District residents call for Board member resignation

Many residents allege Board of Education member Scott Hancock to have violated Board policies

Board+member+Scott+Hancock+has+recently+come+under+fire+for+possible+violations+of+Board+policies.

By Clayton Kistner

Board member Scott Hancock has recently come under fire for possible violations of Board policies.

Justin Curto, Mill Valley News editor-in-chief

Multiple district residents have called for Board of Education member Scott Hancock’s resignation in recent weeks, alleging he has violated Board policies and, in doing so, caused the recent resignations of superintendent Dr. Doug Sumner and director of teaching and learning Dr. Jessica Dain.

Seven district residents spoke during the public forum portion of the Board meeting on Monday, March 9, in front of a standing room only crowd of more than 325. They called for change on the Board while not specifically mentioning Hancock due to policies against public evaluation of district personnel.

The Board approved Sumner and Dain’s resignations on Monday, Feb. 9. Their contracts with the district end on Tuesday, June 30. Sumner will then become assistant superintendent of human resources for the Shawnee Mission school district, while Dain will become assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for the Olathe school district.

Hancock, Sumner and Dain declined comment.

ALLEGATIONS SURFACING

The allegations against Hancock began on Wednesday, Feb. 11, when district resident Anh-Nguyet Nguyen posted an open letter to the Board on her blog and sent it to Board members. The letter called for Hancock’s resignation, alleging his “clearly inappropriate behavior” caused Sumner to resign. Additionally, Nguyen’s letter said district residents should have gone to Board meetings to hold the Board accountable and should have not allowed Hancock’s alleged actions to occur.

“It was just very infuriating that it was allowed to get to that point,” Nguyen said. “So, that’s why I wrote that letter, because I just wanted accountability at every single level.”

In her letter, Nguyen said she would “take formal measures” if Hancock did not resign. She will file to recall him from his position on Monday, March 16, if he does not resign.

“The patrons that I have spoken to and who have reached out to me, that’s what they want,” Nguyen said. “Even though I voiced it, it apparently was not [just] my own opinion.”

FURTHER RESEARCH

After reading Nguyen’s letter, retired district teacher Karen Wall decided to look further into the situation. She interviewed multiple district residents and employees who wished to remain anonymous for protection and compiled that information in two letters — one to district residents and the other to Board members. In her letters, Wall alleges Hancock has violated the Board’s Code of Civility and policies against sexual harassment and bullying. Wall’s letters alo called for Hancock’s resignation.

As she talked to more sources, Wall became worried that Hancock’s alleged actions occurred.

“Each time I started talking to people who had information, I grew more and more concerned … that anyone was behaving in this manner — particularly in an open forum, in a public setting,” Wall said. “The reports I heard were obvious examples of a bullying attitude, of an arrogant attitude [and], I hate to say it, but of a sexist attitude.”

Board president Angela Handy did not say if the allegations against Hancock were valid.

“While there are a lot of allegations going around, … I’m not going to say that they’re true or untrue,” Handy said.

EXAMPLES OF MISCONDUCT

In Wall’s letter, Hancock’s alleged behavior during open Board meetings includes talking down to female presenters during presentations by calling them “missy” and “little girl,” and disrespecting presenters through behaviors like eye rolls and intimidating questions. Wall also said Hancock criticized director of facilities Steve Deghand’s performance in an open Board meeting, which is against Board policy.

Allegations of behavior outside of meetings include engaging in lengthy phone conversations with presenters before meetings in order to elicit information later used to question them in meetings and intimidating teachers by showing up in their classrooms unannounced to observe. Teachers who Wall spoke to also said he would then ask them if he knew who he was and, if they did not, he would claim he was their boss. As a Board member, Hancock, and the rest of the Board, holds jurisdiction over the superintendent, who leads district administration and school principals. School principals, in turn, are the “bosses” of teachers.

District resident Julianne Wright has previously observed rude behaviors from Hancock and believes the allegations against him to be completely valid.

“He should be removed,” Wright said. “I was on the boundary committee and I saw firsthand some of the issues that have been raised about him. He was argumentative, he was giving false information out to people [and] he was disrespectful.”

CAUSING OTHER RESIGNATIONS

From her information, Wall concluded Hancock played a role in Sumner’s resignation and may have also helped cause Dain’s.

“I believe that his actions were in major contribution to the resignation of Dr. Sumner,” Wall said. “I am thinking that they also contributed to the resignation of Dr. Dain.”

District resident Tony Lauer, who said he has attended every Board meeting since the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, has concerns about allegations against Hancock.

“I think it is unfair to allege that a Board member or Board members could drive this to happen, drive these resignations,” Lauer said. “You’ve got two professionals … They know how to deal with Board members.”

Nonetheless, Nguyen said she wants Hancock to be mature and resign.

“I hope that Scott does the right thing because, if he steadfastly refuses and behaves in his characteristic manner, it could get really ugly,” Nguyen said. “Hopefully he knows the right thing to do and does it … I don’t know if it’s going to happen.”

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