Griffin Explains Her Lawsuits

Former Charlottesville superintendent Scottie Griffin (who now goes by “Scottie Jo Griffin”) had an interview with the Fall River school board yesterday, in an effort to take the top post there just weeks after her C’ville fall from grace. As reported by the Herald News today, she explained what led to her being sued in New Orleans:

Griffin explained that the lawsuit in New Orleans stemmed from complaints that had begun previous to being hired. She said she attempted to rectify a situation in which the secretary did not receive pay for overtime work, but the employee did not respond to those attempts.

“I left the school system and was not asked to give a statement or show up (in court),” Griffin said about a hearing concerning the employees’ grievance.

Griffin’s statement stands in stark contrast with reality. In fact, the lawsuit had to be settled, because Griffin “disconnected her telephone numbers and refused to get in contact with lawyers,” and then failed to show up on court, as described by her own attorney. Her dismissal of the lawsuit as “complaints that had begun previous to be hiring” are also at odds with the truth. As Bob Gibson uncovered in the Progress some months ago, the woman who sued her was a 36 year veteran of the New Orleans school system. She requested a transfer away from Griffin, shortly after Griffin took the reigns there as an area superintendent, citing “intolerable working conditions,” unpaid overtime, and invented allegations of theft. As conditions became worse, Clay’s health deteriorated, until her doctor ordered her not to work until she could get out from under Griffin’s thumb. Griffin denied her medical leave. Clay sued. Griffin left the job shortly thereafter, remaining there for just eight months.

But Griffin doesn’t settle for merely misrepresenting her time in New Orleans. Then there’s Our Fair City:

She continued to explain that her shortened term in Charlottesville was in part an issue of politics after an attempt to reassign a veteran employee of the school district.

“I came under attack from a person who was very well politically connected,” Griffin said. “That attack continued throughout the school year. I could handle being attacked and I could handle the slander, because I knew it wasn’t true.”

She said as the matter progressed she found it was taking away from her efforts to focus on student achievement, and that led to her decision to resign.

“I decided if I cannot focus on student achievement, I would resign my position, and I did,” she said.

That’s rather a simplistic way to describe the proceedings. Others might describe it as Griffin attempting to fire a whistleblower who made public widespread concerns among teachers and administrators that Griffin’s “decisions” and “behaviors” were “significant barriers to the success of our efforts to close the achievement gap and to provide excellent educational experiences for all students.” After Griffin’s public embarrassment and subsequent further exposure as a fraud, she was forced out and paid a quarter of a million to please just go away.

In her interview in Fall River, MA, Griffin described herself as “one of the best candidates you’ll ever encounter,” and bravely offered to move there from Charlottesville if selected for the position.

Interviews with two other candidates are scheduled for Monday.

07/26 Update: James Fernald has a story in today’s Daily Progress.

29 thoughts on “Griffin Explains Her Lawsuits”

  1. Does anyone out there know where you can buy some of the “rose colored” glasses Scottie wears. Heck, I would like a pair to see the world the way “I want to see it” and not the way it actually is.

  2. While in Charlottesville’s case, there was little electronic or paper trail concerning Dr Griffin- their own school board didn’t even know that she was party to a suit concerning her treatment of a school worker. Fall’s River, however, has the benefit of numerous articles, letters and now more of an electronic record on Dr Griffin. Quite incredible that she has become a top five finalist in light of the information that is now avalable. Perhaps they are looking for someone who changes jobs almost every year, want to fire physical education and guidance teachers in that town, who would not give even 1% raises to those folks on the bottom of the economic food chain the in the school system, want to purchase software from an educational company that is being investigated for fraud and bribery from the very school district where Dr Griffen worked before Cville, create a hostile work environment for staff, and bulk up on central office staff at the expense of direct interventions…? Go figure, its not about the children.

  3. Let’s hope that the good people of Fall River will take a very careful look at Dr. Griffin—and see past her breezy cliches and revisionist approach to her own history. What a tragedy it would be for Fall River to suffer as we have. We had to pay her $291,000 to go away–money that could have been spent on education for our kids. We’ve had to hire 85 new faculty/staff members this summer instead the typical 60 or so, having lost many good people who simply had enough abuse. Many of us have spent ridiculous numbers of hours fighting for the survival of our school system. We are a city filled with people who care deeply about education. Can we turn this thing around?

  4. Fall River, if nothing else, knows what they’re getting into. If they hire her, and everything goes to hell, nobody can plead ignorance.

  5. While Fall River’s administrators and City School Committee (ie, Board) ‘should’ know, if they have done more than a cursory job, it will be the school children and teachers who suffer. That is the big downside with just buying someone out or agreeing to a resignation along with your strong recommendation- passing the problem along does just that to the next community or business.

    After reading todays Daily Progress, I am very puzzled as to who this ‘politically connected’ person that Dr Griffin reports is singularly responsible for bringing about her downfall. Odd, I thought it was the hundreds of people who came to school board meeting to argue against the lack of communication on the part of the superintendent, the direction she wanted to bring the schools, the way she treated principals, teachers and staff and the way she used race as a divisive weapon to her own benefit. Did Dr Griffin forget that while the Mayor called for the Chairman of the School Board to resign, in a clear signal of a lack of confidence in the fraction of the board who was supporting Dr Griffin and Dr Griffin herself, nothing happened? Ms Smith is still on the board and probably giving a glowing recommendation to the Fall River School Committee. Being politically connected in this town, in regards to these school board issues was a handicap! Dr Griffin’s evident belief that one person brought her downfall is either a cynically calculated explanation or evidence of paranoia.

  6. Omigosh…move there from Charlottesville? ! Yet another falsehood from the mouth of a professional con artist. Scottie Griffin hasn’t lived here for months; I personally saw the moving van load up her belongings from her rental house on Greenbrier Drive in April. Scottie “Jo” has a house in Maryland; that is where she has been since she left here. Why does Muriel Wiggins continue to defend her? Her disastrous and completely counterproductive tenure here still causes some of us C’ville City Schools employees to have nightmares.

  7. Omigosh…move there from Charlottesville?

    D’oh. That Charlottesville bit is my fault. I assumed that she lived here still. My apologies.

  8. I take the first several sentences of my post back, then— but I did read that SJG claimed to be a Charlottesville resident in the article about her Rhode Island candidacy about two weeks ago.

  9. Yeah, I remember reading that somewhere very recently, too, which was why I figured I was OK to write “Charlottesville.” I suspect saying she’s from Charlottesville is easier than disclosing the length of the rail on which she was ridden out of town.

  10. Griffin never even owned a home here. She rented a place on Greenbrier. She maintains a residence in MD. She’s had it for 10 years.

  11. One more interesting note. Albemarle is paying $12,000 for their superintendent search process. Charlottesville is coughing up more than $45,000. What’s wrong with this picture?

  12. I think the story is not about the superintendent as much as it is a commentary on the emotionalism and vindictiveness of her detractors. A sad commentary.

    ** CCSteacher:
    “Omigosh…move there from Charlottesville? ! Yet another falsehood from the mouth of a professional con artist.”

    While she may have moved, her home of record remains Charlottesville. Remember, she felt it was best for the school system if she resigned early. Her landlord was probably not so happy to have to find another tenant.

    ** Barracuda:
    “After reading todays Daily Progress, I am very puzzled as to who this ‘politically connected’ person that Dr Griffin reports is singularly responsible for bringing about her downfall.”

    The obvious answer is Dr. Laura Purnell who penned a letter criticizing the superintendent. Then the superintendent proposed to eliminate Purnell’s administrative position.

    ** violet:
    “Let’s hope that the good people of Fall River will take a very careful look at Dr. Griffin—and see past her breezy cliches and revisionist approach to her own history…Many of us have spent ridiculous numbers of hours fighting for the survival of our school system. We are a city filled with people who care deeply about education. Can we turn this thing around?”

    Someone from Charlottesville criticizing someone else for revising history? Simple hypocrisy, blissful ignorance or clinical denial?

    ** cvilletransplant:
    “Griffin never even owned a home here. She rented a place on Greenbrier.”

    Yeah, but she rented in a nice area. Oh she was a renter–go figure!

    ** cvillenative:
    As a school board applicant this year, I sincerely apologize to Scottie Griffin on behalf of the city of Charlottesville. The school board did right to bring in an outside person to make unpopular but necessary changes. The school board should have supported Griffin even as they could not support any of the changes if current personnel opposed the changes. Never mind that was the reason she was hired in the first place. I am sorry that we are still talking about a former superintendent instead of how to improve the education of the children. — Blair Hawkins

    ** Agnes Cross-White, The Tribune, July 14 2005

    “The present school board orchestrated one of the worst debacles that this community has ever experienced, since the days of desegregation. As a result of their incompetence and social engineering, people were divided along racial lines, economic lines and political ideologies, and our schools are still in danger of being taken over because they have not met mandated guidelines.”

  13. I cannot help but respond. “the emotionalism and vindictiveness of her detractors” – “a sad commentary”? The story just points out the inaccuracies (lies?) encased in Griffin’s “explanation”.

    It remains amazing to me that people continue to throw accusations at Griffin’s critics rather than face what actually happened(as opposed to what some people wanted us to think happened). She came here (and probably never should have, given what we know now), absolutely did not take the time or make the effort to evaluate the situation, did not utilize people who had a solid foundation and understanding of our town and our system to at least get oriented, she bullied her way around Central Office from day 1, and certainly did not “collaborate” (to use one of her, the school board’s, and Turner’s favorite words). There are so many things wrong with the way she did her job in the short time she was here. And now she appears to be misrepresenting the whole thing to get another job.

    How in the world is Laura Purnell “politically connected” in Charlottesville?

    Anyone from Charlottesville (or anywhere else for that matter) has the absolute right to criticize someone for misrepresenting what they did while a public figure here. It’s just the most recent insult to this place in this situation.

    And noone needs to apologize “on the behalf of the city of Charlottesville” to Griffin. Many feel that sentiment should be reversed. When did the school board say they brought “in an outside person to make unpopular but necessary changes”? The board did little in this whole situation if they did not support her. With the obvious exception of buying out her contract (oh, I mean, letting her resign of her own decision), when did anyone on the school board say anything that was not supportive of her? If superintendents make bad, stupid, or crazy decisions, it’s the boards responsibility to put the brakes on it! The board’s greatest fault is that they let this get as out of control as it did from the start.

    This became a racial issue not because of the school board, other than through the board’s inability to speak. It became racial because of a number of people who have had little input into the school system outside of this issue (and to be fair, a few who have had consistent input) wanted it to be, because to some people everything is (on both sides of the issue). But sometimes it is not. I truly believe that if Griffin had been white and had made the same decisions and had the same “management style”, we would have seen the same response. And I think she’d still be gone now.

    I may see Charlottesville through rose colored glasses as well, but as I have said elsewhere, I like it here. I think people generally try to do the right thing by all involved. I don’t think we generally take the easy way out. Parents are very involved in their children’s education, and it doesn;t just take a bad superintendent to bring it out. We usually have a calm, sensical dialogue to settle problems, and while some people don’t like that and would rather see a less, well, civil discussion, I think it’s better to not name-call, but to actually collaborate rather than just use that word as a catch-phrase. Being a bully doesn’t get you places here, and it shouldn’t. Respect is earned, not taken.

    If we don’t work together on the school problem, we’ll spend more years like the last one yelling at each other rather than doing anything.

  14. How in the world is Laura Purnell “politically connected” in Charlottesville?

    I had to wonder if she was even who Griffin was talking about. Purnell might be many things, but “politically connected”? I can’t see in what way that could be said to be the case.

  15. A small correction to Cville Transplant: The $45,000 CCS is about to spend is for MGT to develop our new strategic plan. We haven’t even hired the firm to do the superintendent search! The school board hope to announce that firm (and the cost, I expect) at the August 3 school board meeting. Then we can talk about how it compares to Albemarle Counties $12,000. But we did spend $24,000 to find Dr. Griffin, didn’t we? and have we gotten any of that money back? No.

  16. A big correction to the previous Barracuda entry.

    Either my daughter found the log open and made the entry, or there are two of us with the same name- that was not my entry. Laura Purnell was as politically unconnected in Cville as they come. She was simply a dedicated educator who came to Charlottesville believing the public persona of Dr Griffin, expecting to be part of something great in fighting the ‘gap’. Unexpectedly she found herself in an untenable disintegrating system created by Dr Griffin, and instead of doing the safe thing, she spoke out with her large professional heart. Isn’t the point made- while there were certainly individual parents and educators who played pivotal roles in rescuing the school system from a meltdown, only a revisionist history allows an explanation of one politically connected person solely being responsible for Griffin’s downfall? This makes it sound like a Grisham thriller instead of the Carl Hiaasen debacle it ended up being.

    Violet is right on target (did she attend one of the recent school board or luncheon meetings?)- this money is for a strategic plan and a system that will allow future input and adjustments to the plan each year. The superintendent search process (whether the Commission’s recommendations will be taken to heart or left in a notebook, whether the board will embrace the secret path of VSBA previously pushed by Ms Smith and others, whether internal candidates will actually be given a fair and respectful look, whether the board will be looking for the best fit for our schools/community or some other agenda) has not been decided and the cost is unknown.

    And I agree with several of the above sentiments concerning the board. It did orchestrate one of the worst debacles that this community has experienced in recent memory. There was no accountability besides Dr Griffin’s being moved on (and why not the same full buy out months earlier- what was gained?? by the board’s timing?) and still little apparent realization, by the board, of its immediate role and responsibility in the matter.

    Finally, while Ms Wiggins may admire a carrer in education based on its length, I find nothing in Dr Griffin’s resume as an administrator which indicates her ability to lead. She is not a concensus builder. She does not take input easily from those around her. She is not a communicator. She has no record of working in a school system over any extended period of time adressing issues head on regarding the achievment gap or test scores. Perhaps she was a good school teacher, but as an adminstrator she had met the Peter Principle.

  17. Either my daughter found the log open and made the entry, or there are two of us with the same name- that was not my entry.

    There cannot be duplicate names on A cursory review of the log files indicates that the latter is the most likely explanation. :)

  18. Thanks Waldo, my daughter pointed out that waht I mistook as someone writing as ‘me’ was simply ‘cvillenative’ replying to different folks in turn by writing their names and then a response.

  19. cvillenative, the politically connected woman Griffin referred to was Arletta Dimberg, former deputy superintendent. She was reassigned before taking a year’s worth of sick leave.

  20. From the Herald News (above)

    “I came under attack from a person who was very well politically connected,” Griffin said. “That attack continued throughout the school year. I could handle being attacked and I could handle the slander, because I knew it wasn’t true.”

    How did I miss that the politically connected person was a woman. I read it as “A politically connected person” – no gender mentioned.

  21. Mrs. Dimberg was probably the only person throughout this whole thing who acted with any kind of restraint and class. She never made any accusations about Ms. Griffin or anyone else, and never even really defended herself.

    The Ackermans are a better guess – much more active and connected publicly. And thank God at least Mr. Ackerman couldn’t be bullied.

  22. Whatever the case, Dimberg’s demotion in July of last year was what fired up the media. As one outlet put it, Griffin’s really made a name for herself and she’s only been on the job for a couple of weeks. There may have been restraint as compared to the school board meeting tirades, but it was a different story behind the scenes.

  23. And one final question since most of you are in the “know” and I am not.

    What was the reason Dimberg was demoted? I heard the board told Griffin she had the o.k to demote Dimberg, but on what grounds did Griffin use?

    I also heard (just to stir the pot here) that there was a $95,000 deficit in ordering the Open Court series (thanks to Nancy Toms – which was suppose to be the reason she left) and that was the reasoning Griffin used to demote Dimberg

    What have you fellow bloggers heard?

  24. From what I’ve learned, some suspect certain members on the school board motivated Griffin to demote Dimberg… no clear grounds from my sources.

    Dimberg also received a payout from the school board in June. Unfortunately, that revised budget never made it onto the school’s website.

  25. thanks, cvilletransplant. we can all agree that this was/is a big mess. no one person knows the entire story…so much was behind the scenes. we won’t know the identity of the politically-connected scapegoat until Griffin names names. anonymous perpetrators are like anonymous sources–they are usually fictitious. besides, the responsibility of hiring/firing the superintendent lies with the school board. so only they can take full credit/blame in this case.

  26. Ardee Dimberg was one of the most politically connected residents of Dairy Rd. (Her son did not attend city schools) She didn’t need to say anything; she had her people speak for her (Ardee’s Army was their nick name.)
    If you doubt it…look at how she tried to block the pairing of the middle schools! She was a former Quest teacher that continued to lobby for Quest parents until she was forced out. If you speak to the vast majority of south side teachers and principals you will find that her exit was not a negative move on Scottie’s part. But that’s ancient history and time to move on.
    The achievement gap between free lunch, black students and white students that don’t qualify for FL needs to be all anyone in the city is discussing. It’s a critical time in C’ville. Do we really want Richmond to come in and run our high school and middle school?

  27. I’m quite sure it was Ardie Dimberg that Griffin was referring to, and there were a number of people who were not sorry to see the CO patron of gifted students dissappear. I have no idea if “people were speaking for her” in any coordinated sense – to be sure, her demotion was a calculated political move which sent exactly the intended signal to everyone involved:

    – a signal to Ardie’s constituency, inside and outside the system that Griffin was here and in charge
    – a signal to Griffin’s ‘constituency’ that she was getting even for their perceived slights.
    – a signal that she wouldn’t tolerate anything less than total autocratic control.

    This message was received loud and clear by everyone, and all responded as should have been expected. Even if Ardie wasn’t coordinating things actively behind the scenes (using the Ackermans as a proxy, for example), the ‘gifted’ community quite correctly perceived that their place in the schools was under attack. Folks on the other side of that divide also saw the situation in the same terms – many defended Griffin on this board with exactly that thesis – she was supposedly going to ‘take away’ all the resources being hoarded by the gifted programs and redistribute them to the oppressed. The gifted were going to get their come-uppance and the oppressed were finally going to get their fair share, and peace, love and understanding (or, rather, a smaller ‘achievement gap’) would reign in the city. That that perception of the situation was utterly divorced from reality is irrelevant: Griffin was getting even with what has to be one of the whitest white women in town: if you’ve ever met Ardie Dimberg (or her pipe-smoking UVa Prof. husband), you know what I’m talking about: they could be a parody of what Griffin’s supporters are angry about. Not putting their kid through the public schools puts a little more oomph behind such allegations.

    There are a number of legitimate criticisms one can make about Dimberg’s leadership: a profligate layer of her own sychophants (curriculum coordinators) who cost a lot and didn’t have much work product to show for it – not unlike what Griffin was attempting to set up herself. Whether you supported either woman probably depended very largely on which ‘community’ you identified with, or felt served your child better.

    However, I think Griffin was just eliminating any potential threats to her authority. By removing Dimberg, she decapitated a whole network/power structure within the school system. To some degree, this was Griffin’s perogative. In my opinion, weak leaders surround themselves with weak people – they eliminate any strong people who might undermine them. I think that’s what Griffin was really up to, and when she realized Purnell wasn’t going to be a ‘yes-man’ either, she moved to eliminate her too. She’s a socio-path who knows when to charm and when to be ruthless, and she is obviously pretty good at it, if she is getting as far as she is (final round of applicants), even dragging as much baggage behind her as she is now.

    For what it’s worth: some of us who saw Griffin for the train wreck she is and vigorously opposed her, were not sorry to see the Central Office 2, Curriculum Coordinator crowd eliminated: they were useless in the same way Griffin’s pre-packaged, kickback laden, off-the-shelf solutions were. Even fire, as bad and destructive as it is, can be a tremendous force for good.

    Enough vitriol for one afternoon. Cheers!

  28. In the fruitless search for that politically connected person:

    1. Griffins move to remove Ardie Dimberg started on day two of her job in Cville. ‘Ccville_libertarian’ is dead on with the analysis that it was done to eliminate any potential threats to her authority. Griffin obviously did not have time to understand or unearth anything about Dimberg’s record in Cville except that Dimberg was a strong figure and hence a risk to her autocratic ruling style. Dimberg did not try to rally her resources and fight the edict; instead she was devastated and treated shabbily. This is not the ‘person behind the scenes’ deviously spreading rumors and twisting politicians’ arms

    2. The Ackermans. Certainly Karl and Jenny were a force to be reckoned with, but not a politically connected one. They are both (rather quite good in fact) writers and have been deeply involved in the school system over many years. They are people/teacher/community connected (and email address deep), but not politically connected. People in the system trust Karl; but he worries the politicians.

    3. Laura Purnell cares about children (while I have heard the phrase ‘its about the children’ bandied about a lot this year; it certainly is true about Laura). Why else would someone stay on a job where her integrity and competence is being attacked unfairly by her supervisor (Griffin), where mind games and intimidation was a weapon which was frequently wielded and where she could have sued the city and left, but instead argued her case in front of the school board and ultimately was allowed to do what she came to Cville for. She did not know anyone in this town on arrival- not connected, not the one.

    4. Peggy? She certainly had a ringside seat. Is as politically connected as they come. But she hardly came out against the Superintendent until there was no other avenue available. Nope

    5. Mr. Toscano? Pretty quiet on this crisis both in front and behind the scenes during the election year

    6. Ackerman’s so called supporting cast? Certainly there were a number of other folks who routinely spoke at School Board meetings and argued against many of Griffins and the Board’s proposals and actions and worked behind the scenes to garner support. But was one of them singularly politically connected?

    7. Could she actually be pointing the finger at Bob Gibson? Someone who often has a knife edge insight into the politics of this town and beyond, but is certainly not known for twisting arms (except to get stories!).

    Come on, what better way to divert attention from your real record than the suggestion of a conspriacy theory!

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