By Nancy Gutierrez
Despite pleas from many community members and students to keep Janet Jones on as Superintendent of Farmersville Unified School District, board members voted Tuesday, May 11 to fire the 17 year employee in a 4-1 vote.
John Vasquez was the only member to vote against the item.
Those present at the meeting were also surprised to find out that Assistant Superintendent Helen Bauer was fired from her position and that the board had suspended Farmersville High School teacher Tony Decaro for half of the next school year.
"You need to ask God tonight before you make a decision," junior high school teacher Terry Nardiello said prior to the vote. "If she gets fired the school district will enter a lawsuit and all the money from the general fund will go towards that. We will have a hard time opening the new school if that happens."
The board cited using school property to campaign for incumbents during the last school board elections, as the reason for Jones's firing. Jones publicly campaigned for incumbents Al Vanderslice and Don Mason who lost to Martin Macareno and Blanca Sandoval. It is illegal to use public finances for political campaigns. Schools are public institutions funded by taxpayer dollars. The board is arguing that Jones used school computers to inform teachers about campaign meetings for the incumbents and to make campaign fliers.
Teachers and community members present said it seemed that the entire situation seemed personal.
"Why have just these three computers been investigated if it's not a personal vendetta?" asked teacher Julie McIntosh. She is referring to the computes of Jones, DeCaro and a third teacher Mrs. Meekum.
Joe Altschule, Jones's attorney, said they will explore taking any possible legal action but there were many questions that needed to be answered before proceeding. Altschule will look into the investigation and if the reasons for firing are substantiated.
"There were 20 pages given to us as a summary of their investigation," he said. "There is a list of e-mail correspondence in which 80-90 percent have nothing to do with Mrs. Jones. They were put in there to be confusing."
Altschule said that Jones has not yet accepted any job offers but is concentrating at getting ready for legal actions she will be taking. She publicly announced that anything she receives though litigation with the district and individual board members would be given to the district. Jones believes there was a conspiracy to have her fired prior to the actual board election.
Decaro's unreported suspension:
At the previous board meeting high school teacher Tony Decaro was questioned by the board in a closed interview. It was clear that the fate of his employment was at stake and many students and parents came out to support the veteran teacher. When the board returned from closed session the crowd was informed that no reportable action had been taken regarding Decaro.
Decaro received a letter two weeks ago stating that the board had suspended him for 10 months of the next school year.
"I am only allowed to teach half of my classes half of the time for half the money," Decaro said.
Decaro's computer was confiscated by the board. He said on it they found campaign flyers and a letter Decaro never sent but wrote as a response to a brochure created by Macareno for teachers.
"Have you ever just vented on your computer?" he said. "That's what the letter was, it was never mailed to anyone."
Decaro said there were also emails from him to Jones sent after the election. Decaro said the board was not able to retrieve mail from Jones computer because it had crashed. He said the board used mail found in his computer as evidence against Jones.
"All of this is a result of one man," Decaro said.
Not many at the May 11 meeting new about Decaro's suspension. One student was particularly upset by the action.
"I'm here for him. I'm going to Hollywood and going to be a production editor and it's all because of Decaro." Senior, Jennifer Phillips said. "This is stupid, honestly. Why can't everyone just be friends like normal towns. Put down your signs let Mrs. Jones stay."
Decaro said because of his suspension vocational classes will be cut, there will be no yearbook and $70,000 worth of video equipment will go unused next year.
"All out of revenge," he said.
Assistant Superintendent Helen Bauer said she was informed May 12 that as of June 30 she will no longer be employed with FUSD. Bauer said she was not notified prior to that day that her contract would not be renewed. She said she is still waiting for legal papers from the district's lawyers stating reasons for not renewing her contract.
"I'm just in limbo right now. I want to see what information Lipton has for me before I take any action," she said.