What began as a routine school board meeting morphed into a tension-filled frenzy Thursday night as members of the teachers union gathered to express their “lost confidence” in Dr. Paul Kreutzer’s abilities as superintendent of schools.
Seven members of the Katonah-Lewisboro District Teachers Association lined up at the podium in the John Jay Middle School library during the meeting’s public forum to voice their concerns about Dr. Kreutzer and ask the board to make a Title IX investigation into his conduct.
In a six-page document that was distributed to the crowd, the union detailed its displeasure with Dr. Kreutzer’s actions and behavior as superintendent.
“He is either unwilling or unable to speak thoughtfully, articulately and with conviction about mandated initiatives including RTI, the Common Core, APPR and other programs that impact students, teaching and learning,” the union wrote.
The union also wrote that Dr. Kreutzer “has reportedly bullied and intimidated school district employees,” that his “expletive laced, door slamming, table pounding rants have terrorized secretaries and staff,” and that four female employees of the district have “independently alleged that Dr. Kreutzer sexually harassed them… The district reported that its own subsequent internal investigation found the evidence unconvincing and dismissed the allegations. However, we believe the district could not have been completely impartial in investigating its own superintendent. The KLDTA objectively and independently investigated the facts of Dr. Kreutzer’s [alleged harassment].”
Additionally, the union wants Dr. Kreutzer to explain his whereabouts during last month’s nor’easter, when he allegedly spent part of that evening at a spa in Ridgefield. In a recent statement to The Ledger, Dr. Kreutzer said that, “Although some may see this as a poor judgment call on my part, there are material facts that should not cloud perceptions. Throughout the course of the storm I was in constant communication in an oversight capacity with our transportation supervisor, monitoring the situation remotely, and there were never any operational issues associated with our response. We did everything that could be done to address an admittedly difficult situation – a situation that all districts were facing, with none dismissing early. The safety and well-being of our students is always my first priority, and I would never waver from this. No matter my location, my job as superintendent requires 24/7 response, which I consistently supply to the Katonah-Lewisboro School District.”
During the public forum that followed presentations on special education, the annual FACE financial expenditures report, and the new school utilization committee, John Jay High School teacher Geoff Curtis, with six other teachers behind him, asked the board for 15 minutes to speak, rather than the usual three minutes allotted per person during public forums.
After some debate by the board members, they seemingly decided to allow Mr. Curtis a few extra minutes. Reading from the union’s document, Mr. Curtis said that members of the teachers union were there because they “have lost confidence in Dr. Paul Kreutzer’s ability to lead this school district,” but he was immediately cut off by board president Mark Lipton.
“We can’t allow personal attacks,” Mr. Lipton said before ordering a five-minute recess for the board to discuss the situation.
“This is a personnel attack,” Mr. Curtis countered, “not a personal attack.”
Mr. Lipton left the room to huddle with his fellow board members and try to call the district’s legal counsel to seek advice on how to handle this unprecedented scenario. After failing to reach the district’s attorney, Mr. Lipton said that there would be no public forum for the evening, but that the board would take the union’s printed materials, run them by legal counsel, and if appropriate, make time at a future meeting for the union’s comments.
Mr. Curtis asked the board if it would meet with the union in executive session after the board meeting to discuss the issues. The board seemed willing to set up an executive session to discuss the employment history of a certain individual – Dr. Kreutzer – just not immediately.
Board member Peter Breslin said that he did not think it would be appropriate to do that without legal counsel, and Mr. Lipton agreed, saying, “We should not allow our meeting to be ambushed like this.”
Mr. Lipton said there are different channels to communicate these concerns, and that, “I have no problem hearing any message delivered in the appropriate manner.”
Board member Marjorie Schiff, however, said that the fact that the teachers union has to go through all of this to voice its concerns seems to show that those channels are not working.