Guest Commentary by Susan Rush, Manchester
There was no surprise, on my part, by the article which appeared in the Independent Coast Observer (ICO) by D. Glenn O'Hara on February 4, 2010, in which he states Point Arena Superintendent Mark Iacuaniello was "cleared" in the civil suit filed by former Point Arena Elementary Principal Matt Murray for "fraudulent inducement."
Mr. O'Hara was able to compile his article without taking the time or effort to leave his office in Gualala, not having to drive in the rain to Ukiah to obtain one piece of information from the trial in order to get the "real scoop" as the reporters from the Anderson Valley Advertiser did on a daily basis.
Did Mr. O'Hara take the time to report Mr. Murray's ex-boss who flew in from the Long Beach School District to support Mr. Murray, a person he stated was "key" in the team which helped to obtain the highest award a school district can receive which was presented to them by President Clinton? NO, he did not!
Did Mr. O'Hara take the time to report that two ex-board members took the stand to support Mr. Murray with one of the board members flying in from Colorado? NO, he did not!
Did Mr. O'Hara take the time to report on the number of teachers, community members and parents who took the stand on behalf of Mr. Murray because of the many good things Mr. Murray accomplished, not only for our children but for the whole community? NO, he did not!
Did Mr. O'Hara take the time to report that the only persons Mr. Iacuaniello could find to personally take the stand on his behalf were his wife, a handful of disgruntled teachers, and a classified staff member? NO, he did not!
Did Mr. O’Hara take the time to report there is absolutely no “paper trail” of so-called grievances the teachers had against Mr. Murray to terminate him? NO, he did not!
Did Mr. O’Hara take the time to find out that Mr. Murray’s demise began in the Spring of 2006 when the teachers began to “circle the wagons” with Iacauaniello as the wagonmaster? NO, he did not.
How could he? He would have had to leave his office and drive in the rain to get the whole truth!
What, Mr. O'Hara did was stay out of the rain (perhaps, out of the truth would be more appropriate) and relied on information previously written in the ICO; information from his "good friend" Superintendent Iacuaniello; information from a teacher who claims "anonymity" (that is NOT exactly the word I would use). This anonymous teacher, I believe, was willing to step forward because "he" received a less than favorable evaluation from Mr. Murray but, at least, he can now receive all the "hugs" needed from the current elementary principal, Paula Patterson to do his job.
Yes, Mr. O'Hara did speak to Mr. Murray “for a minute” but the article remained skewed in favor of the superintendent and, again, his "good friend" Mark Iacuaniello which is not surprising because the ICO has taken this stand since Mr. Murray’s termination.
What really happened on Friday, January 29th, 2010, at the Mendocino County Court House in Ukiah. The jurors, under legal constraints, handed down the following verdict: On two counts Superintendent Iacuaniello was found GUILTY (concealment and false promises) and on two counts he was found not guilty. After the jurors handed down the verdict, they gathered around Matthew Murray, the "terminated" ex-principal of Point Arena Elementary School and his wife. Two of the women jurors tearily stated they were "so sorry, we ALL believed you got screwed but there was nothing legally we could do".
So, who really won? A legal system that protected Mr. Iacuaniello because he is a public employee. If Mr. Iacuaniello was employed in the private sector, the case, most likely, would have had a different outcome. Mr. Murray would have had the legal right to prove wrongful termination, and I believe he would have won his case, hands down!
Mr. Iacuaniello was quoted in the ICO as stating, "It's been hell." However, it is a "hell" he, himself created. If he wants to know what "hell" really is like, he should walk in Matthew Murray's shoes.
What I think it boils down to is Mr. Murray was, indeed, the moral victor in this case, as confirmed by the comments of the jurors above “you (meaning Murray) got screwed.” Matt Murray proved that in our small coastal community you CAN raise the bar, and have our children achieve and pass State and Federal Goals. After all, he was able to set a gold standard for our children in which they did achieve passing goals with flying colors. However, since his termination the school has taken a nosedive and currently is back into State Program Improvement because of the staff's inability to meet State and Federal Goals. Hopefully, some day we can do away with small town, good ol’ boy politics and do what should be done, as Mr. Murray did, assure that our children are well educated!
I have said this many times: the future of our communities lies within our schools. Of course, look at what happened to Mr. Murray: for doing an outstanding job for our children, he was terminated without cause.