Critics of the Homewood-Flossmoor Board of Education’s decision to fire Principal Ryan Pitcock in June pressed their case at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
At issue is the chain of events leading to Pitcock’s dismissal on June 21.
Flossmoor resident Dean Armstrong, an attorney, opened the discussion with a half-hour presentation tracing the timeline of events beginning with an incident at the school in March 2014.
The incident involved the spouse of an administrator. The man caused a disturbance outside the school on a Sunday during a band concert. Flossmoor police and fire personnel responded to the school and the man eventually sought medical treatment.
Armstrong and others at the meeting were critical of how administrators handled that situation, choosing not to lock down the school and declining to notify Pitcock of the incident.
“Our children were in the building and not protected,” said one woman, who did not identify herself. “That’s unacceptable.”
Armstrong cited a number of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act as evidence that Superintendent Von Mansfield and Jodi Bryant, director of public relations and human resources, tried to cover up the incident.
He presented a letter from the Flossmoor Police Department that supports his position that Bryant attempted to keep the incident “confidential.”
He said Pitcock was not aware of the incident until September 2015 when he received an anonymous letter from a fellow staff member. Armstrong said he believes Pitcock’s attempts to investigate the veracity of the claims in the letter led to his termination and cited a letter of reprimand from Pitcock’s H-F personnel file as evidence.
At the beginning and end of his presentation, Armstrong argued that Mansfield should be held accountable for the way the March 2014 incident was handled.
“I believe that an injustice was done. I believe that the wrong person was fired,” Armstrong said. “This is not going to go away.”
Board President Richard Lites disputed Armstrong’s account and conclusions.
“There are so many material inconsistencies and misstatements in that presentation that we could never ever debate it and complete it here tonight,” he said.
The board hired a law firm to investigate the claims Pitcock raised about the March 2014 event. The final report is said to show that there was nothing untoward on the part of either the superintendent or Bryant.
As has been the case since Pitcock’s termination, he declined to go into detail. During past meetings about the issue, Lites and other district officials have said they cannot publicly discuss specifics about the case.
Lites was not alone in offering a counter to Armstrong’s account. Betsy Van Etten spoke in favor of the board’s decision to fire Pitcock and admonished some board critics for posting information about the person involved in the March 2014 incident to local social media groups.
“I believe I am here to speak for the silent majority in the community … who really believe that the right decision was made,” she said.
“And the fact that people in this community have chosen to air the laundry and a private matter of a person that is employed by the school district and things that had no bearing on the current situation is shameful.”
H-F High School’s fall semester got under way Wednesday with no replacement for Pitcock. A team of administrators led by Mansfield will share the duties assigned to the principal.