainly not the sort that is invoked by the title "Threatening E-
mails". I am currently being threatened by censure, but I wouldn't think to email my
friends and report that I am being "threatened" by my fellow board members.
This email filled Sup't Cohn with a sense of "heightened concern" - so much so, in
fact, that before Sup't Cohn forwarded it to the board, he solicited emails from two
friends to discredit the person who originally wrote the e-mail. He attached those
emails to the original, and THEN forwarded it to the Everett School Board. [SOURCE:
EXHIBIT #12]
One letter was relatively straightforward, but indicated (baselessly) that I somehow
sought out citizens in Port Angeles to criticize Sup't Cohn. She also indicted that we
should disregard anything said by the original emailer.
The other letter involved a story of an interaction between Sup't Cohn's friend and the
original email's author that, if true, is proof that truth is stranger than fiction (and that
Sup't Cohn's friend remains in situations of abject absurdity much longer than I do).
Sup't Cohn's friend ends with the incredible assertion that the citizens of Port Angeles
who opposed Sup't Cohn were motivated by anti-Semitism, and still are. (This must
include the Port Angeles School Board, as they did not renew his contract).
The point is not that the original email is to be trusted - I have no idea of the veracity of
those claims. It is not whether Sup't Cohn's friends' are to be believed - I trust them
no more or less than the email's author. The point is that this demonstrates how
sensitive to criticism Sup't Cohn is.
He received the email on January 24, the day before our board meeting. He could have
brought it to our attention at that meeting, but he didn't. Why? Because he wanted to
solicit responses from his friends to malign his critic before any of us saw it
Then he labeled the email "threatening" I forwarded it with the solicited emails to
discredit his critic, and finally offered the board the conclusion that "anti-Semitism is
finding its way to our board table in Everett". It is an incredible progression, given that
the text of the original email received by the Everett School Board threatens no one's
safety, and is not anti-Semitic. Later, of course, this email made Sup't Cohn's list of
things that threaten the safety of school staff and directors, wherein he claimed that
the email was an "attempt to coerce at least one director from performing his
responsibilities"[SOURCE: EXHIBIT #10, page 2].
I do not know the person who emailed from Port Angeles, and I am unsure what her
prior relationship to Sup't Cohn is. She mayor may not be anti-Semitic - but it seems
inappropriate to judge a person who contacts our district not on her own words, but on
the words of Sup't Cohn's friends. [My response to this email is EXHIBIT #13]
So great is Sup't Cohn's need to be insulated from any criticism, that our Board-
Superintendent Operating Protocol, with which Sup't Cohn assisted in writing,
contains the following line:
Board members shall refrain from making evaluative comments
about the superintendent's performance except in an executive
session designated for the review of the performance of a public
employee.
If you read this as "If you are going to criticize Sup't Cohn, it must be done in executive
session, out of the public eye". you'd be correct. One would think that "evaluative
comments" could be good or bad - however, my fellow directors praise Sup't Cohn's
performance in open session with regularity.
I ask that one considers the source and keep these incidents in mind when Sup't Cohn
and the Board constantly drive home the narrative that I am a bully, or threatening, or
intimidating.

WHEREAS, Director Olson has repeated such behaviors after being admonished by her fellow
board members in open public meetings on November 16, 2010 and January 25, 2011, in
particular by repeatedly ignoring policy and state law requiring school directors to maintain the
confidentiality of executive session content ; and

WHEREAS, censure by a public body is a judgment of stern condemnation of one of its


members for behaviors or actions that violate laws or its policies, rules or norms; it is also a
public act of rebuking a member for unacceptable acts through an official reprimand;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED: That the board of directors does hereby censure
Director Jessica Olson for repeated and blatant disregard for state law, board policy, and board
protocols; and

I recommend the reader check with an organization of open government advocates


(such as WCOG) and see if they believe I violated the OPMA state law. No one judges
OPMA matters more conservatively than these advocacy groups~

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the board of directors does hereby demand Director Olson
comply with state law, board policy, and board protocols; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the board of directors does hereby require that Director
Olson cease bUllying, intimidating, and harassing treatment of fellow directors and
administrative, instructional, and support staff of the Everett Public Schools . .

Adopted by the Board of Directors at its regular meeting this 22nd day of February, 2011.
EXHIBITS
lleraldNet
Everett, Washington
1
Published: Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Accusation against Everett school


principal probed
Everett school administrators are looking into an
anonymous complaint over the conduct of a school
principal.
By Andy Rathbun, Herald Writer
Correction: Former Superintendent Carol Whitehead reported receiving a death threat through the mail. An earlier
version of the story was wrong .

EVERETI - When confronted by anonymous accusations about the conduct of a school principal, Everett School
District administrators quietly asked an attorney to investigate.

When The Herald received an anonymous letter making accusations against the same employee and last week
called Eiieren §c~ooI6isi;:ici olficlals to ask questions about the investigation. they denied conducting one, then
began discussing a media strategy with their attorney.

On Monday, they said they had called police and asked them to figure out who was sending the anonymous
letters about the principal.

The school board has called a special meeting for 5 p.m. Tuesday to go into a closed session - out of the public
view -- to discuss how the district handles complaints against employees, potential litigation and to discuss how
communications regarding their investigation were treated by board members and district officials.

The letter received by The Herald makes claims of misconduct against the principal in staccato , broken English. It
says the district was investigating. The legitimacy of the letter is questionable; it is signed, though no person with
that name appeared in a search of public records.

On Thursday, The Herald called district spokeswoman Mary Waggoner to ask whether the district was
investigating the principal.

"Nobody is being investigated," Waggoner said Thursday. "I got that straight from HR."

, While the district's spokeswoman was misdirecting The Herald, other district officials were deciding what to do
\ next.

On Friday, Lynn Evans, the district's human resources director, sent a memo to district Superintendent Gary Cohn.
In light of The Herald's questions. she wrote , an attorney for the district advised her to report the anonymous
letter-writer to Everett police. The district's internal investigation, she wrote, already had concluded that prior
anonymous misconduct accusations against the principal were "completely unfounded ."

100
Attorney Duncan Fobes "will work with us to develop responses should any media inquire further," the memo said.

Friday night, Cohn sent the five-member school board an e-mail telling it about the internal investigation into the
principal. He also said he hoped board members would remain silent about the investigation because he believed
it had become part of an "open police investigation."

Over the weekend, the e-mails from Evans and Cohn came to light, showing that district officials hid the truth .

There also is no police investigation, as school district officials were claiming Monday afternoon .

"We've been a recipient of the information, but we're not launching an investigation," Everett spokeswoman Kate
Reardon said.

The district later said police weren't contacted in an official capacity.

"Somebody could have made a call from one chief of something to another, but I was told today that there's no
paperwork that's been filed," Waggoner said. "But we will be working with the police."

The district wants police to treat the anonymous allegations as harassment and defamation against the public
employee. The district will consider all "appropriate legal or disciplinary action" against the person, if found ,
according to a press release attributed to Waggoner.

"It appears that someone is now perpetuating false rumors out of spite or malice, and common decency demands
that this should not be tolerated," Cohn said.

School Board President Ed Petersen was briefed about the district's investigation, Cohn said.

-SchoOl Board member Jessica Olson said the district shouldn't be hiding information from taxpayers in the 18.400-
student district. She said she wasn't previously told about the investigation of the principal and couldn't get a
straight answer as to whom on the board was in the loop.

"If it turns out the superintendent intentionally tried to conceal this from the board, I do.think he should resign," she
.said.

She wondered if the investigation ever would have been shared had it not been for questions from The Herald.

"It makes me wonder what other types of litigation the board doesn't know about" Olson said .

Other board members declined to comment.

Board Vice President Kristie Dutton referred questions to Petersen .

Asked when she found out about the investigation, Dutton said "I don't see how that's relevant."

Board member Jeff Russell said he believed all board members found out about the investigation at the same
time. He declined to comment further.

The district's investigation was conducted by the Seattle law firm Patterson Buchanan Fobes Leitch and Kalzer.

The district has a history of conducting secret investigations of staff and lying about it. .

The Seattle law firm also was at the center of an investigation about three years ago into Kay Powers, a

2of3
journalism teacher at Cascade High School. Powers was suspended. fired and then reinstated after an
underground student newspaper was published using district equipment.

At that time , union leaders asked whether a camera had been used to spy on Powers and students in her
classroom . They had reason to believe one had been installed in the ceiling .

District officials denied the truth .

After records surfaced showing the district hired a video company to install the camera, district officials admitted
that. indeed, they were using a spy camera on the teacher. No surveillance pictures or video were ever released;
district officials maintain that those records were lost.

That investigation eventually cost taxpayers more than $200,000. The law firm's share was at least $17,000.

This also is not the first time school district administrators have asked Everett police to investigate communication
they received. The former superintendent, Carol Whitehead, claimed she'd received SA e A'lail death threat in the
mail, which Everett police investigated. Contents of the threatening letter were never made public.

Andy Rathbun : 425-339-3455; arathbun@heraldnet.com.

© 2011 The Daily Herald Co., Everett, WA

30r3
lleralclNet
Everett, Washington
2
Published: Wednesday, September 15,2010

Everett district gives rationale for secrecy


School officials cite privacy for actions following
investigation
By Andy Rathbun, Herald Writer
EVERETI - The Everett School Board at a hastily scheduled meet ing Tuesday night discussed the school
district's handling of an investigation into one of its principals.

The accusations against the principal were found to be baseless and unfounded, Superintendent Gary Cohn told
the board.

An attorney conducted an investigation this summer after the district received anonymous letters accusing the
principal of misconduct. The investigation ended in July, Cohn said .

Board member Jessica Olson criticized district officials for not letting most of the board know about the
investigation. Olson is a frequent critic of the school district, saying it needs to be run with more transparency in ;,)r:
h P. intp.rp.!':.t!':. nf t:lvn:lvl:>rc: :In'; \/nt<>rc:
t ne In eres s a axpayers ana vo ers. k~~l
"We're talking about when we get the information," Olson said. "We don't get it. that's the issue ."
I··· i~
;):'~r

Information being withheld from elected board ~emberso .she said. "becomes not a matter of an individual incident~Ii.'
but more of a pattern. and more of an overall philosophy. ;;J.
Board President Ed Petersen said he was briefed after the investigation was concluded and did not feel the matter
was something that needed to be shared with the entire board.

"That's what I did," he said. "I did it partly because I think an allegation takes on a life of its own once it gets out."

Olson was alone in her criticism. The rest of the five-member board said they supported the decision to limit who
knew about the investigation to Cohn and a few other district administrators.

"I trust the result of the investigation. I don't feel I need to see it." board member Carol Andrews said.

Most school board members learned of the district's investigation last week after Cohn sent an e-mail saying the
district had received a call from The Herald asking about it. The Herald received an anonymous letter last week
that said the district was investigating. When a reporter called with questions. district spokeswoman Mary
waggoner said there was no investigation.

The next day, however, Cohn told the school board that an investigation had happened. found nothing and was
being referred to police to investigate the letter-writer. The district also was working with an attorney to come up
with a media strategy to protect the principal's privacy.

lof2
On Tuesday, in an e-mail to district employees, Cohn stood by what waggoner told the reporter, saying she
answered a specific question regarding whether any administrators were currently being investigated.

But in the conversation last week, the reporter also read Waggoner the first line of the anonymous letter, which
named the principal. Cohn did not address that in his Tuesday e-mail.

Everett police and the Snohomish County Sheriffs Office both confirmed they have received complaints about
whomever wrote the letters. Everett is not investigating.

The Sheriffs Office took a complaint about someone being the subject of harassing communication and it will
probably be forwarded to a detective for review, spokeswoman Rebecca Hover said.

Olson and Jeff Russell were elected to the school board in 2009 by campaigning on plattorrns promising to bring
more openness to the 18,400-student district following a secret investigation of a teacher conducted by the
previous superintendent. That decision cost taxpayers more than $200,000 in legal fees and involved district
officials lying about installing a camera to spy on the teacher's classroom.

Andy Rathbun: 425-339-3455; arathbun@heraldnet.com.

e 2011 The Daily Herald Co., Everett, WA

20f2
HeraJcl1\Tet
Everett, Washington
3
Published: Monday, October 4, 2010

Secrecy hurts public trust, Everett school


officials acknowledge
By Andy Rathbun, Herald Writer
EVERETI - Everett school officials say they wish they had handled recent questions about the investigation of a
principal in a different way.

In the past, staff and elected board members weren't always forthright with the public, School Board President Ed
Petersen said . That's caused suspicions over trust and secrecy to linger to this day.

"We need to be open, in open communication with the public," Petersen said . "The processes that we go through
and the conversations we have need to be transparent, and we've been working this year to create processes and
structures to reinforce that."

Experts say it will take time . and sustained commitment. for district officials to restore credibility in the public's eye .

Trust in the district took center stage last month , after school officials fielded questions about an investigation into
a prim~ipElI:

The Herald received an anonymous accusation of misconduct against the principal.


.j
I When a reporter asked about it. district spokeswoman Mary Waggoner said there was no investigation under way .
She didn't tell the reporter that one had recently concluded, clearing the principal of any wrongdoing.

The accusation itself proved to be of little news value, since it was unfounded.

But, as the district's intemal e-mails quickly demonstrated, the way in which the School District had communicated
. with its board members and the press caused a stir.

Schoo/leaders said they followed the law, and their lawyers' advice, when responding to questions about the
completed internal investigation. The principal's privacy was their foremost concern.

Experts said that alone won't do. In part, that's because trust hinges on public perception, not legal opinions.

"The fact is that every agency says they're committed to openness and transparency and accountability. We've all
heard it a thousand times," said Toby Nixon, president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government. "The
fact is that most agencies try to scrape by with the bare minimum legal requirements:

Everett School Board member Jessica Olson was among the first to fault the district's response to questions about
the principal investigation. She won office in 2009, campaigning on open government issues, and is a vocal critic
of her fellow board members and Superintendent Gary Cohn .

10f4
f
,.,: ,ij, MI agree the allegations were
_, ' unsubstantiated ... but to me that's not the issue: Olson said.

':,1 Olson has broken ranks before with the five-member board, and Cohn, on open government issues.

Other board members say she is out of step, pushing transparency issues to the extreme.

'" think she perceives herself as fighting the good fight for open government, which is in fact a good fight, but it's
being fought without perspective," said board member Jeff Russell, who also won office in 2009 campaigning on
open govemment.

During the summer, Olson said it was wrong for the School Board to use an executive session - a meeting held
behind closed doors - to talk with Cohn about preliminary student scores on the new state tests .

Cohn and the other board members said going behind closed doors was justified because the student test scores
reflected on his performance. Cohn has been with the district just over one year.

In response to Olson's criticism, Cohn released the district's early test scores .

The board also decided to ask Tim Ford, the state attorney general's open-government ombudsman , to brief them
on executive session practices.

At a meeting two weeks ago, Ford told district officials that they may have not done anything illegal when they
discussed the test results behind closed doors, but suggested that going beyond legal requirements in favor of
openness may help establish public trust.

MWhere the concerns usually pop up is that there's a perception that decisions or votes are being made in an
@~@(;ytiv@ §@§§i9n;" Fgrg §Elid.

This summer's internal investigation of the principal appeared to be another attempt by top School District officials
to stifle information, Olson said.

The community, she said, must remember that only two years ago district officials lied about installing a
surveillance camera in a teacher's classroom.

That action was part of a struggle with the teachers union and others that eventually cost the district more than
$200,000 in legal fees , its superintendent and, some argue, its reputation in the community.

When Cohn came to the 18,700-student district in July 2009, the dust. and the drama, hadn't begun to settle.

Before Cohn was hired, the Everett School Board decided to not schedule a time for him to meet with the public.
While not required. that type of public meeting has become a traditional part of the hiring process in many school
districts.

That decision now is viewed by Olson and others as part of the district's decisions to again cut parents. voters and
taxpayers out of the public schools' business .

Cohn said his intention always is to release as much information as he can .

Personnel matters put him in a tight spot, where he must weigh an employee's rights to privacy with the public's
need to know, he said.

2of4
In this instance, legal advice about employee rights. and past tensions with the newspaper. led district officials to
field the reporter's questions about the investigation the way they did, Cohn and Petersen said ,

uGenerally the instant response should be, 'How can we give them that?' not, 'How can we protect that?' " Cohn
said. uWhenever we talk about personnel records. whenever we talk about student records. we always have to be
exceptionally careful."

Questions about the investigation should have been handled differently, Petersen said. (You can read a letter he
asked be printed in full with this story here.)

·We want to provide the relevant information we can provide, and be clear about what we can't: Petersen said.
uSomehow, that wasn't able to happen ."

Cohn agreed.

"The district has received some bad press around records," he said. "Unless there's a reason we can't I'm going
to give you everything I can."

Everett school officials still are feeling their way forward on how best to handle those candid, private conversations
with the board.

Olson recently asked that the board be briefed on future investigations into faculty that involve attorneys. The ' ,- ,i

board now is considering making that change . :.:·: 1

gililriel effiei~!li ~!lie ~r~ l!l¥aIU91ine hew the¥ h9nsiG ~UG§ti8n§ fram rG~8FtGr§ ; 9M tAG ~u8IiE , tR9t mieAt iA~81~G
sensitive information.

One tool that exists is the off-the-record conversation - a discussion between a journalist and a source that does
not see print. Those conversations often are used to address controversial information, said Loren Ghiglione, a
journalism professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, III.

"They can in effect tell you what happened, that there isn't a story there ," Ghiglione said. UAnd if you then check
out what they claim to be true and confirm it. then you perhaps don't publish the story."

While Olson said she still doubts the superintendent's commitment to open exchanges, Cohn has won supporters .

After questions about the district's response to the investigation were raised , the Everett Education Association -
the teachers union - sent the School Board a letter praising Cohn. Principals are not members of the 1,100
member union, which was harshly critical of Cohn's predecessor, Carol Whitehead.

UWe have been impressed with the commitment that Dr. Cohn has shown ... " union leaders wrote . "No matter the
size of the issue, members will receive a reply to any e-mail or verbal inquiry that is made."

The lingering nature of the surveillance camera scandal underscores a point.

Once a government's credibility has been damaged, the institution has to work twice as hard to restore itself in the
publtc eye, said Thomas Volgy, a professor in the School of Government and Public Policy at the University of
Arizona .

30f4
"It has to prove itself over and over again," said Volgy, a former mayor of Tucson, Ariz .

Cohn and Petersen said they are taking steps to make that happen .

Petersen, who was appointed to the board in 2006, took over as board president in December.

In the past year, the district has held several sessions to solicit public input on the direction of the district. They
established a Fiscal Advisory Committee made up of staff and people the district serves .

The district also began posting its full agendas online in September. And earlier this year, it launched a podcast,
letting people download audio recordings of school board meetings.

Many other public institutions have long posted meeting agendas online, but the law doesn 't require the School
District to do so, Nixon said.

"If they really are as committed as they say they are, then they will be going beyond the minimum legal
requirements ... " he said. "Posting their agendas online , that's an example of going beyond ."

Andy Rathbun : 425-339-3455: arathbun@heraldnet.com.

© 2011 The Daily Herald Co ., Everett, WA

40f4
Everett Public Schools
Special Meeting Minutes
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
4
1. Call to Order

1.01 Call to Order

The Board of Directors of Everett School District No.2, Snohomish County, Washington, held a special Board meeting
on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 5 p.m., in the Board Room of the Everett School District Educational Service
Center, 4730 Colby Avenue, Everett, Washington . Board members in attendance were Carol Andrews, Kristie Dutton,
Jessica Olson, Ed Petersen and Jeff Russell.

The purpose of the special meeting was to discuss board-superintendent communication, and to hold an executive
session to receive and evaluate complaints or charges against a public employee, review the performance of a public
employee, and discuss litigation or potential litigation with legal counsel representing the district.

President Petersen outlined the ground rules for today 's meeting, saying that this part of the meeting was to be held
in open session to discuss board-superintendent communication. It was not meant to be an interrogation, questions
were to be directed to the board president or the superintendent, and if the performance of the superintendent
became part of the discussion, then the meeting would need to recess Into executive session for the review of the
performance of an employee.

2. Roll Call

2.01 Roll Call

Board members in attendance were Carol Andrews, Knstie Dutton, Jessica Olson, Ed Petersen and Jeff Russell.

3. Executive/Closed Session

3.01 Executive Session

4. Information/Discussion

4.01 Board-Superintendent Communication

Superintendent Cohn reviewed the basic facts and sequence of events surrounding the investigation. He noted two
points during the course of the process he informed and updated President Petersen about the situation . He noted
the board president concurred that since this was an anonymous letter, the situation did not necessttats contacting
the other board members. Board members asked questions of the superintendent and Duncan Fobes, attorney with
Patterson, Buchanan, Fobes, Leitch & Kalzer, Inc., P.S., the firm assigned by the Washington Schools Risk
Management Pool to coordinate the investigation. Mr. Fobes was on hand via telephone .

Topics discussed dUring this open session were confidentiality and privacy of the employee; the board's expectations

10f2
of being kept Informed; communication with the superintendent and role of the board in a situation such as has
arisen. President Petersen referred to the board-superintendent operating protocol, in particular the portion referring
to notices: "The superintendent will let the board know as soon as possible of any major issue that may arise which
could be problematic for the district, and will share information with people anticipated to be affected in a timely
manner. The team is mutually committed to practicing a 'no surprises' policy. We consider a major issue to be one in
which student or staff safety, significant liability, or broad public concern could reasonably be attached."

F :' Four of the board members were in agreement with the steps taken to address the anonymous letters. Each
d' ;', indicated satisfaction with the response to the protocol and the professional handling of the investigation. President
11.' ,1 Petersen said an unfortunate byproduct of the fifth board member's opinion is that the principal decided needed
:j'~ i . to give up privacy by meeting with staff. He also noted he attended the staff meeting at the high school and
i' the entire staff gave the principal a resoundingly positive show of support.
(
j
,
Prindp W ~was in attendance at tonight'S board meeting. In response to Director Olson's remark that
she hoped ad not been strong-armed into revealing identity and details of the complaint and had
done so of own volition, asked Director Olson if she was asking whether had in fact been
strong-armed, to which Director Olson replied she wasn't asking, she was just saying she hoped was not. Mr.
Petersen then asked if Wished to address the board, to which responded would.
~ walked to the podium to address the board . spoke to the impact on professional and personal life
now that the situation has risen to the level of media attention. It has been humiliating and self-destructive. has
been defamed and professionally crucified, and responded to Director Olson that at no time was strong-armed
into notifying staff and giving permission for having identity and details of the allegations to be released In a
press release by the District.

5. Adjourn

5.01 Adjourn

At 5:55 p.m., President Petersen adjourned the special meeting.

20f2
~ 5
[VPfPU Public Schools

Board-Superintendent Operating Protocol

INTRODUCTION
Successful organizations are the result of effective and dynamic leadership. To assure a quality
operation, leaders must agree on basic ways of working together. Operating principles define the
beliefs, values, and methods of working together. Through this protocol we are memorializing
our principles and traditions and emphasizing the importance of clearly communicating our
commitment to continuing them.
The manner in which the Board and Superintendent conduct their business becomes a model
throughout the District for students, teachers, parents, and staff on how problems are solved.
The principles we set forth here outline a philosophy of cooperative, collaborative, and
consultative behavior that is agreed upon by the Board and Superintendent in Everett Public
Schools. A~ members of the leadership learn, we are committed to upholding these principles.

PURPOSE
Students' interests come first. After their safety, we value above all else their achievement. The
Board will represent the needs and interests of each child in Everett Public Schools as its primary
responsibility.

COMMUNICATIONS: LISTENING, COOPERATION AND SUPPORT


Open communication requires trust, respect and a fundamental belief in goodwill among board
members and the superintendent.

Listening expresses our concern for others by showing an interest in not only the information but
the other person. Active listening benefits each party and is a key to effective communication.
We should take sufficient time to swnmarize and paraphrase what we have heard.

A healthy climate for communication requires trust, respect and a fundamental belief in the
goodwill among team members. Messages are open, honest, and tactful. We work to minimize
misunderstanding and reduce conflict. We strive for mutual understanding and support.

As a leadership team, we make the following commitments to minimize misunderstandings and


reduce conflict by:
• Supporting each other constructively and courteously.
• Maintaining confidentiality.
• Focusing our discussions on issues, not personalities, keeping the tone and demeanor of
discussions professional by avoiding defensiveness and personalized anger.
• Encouraging constructive disagreement.
• Upholding the integrity of every individual.
• Pursuing thorough understanding.
• Expressing our opinions and positions on issues honestly and openly while being sensitive to
others' opinions , demonstrating that we have recognized the other's point of view .
• Respecting the limited resource of staff time in making individual and whole-board requests
for information , and committing that responses to individual requests for information will be
shared with all board members.
The board will give direction to the superintendent only as a total board through adopted policies
or action taken at a board meeting.
If a board member is acting outside his/her defined role, the board president or other board
member(s) will talk with the individual board member regarding the problem.
The board will give the superintendent feedback on his performance on a regular basis . An
executive session to discuss superintendent performance may be requested by either the board or
the superintendent.
t7it~i The superintendent will let the board know as soon as possible of any major issue that may arise r
I~' which could be problematic for the district, and will share information with people anticipated to]
~ be affected in a timely manner. The team is mutually committed to practicing a "no surprises" :
\~~~ policy . We c~nsider a major issue to be one in which student or staff safety, significant liability;
;.~i~ or broad public concern could reasonably be attached .

The board president will be the official spokesperson for the board . The superintendent will be
the official spokesperson for areas of district operation.

Communication between district staff and the board is encouraged.


Board members should call the school principal or stop in the office prior to visiting classes or
the campus.

•JUDGMENT AND TRUST


The complexities of operating a school district cannot be fully addressed in policies, procedures
or operating principles. Working with people and handling difficult and controversial issues on a
daily basis requires good judgment, common sense and a strong trust relationship between the
board and the superintendent. Every complaint cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of all
parties involved; every issue or concern will not be foreseen. For these reasons trust in each
other, allowance for error, and team efforts to address problems through open and transparent
discussion of all directors' and the superintendent's perspectives are a key part of an effective
school district operation. We will approach these situations with the belief the other person is
working in good faith with good expectations.

DECISION MAKING
The identification and evaluation of alternatives, an awareness of short- and long-term
consequences, an appreciation for the needs of the group, as well as individuals, and sensitivity
toward collective action are essential to the decision-making process.

Board·Superintendent Operating Prolocol 2


UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Dear Mr. and Mrs.


This is in response to your letter dated February 11, 1998, in
which you allege that Bloomfield Public Schools (District) has
violated your rights under the Family Educational Rights and
P~ivacy Act (FERPA). Specifically, you allege a violation
occurred when the District, in response to a request from
a member of the Bloomfield Board of
Education , disclosed information from your daughter's education
records to members of the school board. This Office administers
FERPA which addresses issues related to education records.

FERPA is a Federal law which affords parents the right to have


access to their chilarenls education recoras, tEe rig&t to see~
to have the records amended, and the right to have some control
over the disclosure of information from the records. The ter.m
"education records" is broadly defined as:

[~]hose records, files, documents, and other materials,


which {il contain information directly related to a student;
and (ii) are maintained by an educational agency or
institution or by a person acting for such agency or
institution.

20 U.S.C. s l232g(al (4) See also 34 CFR § 99.3 "Education


records. II FERPA does not protect the confidentiality of
information in general and therefore, does not apply to the
disclosure of information derived from a source other than
education records, or information that is not memorialized in an
education record. Rather, FERPA prohibits the improper
disclosure of information derived from education records.
Enclosed is a fact sheet on FERPA.

FERPA generally provides that an educational agency or


institution may disclose a student's education records or
personally identifiable information from education records,
to third parties only after the parent has provided written
consent, except in limited circumstances specified by statute.
One exception permits ~on-co~sensual disclosure if the disclosure
- - - - _. _ - ~
· ..
.-

,' , .'
Page 2 - Mr. and Mrs
·';'if~0{;:~· :; ;' 5 ..
is to school officials, including members of a board of
education, within the educational agency or institution , whom the
agency or institution has determined to have a 'l e g i t imat e
educational interest. Generally, i f a'school ~fficial~is
performing an official task for the institution which requires
access to information in student education records, such access
is permitted under FERPA. ' . - .,-.,, ~': ' ,
;.;: ' .. . . .
This Office investigates those timel.y,,complaints containing
specific allegations of fact giving reasonable cause to believe
that a violation of FERPA has occurred. ' A complaint is timely if
it is submitted to this Office within ~80 days of the date a
viola~ion of FERPA allegedly occurred or of the date the
complainant knew or reasonably should have known that a violation
occurred. From the information provided, it appears that the
alleged release of information was to school officials who would
reasonably be expected to have a legit±mate educational interest
in accessing the information. Accordingly, no basis exists on
wr-ich to further consider this allegation.

I crust that the above adequately explains the scope and


limitations of FERPA as it pertains to your concern.

Sincerely,

LeRoy S. Rooker
Director
Family Policy Compliance Office

E:1closure

cc: Congressman Bill Pascrell


Cohn, Gary

From:
- - - _ ._---- -
Cohn, Gary
- ----- -
7
Sent: Thursday, October 21, 2010 11:05 AM
To: Petersen, Edwin
Cc: 'Hughes, Valerie (Perkins Coie)'
Subject: RE: Confidential Student Records
Attachments: Vanderwilt Email (Olson) 20101012.pdf; Goins Statement (2) .pdf
; i d, Val Hughes shared with me the email series below related to the "OSP) Complaint No. 10-08"
director request on which we have been working. It appears from this information that the individually
identifiable student records Jessica Olson removed from a district file will not be returned . Jessica is
raising questions about directors' access to student records. Val is not planning any further
communication with Jessica on this matter at this time. ) am forwarding this note to let you know that I
. believe the status is unresolved, and that the subject of individual director access to student and staff
records that are not public records should be addressed at least in our Board-Superintendent Operating
Protocol. You will find attached pdf copies of the staff accounts of their experience with Jessica last week
at which time the individually identifiable student records were removed from the superintendent's
. custody.

Dr. Gary Cohn


Superintendent

- - - - - - -- - - - -- -- --_ .. --- - - - - --- - - _.


From: Jessica Olson [mailto:jessicaeverettschoolboard@gmail.com]
sent: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 11:47 AM
To: Hughes, Valerie (Perkins Coie)
Cc: Ed Petersen
Subject: Re: Confidential Student Records

Valerie --

Are you aware that the superintendent told the board that the records regarding this complaint
being held in his office for directors' inspection were copies, and that afterwards he was sending
these copies back to be destroyed? Thus, I am in possession of a copy -- not the original -- of the
OSPI complaint acknowledgment letter, which means the original complaint file remains intact
within the district. [I don't think this fact was addressed during our phone conversation when I
told you 1 could return the document once finished with it if it was necessary for me to do so.]

As you mayor may not know, the FPCO (Family Policy Compliance Office -- the federal entity
responsible for enforcing FERPA) ruled long ago that no violation ofFERPA will be construed
by the release of student identification information to school board members, as it is presumed
that school board members are among those school personnel that are deemed to
have "legitimate educational interest" in records containing personally identifiable student
information (absent, of course, obvious information indicating the contrary, the same standard to
which other school personnel are held). Furthermore, this OSPI complaint letter is really no
different than viewing a contract, voucher or field trip form containing student information as
far as access to student privacy information under FERPA is concerned. And the entire board
has certainly received that type of information for its review --and possession in the past.
u

So being that 1 am in possession of a COpy of an unredacted document a school director is fully


entitled to see, and being that the district continues to possess all the original documents
belonging to the student file of the student in question, I think we can all rest easy that the
district is in compliance with its obligations under federal and state law regarding confidentiality and
privacy rights of students and their families. [As an aside, I would like to note that you and I also
discussed that it would be the improper release of student info which could potentially cause a problem
with FERPA and the FPeO -- not just the mere possession of a document by a school director. much
less a copy of the original document -- which is what I have.] .

I also want to point out that Debbie was perfectly willing to let me have this document, it is just that she
expressed a desire to redact the document first. Since I know the law does not prohibit school directors
from viewing and/or possessing copies of any unredacted documents held by the school district they
were elected to govern for use in the exercise of their duties as public officials, I told Debbie that I
preferred my copy to remain unredacted.

But Valerie, if you were to tell me the district made a mistake, and that instead ofa copy (as the
superintendent had indicated), the board was actually presented with the original documents to inspect?
Meaning my "copy" is actually an original -- that would be a different matter entirely. I would of course
return that document to the district office right away (after making a copy, of course) if the
superintendent has made a mistake.

f~~ Please let me know if the document 1 have is an original; it sure looks like a copy to me, but stranger
1j.~·,'~ things have happened. Perhaps you could ask the superintendent to double check if what he told the
iff';'! board regarding the copy of this file was the correct information. .

~.-,(f:'.{~·.,·
~
Please also give me any other legal advice you have that is contrary to my understanding of FERPA , as
1just outlined to you above. I always want to make certain that we school directors are in compliance
'~' li with the law, and therefore welcome any additional information that may enhance that understanding.
t'i ~
~~~ Let me know soon, as the meeting is just a few hours away . Thanks.

Jessica Olson
Everett Public Schools
Board of Directors, Position #4
(425) 772-0437

On Oct 18,2010, at 4:24 PM, Hughes, Valerie (Perkins Coie) wrote:

Dear Mrs. Olson,

We spoke last Wednesday about the confidential student records you removed
from the District office on Tuesday, October 12. You said that you would return
them to the District office once you had the opportunity to review them.

As you know, the records you took are unredacted and contain personally
identifiable information about a special education student, including parent name,
student name, and the school the student attends. You were provided by email
later on Wednesday with a complete copy of the same records you took , but in
redacted form. You should now be able to return the unredacted records as you
have the redacted records to review.

Given that there is a school board meeting tomorrow, we ask that you please
return the unredacted records to the District office when you attend that meeting.
This will ensure that the District is in compliance with its obligations under federal
and state law and District policy to maintain the confidentiality of student records
and the privacy rights of students and their families .

Thank you,

Valerie

Valerie L. Hughes I Perkins Coie LLP


1201 Third Avenue. Suite 4800
Seattle, WA 98101-3099
PHONE : 206 .359.8840
FAX: 206.359.9000
E-MAIL: vhugheS@oerkinscoie .com

_ _ _ __ _ • .n __ • •• • __ u _ _ •• _.

IRS CIRCULAR 230 DISCLOSURE : To ensure compliance with Treasury Depanment and IRS regulations. we inform you mat.
unless expressly indicated otherw ise . any federal tax advice contained in this commun ication (including any attachments) is not
inlended or wrillen by Perkins Coie LLP to be used. and cannot be used by the taxpayer, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penallies
that may be imposed on Ihe taxpayer under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting. marketing or recommending to another
~arty ~nr t~n~~~i?n or 1Tl~!~~r ~~~r~~~~~ ~~r~~11 !~~ ~~~y ~!!~?1~~~!~l :

NOTICE: This communication may contain privileged or other confidential information. If you have rece ived it in error . please advise
the sender by reply email and Immediately delete the message and any auacnrnems without copying or disclosing the contents .
Thank you.
8
.. L t, · ('.
., Ttl) Ill! I'·YlI III L" '10'

MEMORANDUM

DATE: August 15,2001

TO: All Cities

FROM: PhilOlbrechts

RE: Applicability of the Washington State Open Public Meetings Act to E-mail
Exchanges

SUMMARY

E-mail e~~~~g~~ Q~tw~~n gity pQligy milkern can ocnstuure II violation of the WMhingtolJ State
Open Public Meetings Act ("OPMA"), Chapter 42.30 RCW. The OPMA requires the meetings
of all governing bodies' to be open to the public with prior notice. The Washington State Court
of Appeals, Division II, ruled on July 27, 2001 that e-mail exchanges between members of a
governing body can constitute a meeting. See Wood v. Battle Ground School District, Cause
No. 25332-1-II (2001). Generally, if a majority of the members participate in an e-mail
discussion of governing body business, the members are conducting a meeting in violation of the
OPMA. Page 7 of this memo lists suggestions on how to avoid OPMA problems with e-mail
exchanges. The rest of this memo explains the rationale for these suggestions.

DISCUSSION

An increasingly common practice for city council members and other appointed and elected
officials is to discuss city issues bye-mail. In a predictable decision, the Washington State Court
of Appeals ruled in Wood that e-mail exchanges between members of a governing body can
constitute a meeting This memo discusses the holding in Wood and its applicability to
communications between government officials.

I The issue of what qualifies as a "governingbody" has been laboriously analyzed in prior court and attorneygeneral
opinions. A "governingbody"generallyincludesany council, committeeor boardcreatedby a legislative act, such
as an ordinance or resolution, that possessessome aspectof policy or ruJemalcing authority. AGO 1971 No. 33, at 9.
City councils, planningcommissions, boardsof adjustment, boardsof appealsand civil servicecommissions are all
considered "governingbodies"that mustconduct open meetings.
Established 1902
A Memberoflhe International LawyersNetworkwith independent memberlawfinns worldwide

1601 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2100 • Seattle, WA 98101-1686 • 206.447.7000 • Fax: 206.447.02IS • Web: www.omwlaw.com
All Cities
August 15,2001
Page 2

The Wood holding was predictable in light of the strong purpose clause of the OPMA, which
provides:

The legislature finds and declares that all public comnnssions, boards, councils,
committees, subcommittees, departments, divisions, offices and all other public agencies
of this state and subdivisions thereof exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business.
It is the intent of this chapter that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations
be conducted openly.

The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them.
The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide
what is good for them to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist
on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have
created.

RCW 42.30.0 IO.

Washington courts have recognized that this purpose clause "employs some of the strongest
language used in any legislation." Equitable Shipyards. Inc. v. State, 93 Wn.2d 465,482 (1980).
RCW 42.30.910 adds further punch to this purpose clause, requiring that the purposes of the
OPMA shall be liberally construed. Due to the strength of this purpose clause, a court will find
that the OPMA applies to a communication if a reasonable interpretation supports such an
application. For e-mail exchanges, there is certainly room for disagreement on whether a
meeting subject to the OPMA has occurred. In such exchanges, people are not meeting face-to-
face; they often aren't even communicating contemporaneously. As shall be discussed, due in
part to the strength of the purpose clause, the Wood court held that e-mail exchanges can
constitute OPMA meetings despite these distinguishing features.

The driver of the OPMA that implements the purpose clause and governs all city meetings is
RCW 42.30.030:

All meetings of the governing body of a public agency shall be open and public and all
persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of the governing body of a public
agency, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.

In applying RCW 42.30.030 to e-mail exchanges, the central issue is whether an e-mail exchange
qualifies as a "meeting" of the governing body. RCW 42.30.020(4) defines a "meeting" as "a
meeting at which action is taken." In order for an e-mail exchange to qualify as an OPMA
meeting. therefore, the exchange must qualify as both a meeting and contain action.
All Cities
August 15,2001
Page 3

The OPMA, via RCW 42.30.020(3), defines "action" as follows:

the transaction of the official business of a public agency by a public body including, but
not limited to receipt of public testimony, deliberations, discussions, considerations,
reviews, evaluations and rmal actions.

(emphasis added).

Given the OPMA's strong purpose clause, city officials should consider any discussion or
deliberation of city business as constituting "action." The Wood decision recognizes one
important qualification to this rule: a majority of governing body members must participate in
the discussion to constitute action.' The basis of this requirement is that a governing body cannot
officially transact business without a majority of its members. See,~, RCW 35A.12.120
(requiring a majority of council members to transact official business).

In the e-mail context, the majority requirement means that a majority of the members of the
governing body must participate in an e-mail exchange in order to "act:' Members are free to
exchange e-mails with other members so long as the total participants on the discussion topic
don't meet or exceed a majority. To qualify as a participant in an e-mail 'exchange, it may be
sufficient to simply receive an e-mail copy. As discussed in the Wood case below, the fact that
e-mail participants do not meet face to face should not make a difference from an OPMA
meeting perspective. In open meetings, no one would contend that governing body members
have to say something in order to count towards the majority requirement - a quorum that has
the authority to do business exists regardless of whether any of the members utter a word. The
same rationale could apply to a member who receives an e-mail copy but does not respond.
Emphasis is upon "could" because the Wood case applied in a situation where a majority of
school hoard members sent e-mails to each other. The Wood case did not identify whether a
meeting would have occurred if less than a majority sent e-mails, but all members received
copies of the e-mail. Also, note that it may not help to send an e-mail to less than a majority, but
then relay the basic content of that exchange to other members through subsequent e-mail
exchanges.' See Wood, citing Stockton Newspapers. Inc. v. Members of The Redevelopment
Agency, 214 Cal. Rptr. 561, 565-55 (1985) (series of telephone calls between individual

2 Although not recognized in the YlQQ!l decision, committees of governing bodiesconstituting less than a quorum
can conduct"action" if the committee acts on behalfof the governing body, conducts hearings or takes testimony or
publiccomment See RCW42.30.020(2). A committee acts on behalfof a governing bodywhenit exercises actual
or de facto decision making authority. AGO 1986No. 16. at 12. These situations will rarely occur in the contextof
e-mailexchanges, exceptperhaps city councilcommittees with decision makingauthority.

3 For example, if one councilmembersends an e-mailto two othermembers of a sevenmembercouncil and some
responses occur,no OPMAviolationhas occurred. However, if one of the recipients then sendsan e-mail to a
memberwhohasn't yet received an email in order to discuss the original exchange, the discussion at that point
involvesa majority in probable violation of the OPMA.
All Cities
August 15, 2001
Page 4

members and attorney to develop collective commitment or promise on public business violated
California version of OPMA).

As identified previously, an OPMA "meeting" is a meeting at which action is taken and e-mail
discussions of city business can constitute action. The remaining issue is whether an e-mail
exchange constitutes a meeting as used in the OPMA meeting definition, despite the fact that the
governing body members participate in the exchange at different times and locations. This is
precisely the issue addressed in the Wood case. The governing body in the Wood case was a
five-member school board. The school board members used e-mails to discuss the termination
of the school superintendent. At various dates a board member sent e-mails to all or a majority
of the other board members. Two other board members also responded to the e-mails and copied
their e-mails to all or a majority of the other board members. A school district employee filed
suit against the school board in part because of the e-mails. The trial court ruled that the e-mails
constituted a meeting in violation of the OPMA. The Court of Appeals ruled that e-mail
exchanges can constitute OPMA meetings and also ruled that the school district employee had
established a prima facie" case that the e-mails constituted an OPMA meeting. The Court of
Appeals remanded the meeting issue to the trial court to resolve some outstanding factual issues.

Although the Wood court did not definitively address the actions of the school board, its
reasoning unquestionably establishes that many types of e-mail exchanges by elected and
appointed officials constitute meetings prohibited by the OPMA. The court explicitly found that
"a definition of 'meeting' that would require the physical presence of members in the same
location would contravene the OPMA's clear purpose." It went on to hold as follows:

...in light of the OPMA's broad definition of 'meeting' and its broad purpose, and
considering the mandate to liberally construe this statute in favor of coverage, we
conclude that the exchange of e-rnails can constitute a meeting. In doing so, we also
recognize the need for balance between the right of the public to have its business
conducted in the open and the need for members of governing bodies to obtain
information and conununicate in order to function effectively. Thus, we emphasize that
the mere use or passive receipt of e-mail does not automatically constitute a meeting.

The Wood court did not differentiate between the passive and active receipt of e-mail. However,
given the "deliberation" and "discussion" components of the OPMA "action" definition, the
distinctions are somewhat identifiable. "Active" e-mail use most likely involves an exchange of
viewpoints and ideas between governing body members, the type of interaction that fits under
the common meanings of discussion and deliberation. Any e-mail communications regarding
governing body business that involve an exchange between two or more governing body

4A primafacie case essentially means that the plaintiffs established a rebuttable presumption that they havesatisfied
the elementsof their case.
All Cities
August 15,2001
PageS

members may qualify as an OPMA meeting if a majority of the members participate in the
exchange. Passive use would be a one-side (no response anticipated) exchange, such as the e-
mailing of a report by staff to all governing body members.

When a governing body member sends the one-sided e-mail, the distinction between passive and
active use is not as clear. Under at least some circumstances, a one-sided e-mail could be
construed as part of an ongoing discussion. For example, a city council member may forward
some transit information she acquired at an Awe conference. If the council is currently
debating a transit issue, and the council member sends the e-mail in order to support her position,
the potential exists for an OPMA meeting. Wood clarifies this issue somewhat by providing that
to qualify as an OPMA meeting, the e-mail participants must collectively intend to transact the
governing body's official business. Litigants would have a difficult time proving that governing
body members have the collective intent to hold a meeting if the members only receive an
unsolicited, one-sided e-mail. However, if the members have a history of sending out one-sided
e-mailsto advocate a point of view in on-going policy discussions, a litigant could argue that the
members collectively intend to use the one-sided e-mails to transact business as a matter of
practice.

It is difficult at this point to predict how a court would rule on one-sided e-mails sent by
governing body members that address on-going business. A court has specifically held that
independent and individual examination of documents by governing body members prior to a
meeting does not violate the OPMA. Equitable Shipyards. Inc. v. State, 93 Wn.2d 465, 482
(1980). In this regard, staff regularly provide information to governing body members prior to a
meeting, and no conceivable reason exists why staff could not supply this information bye-mail.
If governing body members cannot also provide this type of information prior to meetings, they
could arguably circumvent this restriction by asking staff to provide the information for them.
Under these types of situations, restrictions on one-sided e-mails can easily degenerate into an
absurd exercise in hair-splitting. If Wood's recognition of the need for e-mail for effective
government is to have any significance; the courts should accept one-sided e-mails as a
legitimate form of governing body communication. If a one-sided e-mail becomes relevant to an
open governing body discussion, the governing body should publicly announce the existence of
the e-mail. This added disclosure for the limited purpose of one-sided e-mails should satisfy the
OPMA policies regarding open deliberation.S

In the two-sided e-mail exchange, Wood also leaves a few issues unresolved, All important issue
concerns timing - does the length of time between e-mail exchanges have any significance? In

S Somegoverning body members have inquired whether a subsequent disclosure of e-mailexchanges would "fix" an
e-mailmeeting held in violation of the OPMA. RCW42.30.030 requires meetings to be open to the public,i.e. the
publicbas the right to attend meetings while theyoccur. The OPMA also bas severalnoticerequirements for
meetings, so that the publiccan attend the meetings whiletheyoccur. Tapinga face to face meeting and makingthe
tape available to the publicwouldnot "fix" a closedmeeting. Similarly, copies of e-mailswouldalso probably not
"fix" an invalid e-mail exchange.
All Cities
August 15,2001
Page 6

Wood. several hours, and sometimes days, lapsed between e-mail exchanges. The Wood court
did not address these delays in response times. It is unclear whether lengthier delays could make
any difference under the OPMA.

A final point relevant to the e-mail issue is to clarify what types of discussions and deliberations
pertain to the business of the governing body. The Wood opinion touched on this issue by
noting that, for e-mail exchanges to constitute an OPMA meeting, the exchanges must address
issues "that mayor will come before the Board for a vote" (emphasis added). RCW 42.30.070
expressly allows the members of a governing body to gather or travel together for purposes other
than a regular or special meeting provided that the members do not engage in any action. When
sending an e-mail to all governing body members, therefore, a member should ask him or herself
whether the issue at hand could potentially come under the body's authority at some later date .
Scheduling parties, complaining about the weather, and discussing Mariner batting averages, for
instance, normally would not constitute OPMA meetings for city councils. Members should
refrain from e-mailing a majority of other members on any subject that may someday come to a
vote, unless the e-mail is merely passing along information. In considering what may come to a
vote, members should remember that they often have the authority to reconsider matters
previouslY voted upon, ana t6at, for cities especially, matters of non-iocai significance can
become the subject of a resolution or proclamation.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Emails present new issues regarding OPMA compliance. The Wood case provides some clarity
on the subject, but officials are cautioned that its facts are very limited. Wood essentially found
a prima facie case of an OPMA meeting under the following facts:

1. A majority of school board members sent e-mails to each other on a single topic
over a relatively short period of time (six days); and
2. The participating members apparently intended to vote on the subject of the e-
mails.

The general guidelines that Wood established and the strong pwpose of the OPMA strongly
suggest that the courts may find OPMA meetings in a much broader range of e-mail exchanges.
However, until the appellate courts provide more guidance, the exact applicability of the CPMA
to e-mail exchanges remains speculative. The suggestions below, distilled from the analysis of
this memo, present a conservative response to the Wood decision:
All Cities
August 15, 200 I
Page 7

• When possible, limit e-mail exchanges on issues related to city business to less than a
majority of governing body members. This is the safest and easiest way to avoid an OPMA
challenge. Note that, if a committee of a governing body has actual or de facto decision
making authority, its e-mail exchanges can violate the OPMA even though the committee
membership constitutes less than a majority of the governing body. Sending copies of an e-
mail to less than a majority may not suffice if subsequent exchanges relay the content of the
original exchange to a majority of members.
• Never decide at an open meeting that a majority of the governing body win continue or
complete discussion of an agenda item bye-mail.
One-sided (no response anticipated) informational e-mails to a majority or more of
governing body members are probably consistent with the OPMA. In open meetings, the
governing body members should verbally announce that they have sent this type of e-mail if
it relates to the discussion at hand. Governing body members are free to engage in e-mail
exchanges with staff on one-sided e-mails, but not with each other.
E-mail exchanges on issues that the governing body will not address are consistent with the I

OPMA. However, if any reasonable chance exists that an issue relates to a vote that mayor
will come before the governing body, a majority of the governing body should not subject the
issue to e-mail discussion.

City officials are encouraged to explore a less restrictive course of action with their city attorneys
if the recommended measures prove impractical.
Everett Public Schools
Regular Meeting Minutes
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
9
1. Call to Order

1.01 Call to Order

The Everett Public Schools Board of Directors, Snohomish County, Washington, held a regular board meeting on
Tuesday, November 2,2010, beginning at 4:30 p.m . in the board room of the Educational Service Center, 4730
Colby Avenue, Everett, Washington. President Petersen called the meeting to order at 4:30 p.m.

2. Roll Call

2.01 Roll Call

Carol Andrews, Krlstie Dutton, Jessica Olson, Ed Petersen and Jeff Russell were present.

3. Adoption of Agenda

3.01 Adoption of Agenda

President Petersen reviewed the newly adopted consent agenda policy. If there Is a consent agenda question, board
members are asked to make a request to pUll an agenda item. The protocol would be to cover this during adoption of
agenda by making a request with a brief statement of explanation. This requires the concurrence of a second board
member to revise that part of the agenda. Unless there Is concurrence of a second there will be no discussion.

Superintendent Cohn clarified minor adjustments to the agenda and noted that item for 11.01, Polley 1715, Board-
Superintendent Operating Protocol, the estimated time was changed to slxty minutes.

Director Olson proposed two additions to the agenda: discussion on how minutes are kept and a discussion of the
district's ability to respond to public records request involVing blind copy recipients of emails. President Petersen
said discussion about minutes would be an information/discussion item, and added Item "9.01 Meeting Minutes
Preparation" to the agenda.

President Petersen added "10.02 Director Access to Attorney Invoices" to the agenda.

Motion : That the board of directors approve the agenda as revised.

Motion by Kristle Dutton, second by Carol Andrews.


Final Resolution: Motion Carries
Yes: Carol Andrews, Kristle Dutton, Jessica Olson, Ed Petersen, Jeff Russell

4. Consent Agenda

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4.01 Approval of Consent Agenda

Motion: That the board of directors approve the Consent Agenda as presented.
Motion by Jeff Russell, second by Kristie Dutton .
Final Resolution: Motion Carries
Yes: Carol Andrews, Krist ie Dutton, Jessica Olson, Ed Petersen, Jeff Russell

4.02 Approval of Minutes of the October 19, 2010 Regular Meeting

Motion: That the board of directors approve the minutes of the October 19, 2010 regular meeting as presented.

4.03 Approval of Minutes of the October 22-23, 2010 Special Meeting


Motion : That the board of directors approve the minutes of the October 22-23, 2010 special meeting as presented.

4.04 Approval of the Personnel Report

Motion: That the board of directors approve the personnel report for November 2, 2010. (E:S3/11)

4.05 Approval of Vouchers

Motion: That the board of directors approval the following vouchers (E:S4/11):
GENERAL FUND VOUCHER REGISTER: Warrant #226517-226685 Total = $842,544 .87
GENERAL FUND VOUCHER REGISTER: Warrant #226746-226923 Total = S458,322.49
CAPITAL PROJECTS FUND VOUCHER REGISTER: Warrant #226497-226516 Total = $1,218,878 .79
ASB FUND VOUCHER REGISTER: Warrant # 2 26459 - 226496 Total =
534,344.79
ASB FUND VOUCHER REGISTER: Warrant #226686 -226745 Total = 591,371. 72
TRUST AND AGENCY FUND VOUCHER REGISTER: Warrant #226454-226458 Total = $657.56

4.06 Approval of Value Engineering Study for View Ridge Elementary School Replacement Project

Motion: That the board of directors approve the value engineering study for View Ridge Elementary School
replacement project. (E:SS/ll)

4.07 Approval of United Way of Snohomish County Site Memorandum of Understanding for 2011

Motion: That the board of directors approve the Site Memorandum of Understanding between Everett Public Schools
and United Way of Snohomish County for 2011. (E:56/11)

5. Recognitions

5.01 Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame Inductee Jo Metzger-Levin

Executive Director of K-12 Education, Area 1 Jim McNally introduced Director of Athletics, Health/Fitness &. ActiVities
Robert Polk. Mr. Polk shared that this past fall Everett High School teacher Jo Metzger"Levin was inducted as an
inaugural recipient of the Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame. Ms. Metzger-Levin spoke of her positive
experiences and thanked the board for honoring her.

5.02 William L. Hunter Point of Light Award

Executive Director of Human Resource Lynn Evans and Human Resources Director Randi Seaberg introduced
Christina Casterina, dean of student development and diversity advocacy at Everett Community College; Veronica
Garacoa director of student development and diversity advocacy and the director of the Teacher EducaUon
Advancement Program which is the program that garnered this award; Woodside Elementary Principal Betty Cobbs,

20f9
who was one of the founding members on the steering committee; and Everett High School Principal Catherine
Matthews, who is a current steering committee member. This award from the American Association of School
Personal Administrators (ASPA) was created to recognize school districts that are making contributions through the
implementation of innovative and comprehensive teacher development programs primarily focused on strategies
designed to increase the number of teachers of color in public schools.

6. Public Comments

6.01 Audience Comments Regarding Items Not on the Agenda


Erin Palmer, Penny Creek Elementary parent and special education teacher, expressed her concerns about students
walking along a busy street without supervision and asked that bus service be reinstated until a safer walkway is
established .

Holly Huschka from Campfire: spoke about district's policy about distributing fliers to students, asking that board
reconsider Its current polley and agree to distribute paper fliers twice a year.

Bill Reed, parent of former student and community activist, addressed challenges students face in Everett Public
Schools. Mr. Reed provided a handout of his statement and thanked Dr. Cohn for his leadership and anything he can
do to help facilitate what he is trying to do in this district, he is at your serv ice. (E :Si/ll)

Jim langus, community member, shared some personal observations and thanked the superintendent and executive
staff for their fiscal leadership and for providing a high-quality education and a safe environment for the district's
students. Mr. langus thanked Vice-President Dutton for her genuine commitment to education and President
Petersen and Carol Andrews who hired proven executive management. He urged the board to continue moving in a
positive direction and to follow in the tradition of past boards who understood their roles and responsibilities while
respectlnq
I_e.<I',.,.. . "".."-5 rnanacernent's role He stated that it I!: criilEal
IIIWI'''9~' " ~I'~.;J • un;:: n llC' ~\.a ...cu \,lleu. I\, 5 e n a
rSF the
Me ksaF
rl
D a a ts
t W8F
It witkin th",jr nlln,i"""
w K Wltn n tnelr purview.

6.02 Audience Comments Regarding Items on the Agenda

None.

7. Superintendent's Report

7.01 Superintendent's Report


Superintendent Cohn asked Executive Director for Facilities and Operations Mike Gunn to provide an update on the
transportation at Penny Creek Elementary. Mr. Gunn gave a brief summary of the history of transportation changes
and a status update. The district serves approximately 10,250 eligible bus riders on 108 routes, 48 regular
education routes, 33 special education routes and 27 other routes serviced at just under 800 bus stops within the
district's 39 square ml/es. Bussing has been restored to about 225 students and, currently serve 142 homeless
students ranging from Federal Way, Mt. Vemon and South Whldbey Island. "1r. Gunn, along with Superintendent
Cohn, Representative Hans Dunshee, parents and students and other district administrators recently walked the
Penny Creek route and spoke with participants on options to keep students safe and our efforts to wor1< With the city
of Mill Creek and Washington State Department of Transportation for solutions.

Superintendent Cohn asked Curriculum Specialist Becky Ballbach to share her observations about the recent High
School and Beyond Family Nights held at three of our high schools. Ms. Bal/bach stated that the turnout was much
higher than expected with students with families from each of the district's 26 schools attending. There were
approximately 1,040 attendees at Cascade High School and approximately 1,000 each at Everett and Jackson High
schools. More than 50 colleges and higher education institutions were represented as well as language interpreters

30f9
available at each site. The reviews were outstanding. Superintendent Cohn thanked Ms. Ballbach for her work and
thanked Director or Communications Mary Waggoner on her communication efforts In getting the information to
families.

Superintendent Cohn asked Executive Director of K-12 Education, Area 2 Molly Ringo to report about the strategic
planning visioning event on October 22-23, 2010. There were approximately 130 participants at Evergreen Middle
School. Presentations on student performance and the implications from the environmental scanning task force
report and summary presentations on our board study sessions and community engagement sessions to date.
Participants were then asked to identify the most Important components of a successful public education. The
second day focused on the future of education In Everett Public Schools. Feedback from participants was very
positive. Superintendent Cohn thanked the board and others for participating in this event.

Associate Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer Terry Edwards reported on the improvernent at the three field
test schools, Garfield, Lowell and Forest View Elementary schools since new reading curriculum, Good Habits, Good
Readers was adopted. In most instances, scores indicate a positive gain. Mr. Edwards specifically mentioned that
last year Lowell and Garfield had zero cells that didn't meet AYP standards, and if they repeat that one more year
they will be out of AYP status. (E:58/11)

8. Strategic Progress Monitoring

8.01 Learning Management System Upgrade

Superintendent Cohn asked Executive Director of Finance Jeff Moore and Terry Edwards to present a status update
on the Learning Management System (LMS) upgrade. Mr. Moore thanked the team who had been working on this
conversion for over two years, gave a history of the existing system and summarized the LMS upgrade project to
date. Terry Edwards explained the LMS operational model, including professional development. Mr. Edwards
~i§EI:l§§M thG l~§ FGauiFGffiGRt§ ~M th~ pF8EUF~Ifl~Rt §ERegule. veRger recommeRaatlon will ~e presented to tiie
board In late January, 2011 with the implementation starting in the Fall of 2011. Discussion followed. (E:59/11)

9. Information/Discussion

9.01 Minutes Preparation

President Petersen shared that during the Board's October 19, 2010 the directors discussed the development of the
minutes and the board's transition to shorter minutes that describe the action taken by the board. The board
decided during the past year to post the district's website the audio recordings of the regular meeting content.
Director Olson noted that board policy states that the board will use Robert 's Rules. She shared an excerpt from
Robert's Rules about minutes and spedfically pointed to the points of order and that they should be included in the
minutes. Director Olson noted that she feels the board should agree on how to keep them factual and
"non-subjective." She mentioned that when the details of the minutes are truncated because of the audio recording
availability, that the audio should be available Immediately.

Vice President Dutton spoke In favor of keeping minutes structure truncated with the audio recordings providing
more detail.

President Petersen suggested that the board should follow Robert's Rules of Order and "that the board may benefit by
providing a synopsis of their approach to truncating the minutes.

10. Action

40f9
10.01 Approval of Resolution 1008, Certification of 2011 Supplemental Educational Programs and
Operations Levy

Executive Director for Finance Jeff Moore shared the background on Resolution 1008.

Motion : That the board of directors adopt Resolution 1008, Certification of Supplemental Educational Programs and
Operations Levy, as approved by district voters on August 17, 2010. (Res. 06/11) .

Motion by Jeff Russell, second by Carol Andrews.


Final Resolution: Motion Carries
Yes: Carol Andrews, Kristie Dutton, Jessica Olson, Ed Petersen, Jeff Russell

10.02 Director Access to Attorney Invoices

President Petersen stated that this item is best discussed after the Operating Protocol Is discussed.

Motion : To table the discussion on director access to attorney invoices.


Moved by Kristie Dutton, second by Jeff Russell.

Motion : To table this until after item 11.01


Moved by Kristle Dutton, second by Jeff Russell
Final Resolution: Motion Carries
Yes: Carol Andrews, Kristle Dutton, Jessica Olson, Ed Petersen, Jeff Russell

Motion: To remove item 10.02 from the table.


Moved by Kristle Dutton, second by Jeff Russell
Final Resolution : Motion Carries
Y@§; Cafel Andf@Wli, I(fi!itil~ DuHon, J~~sica Olson, I:a Petersen, Jeff R.ussell
Discussion followed.

Director Russell requested that it would be useful to use more rigidly Robert's Rules for motions that are on the floor.

Motion: That the board of directors authorizes individual directors to view by appointment with the superintendent
copies of unredacted invoices received by the district from legal firms and that the superintendent provide the
unredacted copies of legal firm Invoices be retained In a file or notebook, for up to one year, for director viewing in
the presence of staff assrqned responsibility for the maintenance of the invoices. The board explicitly reserves to
Itself the authority to remove from the superintendent's possession, custody, and control copies of unredacted
Invoices, and does not authorize any individual director to remove such records from the superintendent's
possession, custody, or control. The superintendent may designate a district official to maintain the file or notebook
at an office other than the superintendent's office. This supersedes the action taken on March 23, 2010.

Motion by Kristle Dutton, second by Jeff Russell.


Final Resolution: Motion Carries
Yes: Carol Andrews, Kristie Dutton, Ed Petersen, Jeff Russell
No: Jessica Olson

11. Policy Review

11.01 Policy 1715, Board-Superintendent Operating Protocol, Proposed Revision (first reading)

50f9
President Petersen began with comments on the operating protoco l. He stated that as board president it has been
challenging to help the board build a good and close relationship with the superintendent; it is the president's
responsibility to see that all board members have access to open communication and input on all items. President
Petersen has serious concerns that the board has become badly polarized. Open and direct conversation in the spirit
of trying to create clarity for how the board works together is how he presented his initial comments. He shared his
impression of the past eleven months of the performance of Director Olson that has contributed to the polarization.
He read from a prepared statement concluding that behaviors must be modified and that a failure to comply may
result in consideration of censure. (E:60/11)

Vice-President Dutton shared that President Petersen has been the utmost gentleman and has endeavored to work
with Director Olson in a professional way and that his words were very carefully considered after much frustration
with Director Olson's behavior. She then read from a prepared statement. (E:60/11)

Director Andrews shared her concerns and observations about Director Olson's behav ior over the past year. She
described some of Director Olson's ernaus as harassment and bullying the superintendent. She expressed her hope
that they could work together as a board rather than individually.

Director Russell spoke in favor of moving the Board-Superintendent Operating Protocol to policy level. The reasons
for doing so are because of the behavior of one of our board members and the conseQ~ences are damaging to the
credibility of the district; it 's been draining and a distraction from the larger purposes toward which we are working.
Director Russell then read from a prepared statement of suggested additions to the Board-Superintendent Operating
Protocol and also provided comments on each. (E:60/11)

Director Olson stated that she wasn't advised to prepare a statement about how the board and superintendent
interact. Director Olson stated that she had prepared revisions . She responded to a number of the director
comments Including that she didn't call for an investigation; at the IEP meeting she was acting on behalf of the
student at parent request and that it was not illegal to tape the meeting; stated she is biased against t·.e
superintendent and believes he is biased against her; she urged the superintendent to delegate and not be a control
_ • • • • • u _ • _

freak; commented on the use of personnel email for board business; noted that you cannot force someone not to
make evaluative comments as that Infr inges on their first amendment rights . Director Olson then shared her
suggestions for protocol amendments.

President Petersen will provide the superintendent with the four written recommendations to be incorporated into a
draft Board-Superintendent Operating Protocol for review at the November 16, 2010 Board meeting.

11.02 Policy 2410, High School Graduation Requirements, Proposed Revision (first reading continued)

Executive Director for K-12 Education Area 2 Molly Ringo shared that this policy was presented at an October board
meeting and is being brought back for further discussions or questions prior to moving it to second reading.
(E:61/11)

There were no director comments .

11.03 Policy 1235, Parliamentarian, Proposed New Policy (first reading)

Executive Director Ringo presented the policy for first reading. Discussion followed.

President Petersen requested the draft for second reading Include, "Shall advise the president on ruling." (E:62/11)
11.04 Policy 1120, Annual Organization Meeting, Proposed Revision (first reading)

Executive Director Ringo Introduced Policy 1120 that would be necessary if the previous policy, 1235 is approved by
the board. (E:63/11)
There were no director comments.

60f9
language as revised, please forward to me.
(Attachment: 5215 NP 20110128)

Board Statement on Excellence


10
Ed Petersen provided a copy of the revised board statement on continuing the pursuit of excellence that was discussed
durtnq board-superintendent comments at the January 25, 2011 meeting. This statement by four of the live board
directors has been provided to the Daily Herald for publication as an opinion piece.
(Attachment: Pursuit of Excellence 20110128)

§i~~ Board-Superintendent Relations & Director and Staff Safety


~ ";1 During the past several months a number of events have occurred that, taken together, create a heightened level of
i~ concern regarding the relationships among the board -superintendent team members. In addition, I have heard
. " expressed concerns about the safety of directors and staff relative to director behavior. Continuing to devote resources
,; to addressing these concerns draws from focus on the priorities approved by the board. Eight situations give rise to
< this elevated level of concern. They are described here with what I trust the board will accept as the best of Intent ion
, and a respectful and dispassionate recitation.

• During a lockdown at two of our northern schools, upon being Informed by Kathy Mahan of the situation,
Director Olson requested that Kathy contact a nearby private school to check on the safety of Director Olson 's
children. Kathy followed the directions, and wrote and sent a summary of the request and her compliance.
Director Olson objected to Kathy's accounting. Subsequently, Director Olson confronted Kathy about the
characterization of the request and the disclosure, indicated she wouldn't want other directors to get the wrong
impression. Kathy reported concern about the uncomfortable nature of the follow-on exchange.
• During the board's annual planning workshop at the Lively Center this past August .2 010, Director Dutton
disclosed that she felt threatened by Director Olson's behaviors toward her. Director Olson responded that she
was sure Director Dutton could "take her " and they could "step outside" to see.
• During the board's annual planning workshop at the Lively Center, during a break, in close quarters Director
Olson confronted me about not being truthful regarding her requesting a series of coffee meetings for board
ffi~ffiaeFs to A81g witA tRe communIty, saying she never made such ii request. However, a board request was
created based on a January 20, 2010 email from Director Olson, which Is attached.
• FollOWing the board's December 16, 2010 special meeting, while stili In Conference Room 3, Director Olson
requested a copy of a board resolution. Having begun to exit from the room via the west door, I turned to
respond that we could find and copy the document by tomorrow. Director Olson approached me, stopping
Inches away, stated she had a right to the document immediately, and asked if I was blocking her egress from
the room. As I backed immediately away against the wall, Director Olson said "Shame on you" and walked
down the narrow hallway past me, stating my behavior was unacceptable.
• FollOWing the board's December 16, 2010 special meeting, while meeting with the board president and vice
president and real estate counsel In the superintendent's conference room, Director Olson entered the room
and Inquired why we were meeting. Upon being Informed her presence was a violation of the OPMA, she
retreated. (Afterward, staff seated outside the conference room entrance reported that Director Olson had
stood outside the conference room with her ear pressed to the door In order to listen to the dtscusslon.) Shortly
thereafter, Director Olson re-entered the conference room, declared the meeting unlawful, and refused to leave.
Everyone else in the meeting elected to leave to avoid further violation of the OPMA.
• FollOWing the board's January 11, 2011 regular meeting, Director Olson followed the board president and
myself to the superintendent's office stating that the board president and superintendent would not be meeting
Without her present, even if she had to follow the superintendent home. Director Olson rema ined In the
superintendent's office, refusing to leave until President Petersen left with me.
• During an unscheduled visit to the Longfellow Building, Director Olson entered a staff member's office and
removed public records prepared pursuant to her records request. Coincidentally with the event, Director Olson
send a text to me, including symbols, that I interpret as taunting. During the process of removal of the records,
Executive Director Moore challenged her right to take the records . Director Olson Indicated he couldn't stop her,
and said to "Say hello to Gary", which I Interpret as taunting.
• Prior to the board's January 25, 2010 regular meeting, Director Russell received what he characterized as a
threatening letter from an unsuccessful school board candidate from Port Angeles warning against "going after"
Jessica. Two former Port Angeles school board members provlded disturbing background about this Individual

20f7
""-1 (see attached email). This appears to be an attempt to coerce at least one director from performing his
..(~! responsibilities.
• Individually, anyone of these events might be overlooked. In my judgment, the series of events cannot. I find
it necessary to request an opportunity to review with the board the impact upon the district resources; to seek
advice from the board as to how we might respond more effectively to ensure an atmosphere of mutual respect
and improved safety for directors and staff during the performance of our duties. I will work with the board
president to determine an appropriate time to schedule a discussion.

(Attachment: Olson Emails (PRR) 2020110121)


(Attachment: Olson-Petersen Email (Agenda Request) 20110120)
{Attachment: Board Email (Threatening Emails) 20110126)

Washington State University Support


Mayor Stephanson's office has released an email to a number of community leaders requesting letters of support for
bringing Washington State University to Everett. An email from Pat McClain explaining the rationale for the letters is
attached. During the past several months of discussions regarding higher education partnerships, it is my sense that
board members have expressed solid support for WSU's expanded presence In Everett as complimentary to the
district's strategic plan and priorities (e.g., high school graduation rates, early college expansion, challenging options
expansion). As a result, it seems reasonable that our district would support the mayor's efforts to expand
baccalaureate access for our students and the community at large. I will prepare a letter of support for Ed Petersen's
signature on Monday, and ask that if anyone of you objects you will communicate that directly to Ed, With a copy to
me.
(Attachment: McClain Email (WSU Support) 20110128)

Center on American Progress Return on Educational Investment Report


The Center on American Progress (CAP) has published an analysis of school district's Return on Educational
Investment, or ROI. The Center for Educational Effectiveness' Greg Lobdell notified us of the report and reports that
Everett is very high on the ROI list. A copy of Greg's email is attached for your background reading. When Greg has
BFS~18S8 mSFS IRfsFm9EISR ~S f9mili9FI~S ~~9ff ~IER ERI~ 9R91~~I~; iE m9~ ~~ SaaFSBFlsE~ Es BFSB9F~ sR MaiEIsR91 ~aa9ES
for the board.
(Attachment: Lobdell Email (Everett ROI) 20110128)

Celebration of Innovation
Once again, this year's technology fair included Wide participation of classroom teachers from across all grade levels
and all content areas. The event highlighted the impact technology is having on classroom instruction by connecting
science, technology, engineering, math and humanities to learning experiences and illustrated evidence of thinking and
working creatively within and beyond the classroom. The student work was also a departure from years past. Exhibits
highlighted authentic classroom practices and the move to using technology as a critical thinking tool. An estimated
crowd of 2,000 community members and approxlmately 375 students and teachers attended which provided a
wonderful opportunity to communicate the Impact technology continues to have on student learning. It took a team
from across the district to make Wednesday such a wonderful night. My thanks go to everyone who had a hand in
making this year one of our best!

Public Records Request Update


Business services staff indicate we received the follOWing records requests: (1) Audio-tape of the January 25 regular
school board meeting and the minutes for the same meeting. As soon as the tapes can be copied they will be provided.
The timeframe for the minutes depend upon when the board approves them. (2) Supplier Information
(Invoices/purchase orders) for Pitney Bowes, Secap, EBS, Express Business Systems, Francotyp-Postalia for the last 12
months. This Item was just received by the business office and staff are responding.

Director Inquiry: Board Meeting Statements .


Ed Petersen has Inquired as to the availability of copies of the statements read by directors during Item 9.04 of the
January 25, 2011 meeting. Copies of the statements provided by the directors are combined into one document and
attached.
(Attachment: Director Comments 9.04 20110125)

30f7
From:
SUbject:
Date:

to
To :
Cc :
Jessica Olson <jessicaeverettschoolboard@gmail.com>
Response to Gary's 1/28 Friday Report Regarding Staff & Director Safety
February 18, 2011 6 :23:48 AM PST
Ed Petersen <erpetersen2001 @msn .com>. Edwin Petersen <ed .petersen@evereltsd.org>
Jessica Olson <jessica.olson@everettsd.org>
2 Attachments. 2.3 MB
11
Ed , . I am sending this to you (but have addressed it to the full board) from my gmail account because district email will not allow me to italicize or
underline text, nor can I figure out how to include attachments. I am copying Ihis email to my district account so the district has the record, and will also
forward that district copy to you at your district email address if you desire as per the board's preference to receive only district email correspondence
from directors. Let me know . (I do note. however. that whatever email account is used by either one of us, this email is obviously subject to the PRA
regardless. I

Thanks.

-Jessica.

Fellow Directors:

This is in response to Dr . Cohn's comments in the Friday packet dated January 28. wherein Dr. Cohn deliniates items that have crossed his threshold of
threatening the safety of staff and directors. I will attempt to address each of the items causing Dr . Cohn distress:

1) Lockdown Incident - I will not rehash the particulars here. as I believe my views on this matter have been previously and succinctly stated;
there is little use in rehashing old news. I stated these views in an email to Kathy (cc'd to Dr. Cohn), and to Kathy in conversation when I ran inlo
her at her office. I can easily provide you with the email so you can examine the text and "symbols" it contains. I believe the tone and verbiage
are quite non-threatening: Dr. Cohn's mileage obviously varies . The ensuing conversation had a similar tone as I recall -- the fact that Dr . Cohn
chooses to describe a conversation he wasn't present for as ·confrontational" doesn't make it so . Kathy may have characterized the conversation
as "uncomfortable' _.however, there is a chasm between a conversation that is "uncomfortable", and feeling threatened lor one's safety. If Kathy
had fett threatened. I trust Dr. Cohn would have noted this back in February of 2010 when it occurred. Classifying it differently a year later seems
less than forthright.

2) i reciii Blrecior Blinon ievying an accusaiion ihai she ieii physicaiiy ihreaiened during a disagreement we were having at the board retreat.
although she chose not to articulate why. There was no physical altercation, no push, no shove, no raised hand or clenched fist as the six of us
were sitting around the table. but I do recall her saying that. My lighthearted response was to inquire, "You feel physically threatened , Kristie?
Really? I'm pretty sure you could take me r I can think of no situation in which the phrase "I'm pretty sure you could take me" constitutes a threat.
In fact , the statement would seem in all cases to point to the opposite. I did Im1 ask Director Dutton to step outside.

3) Dr . Cohn states that during a break and in "close quarters" (at the approximately 800 square leet room of Lively Hall used for our board
retreat) I said he had been untruthful about a directo r request regarding a series of cotlee meetings. (I stand by that statement: in the email Dr.
Cohn provides as evidence of a director request, the ema il is clearly to Ed Petersen (not Dr . Cohn) as an item to put on the agenda for Board
discussion. I'm certa in that every agenda request is not considered a director request. Please correct me if I'm wrong.) In any case, once again
there was no physical confrontation or threat that I recall, and none noted by Dr. Cohn at the time or by the people in the room with us. It feels as
if Dr. Cohn has difficulty differentiating between a conversation - even a confrontational one - and a genuine threat to salety. I have been
confronted in conversation by all four board members - never once have I. as a reasonable person, confused these conversations as a threat 10
my safety.

4) Regarding the Dec . 16th "threat": Even if one assumes, for the sake of argument, that Dr. Cohn's account is 100% accurate (which it is not).
in what situation is asking "are you blocking my egress" a threat? Sim ilarly. 'Shame on you" is not 10 my knowledge widely construed to be a
threat. Neither is demanding a document or stating "your behavior is unacceptable". Once again, had there been an actual threat to staff or
director safety, I'm sure Dr. Cohn would have mentioned it. Trying to concoct a threat from phrases such as "shame on you" is spurious
reasoning.

S) Again , on Dec 16th : Again , for the sake of argument. let us assume Dr. Cohn's account is 100% accurate. Entering a room and refus ing to
leave is nol a threat, nor did it make anyone unsafe. With four grown men in the room, even if I had made a threat, I can't believe that one
middle-aged housewife would truly have violated the ir sense of safety. However, that doesn't matter, as even according to Dr. Cohn's account
no threat was made . (As an aside , there was also no violation of the OPMA. Had there been, Directors Petersen and Russell would also be
guilty. But there was no violation, as there is no rule that three directors cannot be together - only that no district business can be discussed
when they are. When Dr. Cohn was ignorant of this provision, his accusation of a violation was simply incorrect; however, him knowing there
was no OPMA violation yet cont inuing to insist there was is disingenuous.)

6) Regarding the January 11th "threat": Again, not allowing two directors to meet alone with the superintendent to further discuss board
business outside of the full board meeting we'd just adjourned from is not a threat. I never said I'd "follow the superintendent home" - what I
stated was something to lhe effect that the three of you may find a room somewhere in the building with a locking door to keep me out , or
maybe the three of you would meet at Gary's house later and I can't stop you, but this meeting here tonight won't happen. Interestingly, prior to
going into Gary's office, there was a somewhat heated exchange between myself, Director Petersen, and Director Russen. Though the tone was
confrontational, and I was outnumbered 2·1, I never fe" threatened. I can state that Ed and Jeff were angry, but they didn't appear to fear for
their safety either.
7) Here is the teXl I sent to Dr. Cohn : "Thank you for making the copies 01 the personal service ccntracts available 10 me Gary. I'Ube sure and
return them to Ihe appropriate district stall just as soon as I'm finished with them. :-) You have a greal day!!" (At first I was concerned about the
"symbol" in the teXl relerred to by Dr. Cohn. I thought perhaps Ihere was a glilch in the teXlthat caused some menacing symbol to appear. Then
o.
I saw it - it was the smiley face "emoticon". I am unsure why Dr . Cohn relerred 10 it as a "symbol" certainly this "symbol" sounds less sinister
when referred to as a smiley face.) Not only is there nothing resembling a threat or safety concern in this message, there is nothing that is even
rude. In fact, when Dr. Cohn emailed me in response to the text, he didn't mention that he felt threatened (or even taunted) - he seemed more
concemed that I chose teXling as a communication form . (Nevermind that Gary has teXled me t 8 times. In addition, I tried calling first, but his
secretary stated he was unavailable on a phone call) . Even if we granl that Dr . Cohn's perceptions are reality, and this was in fact "taunting" -
feeling taunted and being threatened are not the same.

8) As far as the "Say hello to Gary" comment to Jeff Moore, this was in response 10 Dr. Cohn's sell-admitted policy to have each stall member
with which I have contact make a report to Dr. Cohn. I find it hard 10 believe thai Dr. Cohn takes issue with this simple salutation as either a
threat or an issue with Board-superintendent communications .

9) I dealt with the e-mail that Dr. Cohn classified as "threatening" and "bringing anti-semitism 10 our board table in Everett" in a previous letter
to Ed (attached) - in the interest of saving time I will refer the reader to that response.

In short, it is my opinion that Or. Cohn's feelings 01 heightened tension are a bit out 01 touch with Ihe actual situations presented. He seems to regard
any conlrontation as a threat. Reading his statements of concern for director and stall safety and juXlaposing them with the actual reality of the
occurence renders the following conclusion: there was never any real threat, nor was anyone's safety ever in question. I suppose we could contact the
Everett Police Department and see if any of these instances satisfies their criteria of a legilimate threat .. better to be embarrassed t'y hypervigilence
than attempt to work in a constant state of grave concern.

What I see listed by Or. Cohn is a litany of behaviors Dr. Cohn dislikes. Whether Dr. Cohn is honestly plagued by these instances as threats to staff
salety or is Simply exaggerating and reclassifying old events as a means to discredil me, the irony is that most of these issues were aired out at great
length in a public forum January 24 (only four days prior to the Friday report), at the conclusion 01 which Director Petersen stated we should now move
on, and hoped we can find ways to create communication to work together. To regurgitate those same issues a mere lour days later on January 28, but
this time framed in the conteXl of "safety of slaff and directors", seems counterproductive. In reading the list of Dr. Cohn's worries above, it is clear that
no director's safety was ever truly threatened; no slaff members' salety was ever truly threatened. Or. Cohn himsen stales that "devoting resources to
addressing these concerns draws from the focus 01 the priorities of approved by the board" - why then does he bring up the same concerns less than a
week after we agreed to move on and make a new attempt to work together?

Jessica Olson
Everett Public Schools
Board 0; Directors, posiiion #4
(425) 772-0437
wWIY.jessica4everettschoolboard.com
WWIY facebook·comJiessicaeyerenschooldirector

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12
From : "Olson. Jessica" <jessica .olson@everettsd .org>
Subject : FW: Threatening Emalls
Date : January 26. 2011 10:00:54 PM PST
To: <jessicaeverettschoolboard@gmail.com>

From: Coon, Galy


Sent: Wednesday. January 26. 2011 10:00:54 PM
To: Everett School Board
Subject: Threatening Emails
Auto forwarded by a Rule

Directors, it is with c onsiderable r e g r e t and heightened conc ern t h a t I forw a rd tji s e mai l se t t o yo u
tonigh t. I t begins (a t th e b ottom) with a n e mai l Jeff Russ ell rece i ved on Monda y, th e d a y b e f o r e yo ur
January 25 board meeting, from a n u n s u cce ss f u l s c h o o l coa rd c a nd i d a t e in Po r t Ang e l es. J eff Ru ss e l l
forwarded it : 0 me, and described it to me as a threatening message. Sadly, a s T r ead i t. I : o und !
agreed with his assessment. : also learned from Ed Petersen that he, too, rec eived such a!, email.

117'
forwarded the message to tw o f ormer schc o l board directors from the Pert Ang e l es Schoo l )lst :l ct.
Nillt M a retired un i versit y e x ecuti ve, ser ved on the board for nea r ly a l l of : h e eigh t
years I serve in Port Ar.geles . • H . , CEO of t ~ se rve d a bou t a

a~eff
term and a quarter during my tenure there. · and c ose to respond to the i nfo rm a ti o n 1
forwarded to them with the mes sages to Ed tha are pasted below. I a m sorry that you have t o
read of such attitudes and behavior s, and I am deeply sorr y that anti-Semitism is findin g its way t o
our board table in Everett.

Dr. Gary Cohn


Superi ntendent

-----Original Message-----
From:
Sent: Wednesday , January 26, 2011 1 : J8 PM
TS: ret~f§~n; 88~ in
Cc: Ru ssell, Jeff ; Co h n , Gar y
Subject: letter regarding Gar y Cohn and S~ Hlllllln

Dear Ed,
This letter is sel f-exp lanat or y. Pl e a s e let me k n ow if y o u need any

"H_
further information.

January 25, 2011


Thanks,

Mr . Ed
Pe tersen,

Pres ident, Everett Schoo l Board

Dear Ed,

I have receivbed ad
one of your oar me rnb ers.

P y of aTnh~mail ~elnt byfa pordt dAngeleS bressident~ ~d ~lt£IIG"II~cino'hnto, WJheoffhaRsUSasSekleld'
~s emal was orwar e to me y uper~nten en ary
me to relay to you my experiences with s~ H n while I was a school board director in Port
Angeles.

I will start with some history. I have worked as a citizen volunteer with the Port Angeles School
District for about 20 years, serving i n many ca~acities. Before being selected to fill a v a c a n t seat
on the Port Angeles School Board in 2002. I served as a member, co-chair or chair of se veral
committees of the board or the superin te ndent, beginning in the early 90's . I learned a lot about our
public education system during this time. an d I feel that I am well qualified to give you my thoughts
about Dr. Cohn, and also about slllh H. . . . . . n. I did not ru~ for my board seat again in 2007. having
to concentrate instead on my family business.

Dr. Cohn is one of the finest indi viduals I have ever known. and it is my opinion that t :le Everett
School District is very fortunate to have him as your superintende nt. : stated this opin ion at the
time I was interviewed by phone during your district's superintendent search , and of course I am
still of this opinion. Please look over the notes taken during this phone interview; I thtnk that
they might be included in the records of your selection process. If you don't have these records. and
you wish me to provide a more detailed evaluation of Dr . Cohn's excellent performance as Port Angeles
Superintendent, please let me know . ~lhen 1 stepped down from the board in 200:, it was the intention
of that board to retain Dr. Cohn as Port Angeles superintendent f or the remainder of h i s career in

Now, about s.n


public education.

H~. Ms. ~ n is one of a handful of Port Angeles ::esidents who are


virulently opposed~e way that~c education is administer ed here, and along with several
other individuals attempted to make our Ii fe as board members a misery. We did not let r ue t t.appe n ,
of course, choosing instead to maintain a pOSit 1ve outlook, and to focus strongly o n the needs o f our
st~dents and the objectives of our cornrnunlty. lIIIr
~n ran for a seat on the board ( I belteve
1n 2008), and local citizens had the good sense to el~r opponent instead. The mot1vatio~s of
these negative individuals is somewhat mysterious to me, but I wil : relay to you one personal
experience that I had with Ms. 1 n that may explain some of it.

~ ~ n was granted an opportunity tc talk to students at Port Angeles High School as a


represe~e of a local group that works with troubled youths. 1 don't know all the details, but at
some point ( I think in 2004) she was asked to leave the high school campus, and not return. She was
asked to leave because it was determined that she was anusinlhher access to our stude~ts by
proselytizing for her partic~lar Christian faith. Ms. H became furious as a result. and I
believe this incident is what angers her to this ve=y day. She SUbsequently asked to meet privatel y
wi:h me and another board member named ~ SIIIIIIII We agreed to do so, and met with her at a
restaurant for breakfast the next week. ~rea~eting got off to a very poor start: Ms.
H. . . . . . n insisted on starting the meetlng with a loud, vocal prayer to God and Jesus, knowing fu ll
well that Ms. ~ r is a Jewish woman, and having no knowledge at all of my religious beliefs.
During this pra~e askec Jesus t.o help us flnd our way to God, and stated that the only true God
was hers. Needless to say, I was highly offended, and expected Ms. S r to leave the meeting.
She did not, showing great ccurage, and I decided that i f she could stick it out. ! could toc. We
spent the next 4S minutes listening to Ms . H n deliver a terrible rant against our schoel
district, focusing primarily on the godless leadership of the district and specifically referring to
Dr. Cohn as a 'Jew bastard'. The meeting ended when Ms. ~n produced a sketch of wrat she
thought was the relationship between Superintendent Cohn ~ e board. The sketch showed Dr. Cohn
• ~ .. • . • - --- _ •• - ----- ••• • - _ •• - - o. __ .

dressed as the Devil (with horns!), trampling the five board members at his feet. At :his point it
became clear to me that the principal cause of Ms. 1 s anger and hatrec was an:i-semitism
directed toward Dr. Cohn and possibly Ms. S r, and I promptly ended the meeting .

Ed, I am sorry to have to relay to you such a terrible story. I guess I have led a somewhat sheltered
life: r was shocked and saddened to find religious i n t o l e r a nc e and anti-Semitism alive and well in
21st century America. I was sickened by my breakfast meetin~ with ~J slIIII
I, a nd looking back !
wish I had left the table after her offensive prayer. I do not know the t oughts that are motivating
board member Jessica Olson to behave the way she does, but I do think that the small number of Port
Angeles citizens who violently opposed Dr. Cohn during his tenure here were and still are motivated
by antl-Semitism.

I wish you the best of luck as the Everett School District moves forward, and I know that you and the
balance of the board will keep your focus on st~dents and student achievement.

....
Thank you for your time,

'
Port Angeles, WA

-----Original Message---.-II-IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIP
From: N ~ I' I
Sent: w~esday, January 26, 2011 5:13 AM
To: Petersen, Edwin
Cc: Russell, Jeff; Cohn, Gary
Subject: 01son/1

~
~362
January 25, 2011
To: Ed Petersen
From: N n

I served on the Port Angeles School District's Board of Directors from 2001 to 2009. Dr. Gary Cohn
was the District Superintdent during that time. I deeply regretted his decision to leave Port
Angeles for your district, but applauded your decision to select one of the most competent
adminlstrators and educators I have known. Dr. Cohn is unusually intelligent, has a faultless work
ethic, and brlngs incredible integrity to all he does.

I am, therefore, astonished to learn that one of your board members, Jessica Olson, has a
dramatically different opinion and has a p i i n t ; sought "information" to support her views from a
member of the Port Angeles public, ~ . Ms. ~ came with some regularity to our
board meetings, occasionally speakin~o t e board during public co~~ent sections of the meetings. I
recall that Ms. ~n once reques ted that the board permit her to set up an information table at
the high school w~he wished to pass out to the students literature about her at-risk youth
or~anlzation. The board denied her :equest, as we had also der-ied similar requests from other
organizations as inappropriate to the educational setting and not in compliance with the processes
described in Community Relations Policy 4060.' Ms. H I was quite unhappy with the decision,
has never forgotten it, and r.as blamed Dr. Cohn for a PASO board decision. Any information she
mayprovide to Ms. Olson should be treated as irrelevant and unrelated to your board's discussion of
diretor conduct.

If you wish more obser vations f ro m me, I can be reached at 11111111111111'


Sincerely,

·excerpt from Pol: cy 4060


1. Flyers which are approved for distrib~tion to studen:s shall not be distr1buted except by school
personnel at the schools where the flyers are to be dis:ributed. Such distribution shall be made at
the
_.. _
~
convenience
__. , __. __ ..
of the particular -_
. . _ r----- ---
school
.. _--
where
_ .. -
distribution
-- ""'
is to
-
take t"'
"''''' ~
place,
""' ,
_Q~Il:;;U
based on
v·· the
, ..
principal's judgment of such matters.
2. All materials which are distributed shall include the following disclaimer: "The Port Angeles
School District does not sponsor or endorse the matters addressed in this material. The material is
merely being distrib~ted as allowed under Board Policy 4060."
3. The superintendent, principal of any school, or superintendent's designee may direct t~at flyers
are only to be distributed to students once a month or once a quarter. In such a situation, all
flyers approved since the previous distribution date would be distributed at once, thereby allowing
distribution of the flyers, while at the same time making less of an impact on instructional time.

-----Origina1 Message-----
From: Russell, Jeff
Sent: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 7:12 AM
To: Cohn, Gary
Subject: FW: gary cohn

Dr. Cohn

This email was sent to me through my District Account. I have not and will not respond. Please
share it with others as you see appropriate.

Jeff Russell

,& /
-----Original
From: , , _111111111111111111111111111.
Message-----
Sent: Mon I 24/2011 ~
To: Russell, Jeff
Subject: gary cohn

My name is ~ H......n. I am very familar with Gary Cohn as I delt with him in Port Angeles while
he was here."'see~the board docs that you plan to go after Jessica. I would be careful as I
will be collecting the information she will need to prove that what she says is valid. If you want to
talk to me i would be more than Willing. ~n H II
Ed Petersen, President
Board of Directors
Everett School District
4730 Colby Ave.
Everett. WA 98203
13
January 28. 2011

RE: Superintendent Gary Cohn's 1/26/11 email entitled 'Threatening Emails"

Dear President Petersen.

I am writing in regards to Gary Cohn' 5 email to the Everett School District Board of
Directors dated January 26, 2011 with the subject header 'Threatening Emails".

[ did not receive an email from Ms. _ on January 24th. 20 It as did Jeff Russell
and (apparently) you. I did receive an email from her in October of 20 10, in which she
suggested I call her. which I did. In phone conversation, she stated that she had
criticisms of Dr. Cohn's leadership and management style based on her experiences when
he was Superintendent of the Port Angeles School District. [listened to her complaints --
none of which were based in anti-Semitism (nor did the topic of race. creed or ethnicity
come up). I did not take any official action nor bring it up to the full Board because on
more than one previous occasion, prior to speaking to Ms. _ , I had informed you
p~!v~~~!¥ ~h~~ ! h~~ ~~~!"! ~~!"!~~£!~~ ~~!!h £~!"!~~r!!~ e~~! Qr: Q2hn ~y 2tl1~r§ f~mi!i~r 'Y!!h
his tenure as superintendent of Port Angeles. In response to what I came forward to you
with, you defended the prior board's vetting process, indicated no interest in the subject
matter. and to my knowledge took no further action regarding what I'd told you.
Equally important was the fact that I had not witnessed the events she cited - while I had
been given no reason to doubt her. I also had no way to judge the veracity of her account.
For me to be the one to formally bring forward a complaint made by someone else would
be, in effect, tantamount to hearsay.

I explained to Ms. _ that she could submit her a} legations to the' board herself if
she wished. Perhaps this was the purpose of the emails received by Jeff and you on the
24th.

Regarding Ms. _'5 _s


email of the 24th, [think perhaps we should all take a deep
breath and measure our response. Reading the text of Ms. email, I see nothing
in her words that would cause me to classify the email as "threatening" or bringing anti-
Semitism to our board table in Everett. Perhaps a call to the Everett Police Department is
warranted to see if it meets their definition of a threat, but it seems to threaten only "the
collection of information", not any sort of threat to personal safety, which the title
"threatening email" seems to invoke. (The caveat being that I have only seen the text of
the email to Director Russell - perhaps the email to you had a sinister tone not evident in
the email to which I refer.)
Philosophically, I must disagree with Director Russell's decision that he will not respond
at all to Ms. _ . Whether or not we want to hear what she has to say, agree with her
views, or desire her input is irrelevant. She is a member of the public we were elected to
serve, and she has contacted us. To ignore her because we think we won't like what she
has to say is a breach of our responsibility . We are not allowed to pick and choose what
portion of the public we serve. That may mean we call her, listen to what she has to say.
determine that it is not pertinent to our situation, thank her, and move on. It may mean
we receive a racist letter containing no substance. It may mean we receive a letter with
allegations that. if true, should be investigated. It may mean any number of things. but
she shouldn't be ignored by an elected body simply because we received two missives
deriding her from two other members of the public.

On that subject, I was a little surprised that Dr. Cohn's first response upon learning of the
the emails was to solicit letters from former colleagues to discredit Ms.~. It is a
given that each one of us in the public eye will have our fans and detractors who will
each have their say. However, it doesn't seem appropriate to forward an email that
appears critical only after assembling a defense to forward with it. The equivalent would
be a director receiving a complimentary letter about Dr. Cohn, but making sure we first
attached missives from former colleagues to malign the character of the letter's author. I
don't want to dwell on the point, but it seems like emails should speak for themselves,
and shouldn't receive a "spin" before release to the Board.

Even if everything in the letters from Dr. Cohn's former colleagues is true (and we know
!h~tr~ nm: ! 9!9-1191 ..§!:~~ eut it m~mBer ef th@ fBrt Ang@le§ PUSliE to §lli3~~f{ HW vi~w§"
as Ms. M~ alleges, anymore than Director Russell did - Ms. ~ contacted
me and I responded; and contrary to what Mr. I-tIs tells us, common sense tells us that
surely at least one person in Port Angeles who opposed Dr. Cohn did so on the basis of
an opinion not rooted in anti-Semitism) - and every incredible word describing Ms.
~s character or lack thereof is factually accurate, we should not do as Ms.
M,,-n enjoins and regard "any information [Ms. ~] provides as
irrelevant." We should not do it for the same reason I didn't report Ms. H _ ' s
complaints to the board when I first heard them: these allegations weren't witnessed by us
and we don't know their veracity - they are, essentially, hearsay. Would any of us want
to appear on TV and state that we as public servants ignored a member of the public
because two of Gary's friends thought she was unbalanced? It doesn't sound right ,
because it's not right. Especially in light of the fact that Director Russell made a pre-
judgment he was not going to respond to Ms. H. . . . before he even knew of any of the
allegations made against her by Dr. Cohn's friends.

We know nothing about this woman - but even if she is crazy, or a racist, she is still a
member of the public. There were undoubtedly people who refused to vote for President
Obarna or Lousiana Governor Bobby Jindal because of their race - those people still,
however, were allowed to cast their ballot. A citizen with ridiculous or offensive ideas is
still a citizen. We may ultimately end up ignoring or dismissing the things a citizen says
if we find them to be offensive and of no substantive value, but we cannot ignore or
dismiss the citizen based on the fear that we might take offense alone, or because Gary's
friends feel her opinion is unworthy. To do so invites charges of cronyism. Again. the
Board has zero first-hand knowledge of this woman.

My solution is to let cooler heads prevail; you or Jeff should call Ms.H_, and tell
her that as elected officials we are interested in hearing what a member of the public has
to say. Ask her to write her concerns in a letter, which will be shared with all directors.
Keep this promise. In the end , this will be a win for the District as well as Ms. ~:
She will be well served by elected officials, and the Board will be acting appropriately in
treating her as they would any other citizen. If the letter is a hate fueled diatribe filled
with religious invective, Ms. I~ will be exposed as someone whose opinions aren 't
worth considering, and the matter is closed. If the letter is filled with accusations which.
true or not, do not affect the operations of the Everett School District. the Board can vote
to take no action; again, the matter is closed. In the unlikely event there are items that
warrant further inquiry, then the Board was well-served to find this out. In any case. she
just may write the letter anyway and we only look the better (PR-wise, transparency-
wise, and public service-wise) for inviting it.

Whatever your decision, we should discourage attempts to dramatize the email with the
spectre of "threatening language" and anti-Semitism that the text of the actual email
received by Jeff Russell does not seem to support. (Once again, I have not seen the text of
the email that you received. [f it is worded as a genuine threat, that would change my
opinion.)

Respectfully,

«"
.: v ;' - (
---
Jessica Olson