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Former BSD assistant alleges retaliation by superintendent

Terri Walker reassigned under agreement with district.

In the weeks following the rehiring of Bremerton School District (BSD) Superintendent Bette Hyde, Hyde’s administrative assistant Terri Walker requested a reassignment by the district, which was summarily granted effective Oct. 22.

However, Walker continued filing complaints with the district because her district e-mail address wasn’t changed and disabled until Nov. 7.

In the second release of documents obtained by the Bremerton Patriot as part of its 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,” which were released by the district on Nov. 14, a chronology of Walker’s attempt to resolve the outstanding issues with the district was revealed.

The Patriot has e-mailed questions to the Bremerton School District Board of Directors seeking their comments on this situation and as of Tuesday afternoon, no replies had been received by the Patriot. Once board members reply, the Patriot will publish their responses.

In a letter from Walker to BSD Director of Personnel, Walker wrote, “In the days and weeks since my report, Dr. Hyde has embarked on a campaign of retaliation against me in my employment as her Administrative Assistant. She has imposed workloads and instructions on me that have made it almost impossible to perform in my position.”

Walker continued, stating that Hyde had issued reprimands and “concerns” regarding my performance which are not justified and expressed concern that the disciplinary actions had caused lasting harm to her status with the district and reputation as a well-regarded employee.

“These retaliatory measures have caused me a great deal of stress and anxiety, and have created a workplace that is unacceptable,” Walker continued.

However, in the documents obtained by the Patriot as part of its public records request, only one document was discovered showing that Hyde had formally reprimanded Walker for her performance.

On Sept. 5, 2008, Walker received a written reprimand from Hyde for using Hyde’s e-mail account to communicate with a community member.

“While reviewing my emails on Friday, August 29, 2008, I discovered my email address had been used to communicate with a community member,” Hyde wrote. “You admitted to being the originator of this email from account.”

Hyde wrote that using her e-mail account without permission showed a lack of professional judgement on Walker’s behalf.

“During our discussion, I made it very clear that you are not authorized to use my account without my explicit permission,” Hyde wrote. “To reiterate this will not occur again.”

In Walker’s Sept. 22 letter to Zaske, she requested the “removal of all personnel records that in any way reflect any discipline or disparagement from my employee files;” the destruction of all originals and copies of such materials; the immediate cessation of all retaliatory actions by the district; and “a transfer or reassignment to a comparable employment position at the Bremerton School District that will not be subject to the direct supervision of the Superintendent.”

In the agreement between BSD and Walker, which was signed by Zaske and BSD Board of Directors President Cynthia Galloway on Oct. 16, 2008, the district agreed to transfer Walker to the temporary position of Washington Youth Academy liaison/special projects coordinator and that the district would “permanently remove the Hyde Memoranda from any and all files kept by the District; except that the District may, in order to comply with applicable laws regarding record retention, keep a copy of said memoranda in a sealed envelope to be placed within a separate, confidential legal file to be kept by designated council for the district.”

The job reassignment is to remain in effect to “August 31, 2009, or until such time as Hyde is no longer employed by the District, whichever is later, unless otherwise mutually agreed between the District and Walker (not blacked out). The District agrees that (blacked out) will have guaranteed return rights to her current position (Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent) at that time.”

On Nov. 9, Walker again wrote a letter to Zaske to “inform you of a situation which I perceive to be retaliatory in nature and to respectfully request that action be taken to remedy this matter.”

At issue was Walker’s ability to access her long-standing district e-mail account, which was terminated and a new one was issued.

However, Walker wrote she was informed her former account would remain open with a changed password.

“That is, I would not have access to the e-mail intended for me, but other District staff (the identity of these people is unknown to me) would be able to access this incoming e-mail. In addition, these persons are able to send out e-mail under my identity,” Walker continued.

While she had notified district employees and a number of her regular contacts about the e-mail address change, Walker wrote that other persons sending e-mail to or receiving e-mail from the former account would not know her account had changed.

“This arrangement has become especially unacceptable in light of the Kitsap SUN news article published this weekend, which contains sensitive (formerly confidential) information about (blacked out) that was released by the Bremerton School District to the SUN under a public records request,” she wrote.

To that end, Walker requested that her former e-mail account be deactivated by the district.

In her response dated Nov. 13, 2008, Zaske wrote the process was normal business practice under circumstances where there is a disagreement between an employee and his/her supervisor.

“It is regrettable that the outcome was perceived as retaliation, as it, in fact, adds another level of detachment to your position, in furtherance of the agreed resolution of your prior retaliation complaint,” Zaske wrote, adding that Walker’s former e-mail account had been disabled by the district on Nov. 7. “Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help as you transition into your new position.”

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