The startling revelations of the last two weeks of a court settlement involving allegations of improper conduct by members of the Danville D118 School Board have caught the community’s attention.
The saga arose when two board members – Lon Henderson and William “Bill” Dobbles – unexpectedly resigned their elected positions at a board meeting on September 8. Neither of them provided a reasonable explanation for their sudden departures, leaving the public to wonder and speculate on what was going on with the district leadership group.
A few other matters were dealt with during the meeting, however, which will clarify the matter later. Settlements have been approved between the school board and administration and staff, including Superintendent Alicia Geddis, to resolve what have been called the ongoing disputes. No other explanation was given. The board also acted to approve a new five-year contract for Geddis. Henderson, who was re-elected for another term earlier this year, did not attend the meeting, and Dobbles, who had two years left in his term, left after voting against the regulations.
With very little clarity on what had happened, the Commercial-News submitted a request for public registration to obtain details of the settlements. When we received the first batch of records a little over two weeks ago, the bombs had fallen. The board had agreed to pay more than $ 600,000 to Geddis and a member of the administrative staff who had initiated investigations into improper conduct by Henderson. Part of the settlement also included the resignation of Henderson and Dobbles, and a new contract for the superintendent. Dobbles’ role in the case involved his perceived failure to respond to complaints from Geddis and staff members regarding Henderson’s alleged improper conduct, and claims he was acting in retaliation against those bringing the complaints against Henderson.
Frankly speaking, the board ended up in a mess of its own making. He has only himself to blame, and we certainly cannot fault the council for cutting its losses and fixing the problem so that the district can devote itself to the important task of educating the students and providing a safe and secure learning environment for students during these difficult times.
That a settlement has been reached is revealing. Rather than having the district sued and embroiled in a long and costly legal battle, the council was likely told by their legal counsel that their liability in the case was high and the risk of an even worse outcome was great. Labor law has evolved to the point that those who are harassed or subjected to inappropriate conduct have more ways to file complaints. Their problems are, fortunately, taken seriously. Entities, public or private, must respond to complaints and take action to protect the rights of their workers.
No one employed in any position should ever have to tolerate a hostile work environment. An employee should be able to work and earn a salary without harassment of any kind from co-workers, supervisors, or those who have power over them or their employment status.
That this has happened in the Danville School District is disappointing and disturbing. Moreover, it is unacceptable.
Danville D118 now fills vacancies created by forced resignations. To those departing board members, the community should offer good riddance. Their replacements will surely represent a significant upgrade.