Asking questions about whether a relative of a school administrator met the criteria for admittance into the National Honor Society has landed a Woodmore school board member in hot water.
Joe Liszak said he intended to meet Friday (Aug. 22) with representatives of the teachers’ union to discuss what the union claims is a violation of its contract.
The Woodmore Education Association filed a grievance Aug. 12 against Liszak, claiming he violated the complaint procedure of the contract.
“On Tuesday, August 5 a high school teacher and advisor for the National Honor Society was contacted on her personal cell phone by board member Joe Liszak,” the grievance says. “Mr. Liszak proceeded to tell the teacher that 2 parents had contacted him regarding the National Honor Society admissions/appeals process. The Complaint Procedure in the contract clearly states that if a complaint is made it must be directed to the teacher by either the complaining party themselves, the principal, or the superintendent.”
A board member isn’t to get involved in the complaint process until after the complaining party meets with the teacher or building principal, the grievance notes, and the matter hasn’t been resolved. A complaint then must be in writing.
The grievance also alleges Liszak violated board policy and asks he apologize to the teacher and WEA president for “circumventing the negotiated procedure…” and “any other remedies deemed necessary to make the grievant whole.”
The grievance was discussed during an executive session of the school board during its Aug. 19 meeting, Liszak said Wednesday.
He confirmed he’d been contacted by parents who had questions about the admittance of a student into the NHS after the student was initially denied by a faculty screening committee. The student was then admitted after going through an appeal process to the high school principal.
Liszak told The Press he asked the parents if they would be satisfied if he reviewed the application and appeal paperwork and reported his findings to them and parents said they would.
An email he sent July 28 to Jim Kieper, high school principal; Linda Bringman, district superintendent, and Steve Huss, school board president, asks for a meeting to review the student’s application to the NHS, committee meeting minutes showing reasons for the denial, scoring sheets from committee members, the student’s written appeal and committee meeting minutes indicating why/how the appeal was approved.
“Please note that I am not accusing anyone of wrongdoing, but I believe that in order to address any allegations, the issue must be reviewed,” the email says.
Liszak said the requested information was not provided to him.
Huss told The Press the school board wasn’t conducting an investigation into the NHS matter.
“There really is no investigation as far as the school board is concerned,” Huss said. “All I know is that two students appealed that decision and one went forward with it. As a result, the principal and an advisor followed through with a review. Entrance standards are uniform for the National Honor Society nationwide. We really have no control over that.”
A phone message left for Bringman for comment wasn’t returned.
According to the National Honor Society website, individual chapters can set qualifications for membership based on the “four pillars” of “character, scholarship, leadership and service.”
At a minimum, chapter eligibility requirements must include attending school in grades 10 through 12; maintaining a grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale or equivalent; demonstrating volunteer or service hours; an excellent record of behavior in and out of school, and participating in leadership roles in school or community activities.
“This goes to the credibility and integrity of the board,” Liszak said. “We work for the taxpayers and parents of the school district and not for the administration.”
An attorney for the Ohio School Boards Association said state law generally obligates boards to conduct investigations as a body unless the board authorizes a member to act on its behalf.
Board member resigns
In other board news, Mike DeStazio, a member of the Woodmore board for 10 years, has resigned his board seat, citing time constraints.
“The community members who know me best realize my passion for coaching,” his resignation letter says. “I have been hired to coach a second sport (Boys Golf) and I do not feel it is possible to continue as a Woodmore School District Board member due to the time commitment.”
The coming season will be his fifth as coach of girls basketball at Genoa High School. His grandson is a member of the golf team at Genoa.
DeStazio said he hadn’t planned to run for a third board term but was encouraged to do so by residents of the community.
“Winning a third term showed me that people in this school district still had confidence in me,” the letter says.
(Press writer Cynthia Jacoby contributed to the National Honor Society story)