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Bremerton School District under fire

Less than four months after Bremerton School District (BSD) Superintendent Bette Hyde was rehired by the BSD Board of Directors on Aug. 21, a dark cloud of controversy continues to hang over the district as the result of a complaint filed Aug. 27 by Hyde’s former administrative assistant Terri Walker.

In the first round of documents obtained by the Bremerton Patriot through a public records request dated Nov. 10 requesting “all documents, e-mails, memos, meeting minutes and other related communications pertaining to the retirement and subsequent rehiring of Dr. Bette Hyde as superintendent, any materials related to the complaint filed by former administrative assistant Terri Walker including the investigation completed by Valerie Hughes from June 1, 2008 to Nov. 10, 2008” a chronology of the ongoing issues was uncovered.

A second round of documents from the Patriot’s public records request was ready for release by the district Wednesday morning, but their release was being fought by an unnamed party, who is one of the subjects of the documents requested.

BSD Director of Person-nel Denise Zaske said she believes the documents are public record and are the result of the broad request made by the Patriot.

Since the situation became public last month, Zaske has been the recipient of two anonymous threatening letters because of her release of the documents. No one has claimed responsibility for the letters, which were obtained by the Patriot in its public records request.

The first letter dated Oct. 28 reads, “I am the one who has communicated with the Sun newspaper. I am NOT Terri Walker.”

“Denise, I am so disappointed in you. I have known you since you were up at NK. I thought, until recently, that you were an honest and conscientious person. But, since this mess with Dr. Hyde being re-hired, I have observed you commit immoral and illegal activities.”

The second letter dated Nov. 10 reads, “This isn’t about ‘taking Betty Hyde down.’ It’s about righting wrongs, and treating people justly and fairly. Think about it — following the articles, if you get sacked — who would hire you now? Do the right, just and moral thing, and you will probably come out looking like a hero.”

However, the Patriot’s public records request found no evidence of wrongdoing on Zaske’s behalf and the report by Hughes, who was the attorney hired by the district to investigate the complaint filed by an unnamed person, who was subsequently identified as Terri Walker, found only minor issues in Hyde’s rehiring.

The report dated Sept. 29 found that Hyde did not participate in the executive sessions of the district’s Board of Directors when the board evaluated applications and candidates for the interim superintendent’s position in June and July. Nor did she participate in the interim superintendent’s selection process itself.

Hughes’ report clearly states that “Dr. Hyde did not participate in the interviews or evaluation of any other candidates. Nor did she attempt to interfere with the selection process established by the Board.”

It does, however, state that “although Dr. Hyde played a role in the development of the contract for Interim Superintendent, the Board was free to accept or reject the proposed contract at its meeting on August 21, 2008.”

Another issue raised in Walker’s complaint was Hyde’s appearance at Principals’ Leadership Summit in Hawaii in August and Hyde’s submission of three work days in connection with the event and staff time spent by district communications secretary Patty Heuer in working on Hyde’s presentation.

Hughes found that Hyde was incorrect in submitting the three days as work days to the district, the board didn’t approve Hyde’s attendance in advance and that Hyde agreed it was a private engagement.

To remedy the situation, Hughes stated, “Dr. Hyde should bear the costs and reimburse the District for the cost of staff time, equipment and supplies used in connection with the private engagement.”

Hyde also was instructed to reimburse the district for a portion of her semiannual Rotary dues, which covered July and August 2008, because Hyde was not employed by the district until Aug. 21.

Hyde did so with a personal check for $426.14 dated Oct. 21.

As for allegations there was a prior agreement for the board to rehire Hyde following the state’s mandatory 45-day separation period, Hughes’ report states, “I did not find any evidence of a prior agreement between Dr. Hyde and the District’s Board of Directors or any individual members of the board to rehire Dr. Hyde following the 45-day separation period. Each Board member and Dr. Hyde denied any discussion of such an arrangement.”

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