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Trial by JuryPosted Wednesday, July 20, 2011, at 3:33 PM
Trial by Jury
Last night, I attended another in a series of hearings held by our school board against former and present employees. An adversarial tone was set by the district when a fully uniformed policeman arrived to monitor the hearing.
Unlike the Remenar hearing, this employee was allowed to speak because she came armed with her Arkansas Education Association representative, Mr. Bob Gettino. The former employee was Connie Bentel, high school secretary for Principal Kathryn Lavender.
Lavender and Wayne Carr, district superintendent, were represented by the district's attorney, Mr. Bill Brasul.
The hearing was held before a portion of the school board. Two of the members were missing. President Rusty Windle ran the show.
The hearing began with testimony from the district. Lavender was interviewed first by Brasul. Carr; for the most part, stayed mum during the district's turn at the bat. Carr did speak once during the district's presentation of its story and it was forgettable. Lavender was on the hot seat for approximately an hour. Much of her testimony was questionable because she couldn't seem to get her dates and times to agree. At one point, Lavender stated that the district secretary, Cathleen Martinek, had spent a week correcting errors made allegedly by Bentel. When Martinek testified later, she said that it took a half a day to make the corrections. The district's hour was spent describing its grading and transcript system, plus rules and privacy policies. During this testimony, the district described Bentel as a near incompetent. Brasul and Lavender attempted to perform a systematic assassination of Bentel's character. The district rested. No peeps from Carr, just a lot of foot tapping, leg jiggling and lapping of water from a plastic bottle.
Bentel and Gettino were up to bat next. Bentel's testimony was 180 degrees from that of Lavender's. Bentel spoke with great control and had all her dates documented. She testified that she had worked in the capacity of secretary for five years in the district. She had never been given any warnings by her former principals. After being employed by the district for half a decade, she was surprised that she was never informed by Lavender of her right to a representative during the meetings for alleged wrong doing. This oversight was committed by a principal that claims to always follow the rules. Bentel attested that two of the meetings were held in the outer office in full view and ear shot of office traffic; so much for Lavender's concern about privacy issues. Bentel finished her testimony with the denial of most of Lavender's charges. Gettino called three witnesses in defense of Bentel. Two of the witnesses were former students. They testified to the lack of veracity on the part of Lavender and their concerns that Windle had made up his mind before hearing their complete testimony. Mr. Golden, the 2009 -10 principal was called to testify. He said he had no complaints about Bentel's job performance during the year he was in charge of the high school. Gettino rested.
We all took a break after two hours of testimony. There were at least thirty spectators (including teachers, parents, students and concerned citizens crowded into the board room. The air conditioning was working over time, but that didn't deter us from staying to the end.
After the ten minute break, we gathered for round three; the cross examination by both representatives. Here's where Brasul showed his true colors. He blasted us with a loudly pretentious voice and manner. He rudely remarked, "I don't care" several times when asked for permission to speak. His body language spoke of importance when he leaned back on two legs of his chair. I almost expected him to rest his feet on the table and steeple his hands over his immense stomach. Luckily the chair supported him since he was no lightweight. When cross examining Golden, Brasul accused Golden of operating a "loosey-goosey" administration! All the spectators gasped. Brasul decided to drop that line of questioning. He then cross examined Bentel. She was cool mannered and was not caught by Brasul's traps. He rested.
Round four began with Gettino, who kept his cross examination short and respectful. He cleared up some foggy testimony on Lavender's part to which she said she either didn't remember or couldn't remember. He rested.
Windle asked if there were any requests of the board by the representatives. Gettino asked that Windle recluse himself due to his involvement in the case. Windle did not give an answer to the request. Windle did, however, remind the board they had ten days to give a verdict. He chose Tuesday, July 19 at 5:30 PM in the Administration building for the announcement of their decision. Thus the Trial by July ended after four hours.
In a Twist
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I'm Enid. No, not the town in Oklahoma, but a transplant to Eureka Springs from Minneapolis fourteen years ago. I'm a writer, journalist and sometime artist. My real love is expressing my opinions on almost any subject, as you have seen in my many letters to the Editor of The Lovely County Citizen over the years. Now, I'm happy to say that I will be writing a blog titled In a Twist for your amusement, amazement or commiseration. Thanks for giving me a read.