Former Stowers Elementary School Principal Eileen Blagden and the ABC Unified School District failed to agree on a settlement over her demotion.
Judge Rex Heeseman, presiding over a Mandatory Settlement Conference on July 17, following a series of interviews with both parties in his chambers ruled a settlement could not be reached because both sides were to far apart. The case will go to trial on Oct. 31 of this year.
At the school board meeting scheduled that night, Lakewood resident Larry Andre accused the District of covering up the events leading to Mrs. Blagden’s demotion. He said he has looked at the depositions made by ABC officials and he is concerned by their answers to what he described as simple questions.
He accused them of dancing around them and that concerned him very greatly. “The fact that Mrs. Blagden was told to violate the law and not report the death threats made to two of her teachers concerns me greatly.”
He said not only was she demoted but also the teacher who made the death threats was given a sum of money to go away. He said it concerns him that the school board could be so complacent about this matter. He asked if Mrs. Blagden did the right thing in reporting the death threats?” Apparently the District felt the rights of the employee were more important than the lives of the two teachers.
Addressing Superintendent Dr. Mary Sieu he said you were asked at the deposition if Mrs. Blagden did the right thing. You answered, “I don’t know.”
School Board President Olympia Chen pointed out the District currently employs Mrs. Blagden as a teacher. “And it is Board policy that we do not discuss personnel matters in open meetings.” She added, “Mrs. Blagden sued the District and we cannot talk about this case.”
Rich Blagden, husband of Eileen Blagden accused the District of knowing that the teacher, Kevin Kirby, was arrested for lewd conduct and indecent exposure while at Leal Elementary School and yet transferred him to Stowers. “The case went to trial and he wasn’t convicted on the charge,” Blagden said. Assistant Superintendent Carol Hansen stated Kirby was guilty but got off on a technicality.
In his deposition former Superintendent Dr. Gary Smuts admitted he was aware Kirby had been accused of a crime described as lewd and lascivious conduct while he was at Leal and that he had one conviction and had been arrested three or four times. He also admitted following the Stowers incident where there was a possible danger to the students and faculty on Jan 26-28 and on Feb 1 2010.
Blagden wanted to know why someone with Kirby’s known background was placed in a school where he had access to young children? He said no one from Dr. Smuts on down could give a straight answer.
He accused the Board of violating their own policy when his wife came to the school board seeking an audience with Dr. Smuts and was denied. In his deposition Dr. Smuts claimed he denied Blagden a meeting with her immediate supervisor pursuant to board policy because she had retained a lawyer even though the specific section says she has the right to be accompanied by a friends or advisor of the employees choice.
Dr. Smuts said in his opinion she was denied a meeting because the attorney had “done research” and had threatened litigation, therefore the policy did not apply. He admitted this was just his opinion.
Mr. Blagden said his wife had been demoted because she had revealed the death threats to the sheriff. He said they deny this but there are 12 or 13 depositions that state otherwise. “Last week Superior Court Judge Joanne O’Donnell ruled the accusations against my wife were fabricated.”