Investigation finds abuses by Monroe Schools Superintendent
Blasko without doubt
MONROE — With a damning report on Superintendent Justin Blasko now in the open, the school board is being mum about whether he’ll stay or go.
School board president Jennifer Bumpus issued an update on June 2 that the district plans to recruit an interim superintendent for beyond June 30 as a standby.
Current interim superintendent Kim Whitworth will be returning to her role as the district’s chief academic officer. She made it clear early on from being appointed she intended to return to this role.
An outside investigator found evidence credible that Blasko degraded certain colleagues, insulted others and took disagreements personally. Insiders said his leadership sowed a culture of fear.
The head of a group representing many area school district teacher unions named the Pilchuck UniServ Council implored the school board to dismiss Blasko.
“The investigation finds that he has behaved as a misogynist, a racist, a liar, and a bully,” Pilchuck UniServ president Justin Fox-Bailey wrote. “The faster Mr. Blasko is no longer associated with the Monroe School District, the more quickly the community can move forward.”
The investigator probed dozens of misconduct allegations that she found credible, such as that Blasko:
• Referred to a representative assisting with the local union as an “angry BIPOC woman trying to prove herself.” (“BIPOC” meaning Black Indigenous and Person of Color).
• Referred to the former principal of Frank Wagner Elementary as a “b----.” He later told this principal her contract was not being renewed, and then swiftly had her escorted out by school security.
• Floated a conspiracy that the same Frank Wagner Elementary principal influenced an in-district staff morale survey to make him look bad, and had the public records manager withhold releasing the survey results until after the point in time when his June 2021 superintendent’s contract extension was voted on by the school board.
• Publicly aired negative comments and joked about a male staff member who paints his fingernails.
• During fall 2020 negotiations with the union about returning teachers to the classroom during the coronavirus pandemic, Blasko said he tricked the union president into letting teachers back and “blew smoke up her skirt.”
• Disparaged staff members who took time off to recover from the COVID-19 vaccine as “f----- snowflakes.”
The investigator, Kris Cappel, interviewed 50 people for her report.
The district released the report publicly at 5 p.m. Friday, May 27 after the Tribune’s June 1 paper went to press.
Blasko wrote an apology letter that accompanied the district’s release of the report. In it, he wrote that “in many cases” he doesn’t recall the incidents listed in the report.
“As I dealt with the stress brought on by the pandemic, I acknowledge that I did not always keep my emotions in check,” Blasko’s letter says. “At times my professionalism lapsed, and I vented my frustration in private meetings with colleagues. I should have exercised more discretion.”
Blasko’s contract is to 2025.
If the board chooses to terminate Blasko, either with or without cause, his contract entitles him to at least 12 months of severance pay plus other benefits. This clause adds up to more than $250,000 in severance.
He’s been on paid administrative leave since Dec. 17.
“I can’t conceive of an appropriate action” the board could take in which Blasko stays, Fox-Bailey told the Tribune. He said he’s never read a report that’s “quite that starkly condemning.”
On Dec. 10, the Monroe Education Association local teachers’ union filed a vote of no confidence in Blasko’s leadership and asked him to resign. The Monroe Principals Association filed a similar statement Dec. 17.
Blasko apparently told staff before being put on administrative leave that former board president Jim Langston did him a “solid” for “his severance package” by way of a sudden contract edit the board approved Nov. 22 that’s giving Blasko an automatic $850 each month in
stipends intended to cover travel and general expenses as part of performing the job versus filing expense reports.
The June 2 update
Dear Monroe School District community,
I would like to share a few updates with you regarding the leadership of our district.
After reviewing the formal report of the investigation of Superintendent Blasko, it will take some time for the school board to work through our next steps. Attorneys representing both Dr. Blasko and Monroe School District are currently in communication. As this is a very complex legal and personnel matter, the board is prohibited from sharing additional information; however, I can tell you that we are taking this very seriously and we remain steadfast in our commitment to follow policy and the law during this process.
As communicated earlier this year, our current acting superintendent Kim Whitworth will be returning to her position as Monroe School District's Chief Academic Officer beginning July 1. We would like to thank Kim for stepping in as the Acting Superintendent during a very challenging time and for her continued commitment to our district. We know she is looking forward to returning to the role that she loves.
While we continue to work through next steps with Dr. Blasko, we will be hiring an acting superintendent to step in to temporarily lead Monroe School District. As such, the school board has initiated a search for an acting superintendent and will be working with reputable organizations, such as the Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA), on recruitment. Based on what we have heard from our community over the last several months, our goal is to find an experienced leader, skilled in building positive culture, and authentic community engagement.
We will continue to communicate more each step along the way. Thank you all for your support of our students and schools during this time.
MSD Board President
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