Gregg D. Adler, a lawyer from Livingston, Adler, Pulda, Meiklejohn & Kelly, P.C., representing Superintendent Paul Kadri, released the following statement today.
Statement of context from Paul Kadri
“I know the report is biased and untruthful. It is actually easy to see if you notice who was interviewed, what was said, the lack of specifics, and the lack of direct response from me. However, as I learned in class, deception always sells at first and I know I will be hurt at first from the lies in the report.
I ask the public, parents, students, and staff to please hold judgment until I have an opportunity to challenge what was reported. The mere fact that I was not given that opportunity should also speak volumes about the process. Unfortunately, the only way I have been given to present the truth is by first being unfairly humiliated. I regret the Board of Education created such a path, but there are clear facts to discredit what is in the report and the way the report was unprofessionally conducted.”
Paul Kadri was hired to be the superintendent in Groton in December of 2008. His expertise was in leading organizations to improve student achievement, provide the best resources for staff, and maintaining a minimal impact on taxes.
Financially, Mr. Kadri arrived in the district at the beginning of the 2009 – 2010 budget cycle. In two months, and against the traditional advice to come in with a higher number, Mr. Kadri presented a budget with a 1.5% increase which represented the lowest increase in recent times.
In the three subsequent budgets Mr. Kadri has operated with no increases to taxes. Despite this, and using his framework of "priority-based spending", Mr. Kadri has been able to provide staff with high quality resources including technology and solid academic programs. He has also provided staff with an environment of no layoffs to help them stay focused on the great challenge of improving student success.
In the area of student achievement, success has been as positively dramatic as in the financial area. In the State testing cycle a year ago, growth in elementary and middle achievement for the same cohort of students increased in 15 out of 16 areas of measurement. The high school also had a dramatic increase with it improving relative to its peers from approximately 10th out of 16 schools to around fifth or sixth.
Success like this does not come without overcoming challenges and resistance. Over time and with a significant effort he was able to overcome this resistance and yield the success described above. This has resulted from time to time in tensions and conflict with some key district personnel, some of whom have left the district. But throughout his tenure, it has always been Mr. Kadri’s sole objective to continue the process of moving the district from “good to great.”
On May 4, 2012, Mr. Kadri was at a national conference of superintendents. Although the district was facing the extraordinary step of redistricting and consolidation, everything was moving with the same level of excellence that had become its recent trademark. There were also initiatives in place to enhance student preparation for college and to make the district even more effective in understanding and meeting student needs by developing individual student profiles.
On this day, Mr. Kadri received a call from the board president that a staff member had made a charge against him. This completely caught Mr. Kadri off guard. After some questioning, he was told that a close associate of his had accused him of a few things, the worst being that he threw something at this person. Mr. Kadri knew that this charge was false and tried to understand why this person would be making such charge.
To his dismay, on Monday, May 7, 2012 (the first day of his return) it was signaled to him that the Board of Education may place him on administrative leave and investigate him for this charge. He also was informed that the allegation had not been made directly by the accuser but was coming to the board second-hand.
It is normal that after making successful changes in a district for about 4 years, a superintendent will face a coordinated attempt to remove him/her from people who did not like being held accountable. Under most boards, the allegations would be quickly validated or invalidated and the district would move forward.
To his shock, under the direction of Board President Kirsten Hoyt and Board Attorney Floyd Dugas, the Board decided to assume he was most likely guilty and placed him in complete isolation and launched an excessively long and biased “investigation”.
More importantly, the Board president refused to accept from Mr. Kadri the completed redistricting information. She also refused to accept information Mr. Kadri had on upcoming funding sources that if not acted upon would result in significant loss for the district. Despite being falsely accused, Mr. Kadri kept pressing on giving the redistricting information to the board but was told; "don't worry you will not be blamed for this.”
A few days later, the main accuser submitted a letter of charges, which did not include Mr. Kadri throwing anything. As Mr. Kadri waited for the investigation to take place and for him to have an opportunity to understand the allegations against him (he did not know what they were since the first allegation against him was withdrawn) and an opportunity to respond to them, district initiatives that yielded previous successes were dismantled, consultants were hired, duplicate services were employed, raises and promotions were given out, and other money was wasted. He had no choice but to follow the board’s process, which began to drag on.
Mr. Kadri was not called to meet with the investigator until the seventh week of his administrative leave. The investigator met with Mr. Kadri on two occasions – June 11 and 19. But the interviews were structured in such a way that they did no appear designed to determine the truth. As Mr. Kadri describes it:
“The investigator refused to indicate what the allegations were against me or describe the scope of this review, he asked demeaning and personal questions spent the overwhelming amount of time asking either about events that happened years ago or after I was placed on administrative leave, and he never sought any other information that could have assisted in the investigation.”
As the investigation dragged past three months Mr. Kadri made two attempts to speak with the board, not about his innocence, but about creating a true process of getting the truth so that all could move forward in the best interest of the of the district. His suggestion would have only taken a couple of days and involved him being given the opportunity to present some facts to someone who could be unbiased. Both attempts were flatly rejected by the Board of Education. At the same time as he was making these efforts, a memo from the board’s lawyer which included extremely damaging statements about Mr. Kadri was leaked to the press and published.
The Investigation report
Mr. Kadri has now seen the investigative report after 3 1/2 months. Below is his response:
“The report is so shoddily done it is embarrassing. The “investigator” had the responsibility of investigating my interactions with district employees”. It appears that he interpreted “district employees” to mean those who had an axe to grind with me; many of whom did not like the fact that I held them accountable for results.
Unfortunately, the “investigator” did not do any discernible investigating. Rather than verifying the accuracy of what people said, he merely took their accusations and organize them as assumed facts or evidence of patterns. When you combine that with the sweeping assumptions and sensationalized paragraph titles, I can't imagine a more biased report. In addition, I was not interviewed but interrogated. I was never informed of the allegations against me nor was I given the opportunity to present facts that would have challenged them.
I have three initial thoughts to the report. Alisha Stripling, the main accuser in the report, was my talented and trusted assistant for quite a while. She not only had my respect, she had my friendship. She was very good to me and I was very good to her. I felt we made a great team.
I remain stunned and disappointed by her accusations – many of which are either mischaracterizations of events or blatant falsities. It was not until I learned of her disclosing some personal information that I had shared with her as a friend, until I realized that her betrayal was true.
I do not know who has advised her to head down this path, but it must have been anticipated that I would leave the district and never be in a position to challenge her accusations. At this point, all I can do is exercise my right to request a full and fair hearing before an impartial decision-maker and hope that when she has to testify under oath that Ms. Stripling will be willing and able to be more honest about these events.
The second point I would like to briefly make is about the statements others have made with regard to Kim Beam. Kim has been and continues to be my closest and dearest friend. Her ability to come join me in Groton was a dream come true. It did not take long for the Groton community to understand why she is a uniquely special person.
Unfortunately, during her time in Groton, our relationship faced the challenges of severe illness and intense work pressure. As it would do to any close relationship, these realities forced us to manage some difficult emotions. As expected, we survived that challenge and remain best friends. The report quotes others as saying I was a threat to Kim.
I have never, ever set out to hurt anyone in my entire life and the inference that I would in any way hurt my best friend is absurd. If people want to attack me, then they need to do so directly and stop using Kim as a facade to accomplish that purpose. Although she is beloved in Groton, if you were to sum all the care that each person has for her it would merely scratched the surface of the respect and care that I have for her.
Finally the report has some comments from a small group of individuals who I would have to also believe were under the impression that I would leave before their comments would ever become public or have to be defended under oath. It has never been my desire to throw the district into this nightmare and having to shine a light on these false statements that were never validated will only expand the nightmare.
This entire event caught me out of the blue and I hope that people understand that if I had done something intentionally wrong I would have apologized and accepted my consequences. I do understand that my style and manner of challenging people to be the best they can be at times be misconstrued as hostility or anger.
It is also true, as most people I work with as well as the board know that I have ADHD, which can sometimes impact the way I interact with others. Many of our students in the district have this, and although it provides some challenges, it does come with some advantages, such as increased creativity and vision. To interpret passion, directness, or hyperactivity as an intent to harm anyone is profoundly uninformed.
I have no problem learning and growing as a manager but I can’t allow others to falsely accuse and destroy me just because they felt I unjustly held them accountable or they did not like my style. I was hired to lead the district to greatness. That was clearly being done. If the board had a problem with anything it should have addressed it as part of my review.
To try to violate my contract, pressure me to leave, and leak false information is reprehensible for both the district and me as an employee who gave 150% effort every day. The last thing I want is to have this culminate at the opening of school, but I am and have been at the complete mercy of the board’s path and timing.”