STOW: The Stow school board has filed its response and counterclaim against board member Rod Armstrong, who charges the panel held illegal executive sessions.
The school board alleges that Armstrong violated the district’s code of conduct by disclosing privileged information without authorization.
The lawsuit also accuses Armstrong of using his elected position for personal gain and contends that his disclosure of confidential information covered during executive sessions is a breach of his fiduciary duty.
“The district filed its answer and counterclaim last week with the U.S. District Court in Akron,” district spokeswoman Jacquie Mazziotta said in a release. “We believe there is no merit to the allegations raised, and have asked the court to stop further leaks of confidential student information.
“There is no exception authorizing a board member to release student information without parental consent. The confidential release of student information could expose the district to liability, including a loss of all federal education funds.”
Armstrong sued fellow school board members and district Treasurer Catherine Bulgrin a month ago. His court filing contends that during an executive session June 11, Superintendent Russell Jones told members that an investigation had confirmed allegations that Susan Schur, the high school’s principal at the time, had changed the final grades of students, including one related to her.
Armstrong charges that board members were “improperly instructed to not disclose any of this information.”
According to the school board’s countersuit, “any further breach of Armstrong’s fiduciary duty and further disclosure of the confidential information will irreparably harm [the district] by preventing and otherwise inhibiting a full investigation of one of the issues that is the subject of the confidential information, exposing the school district to potential litigation and undermining [the district's] interest in complying with FERPA and other applicable laws.”
Armstrong said he was not surprised by the district's countersuit.
His attorney, Warner Mendenhall, said: “Obviously, the issue is whether the meeting was improper or not. They are trying to keep secrets from the public. Mr. Armstrong believes the public has the right to know, especially in the matter of personnel or finances.”
At its last school board meeting Sept. 10, the panel voted to correct an inaccuracy in its minutes that Armstrong had disputed.
“It’s nice to see that they are admitting to their mistakes,” Mendenhall said.
Superintendent Jones issued a statement regarding Schur's departure from the district:
“I sincerely appreciate the many years of service that Sue Schur gave to the children of our school district. She was a longtime educator who touched the lives of children in many positive ways. Her dedication to our school district will always be very much appreciated.”
Jones said that when concerns were raised in June about an incident at the school, he “immediately investigated the information and provided the board of education with the details with his findings.”
“I met with Ms. Schur to discuss the matter with our treasurer, Cathy Bulgrin,” the superintendent said. “The next day, Ms. Schur submitted her resignation as high school principal.”
Jones said that he “immediately reported [his] findings to the Ohio Department of Education Office of Professional Conduct, which I am mandated to do by law. Their investigation of the matter is ongoing, which prohibits me from commenting on the matter in further detail.”
Heather Beyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.