Petition seeks look at school superintendent's performance after employee aired grievances, was fired

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LANESBOROUGH — What began as a dust-up between a school superintendent and a custodial supervisor has turned into a campaign to get the School Committee to check the superintendent's management style.

Rick Paris, a custodial supervisor at Lanesborough Elementary School, was fired recently after using social media to air his grievances with Mount Greylock Regional School District Superintendent Kim Grady.

That prompted the superintendent to accuse Paris of libel and harassment, and she called police because she felt threatened. That sparked Paris to launch a signature drive, presented to the School Committee in the form of an online petition signed by more than 200 people, that questions Grady's performance and cites a high turnover rate in administrative ranks.

"I see teachers crying, upset, leaving the district because of her," Paris told The Eagle. "She tries to undermine everything you do."

Grady declined to comment for this story, noting that she is prohibited by law from discussing individual personnel matters. She referred further questions to her attorney.

Grady, formerly the director of pupil services at Lanesborough Elementary School from 2010 to 2016, was named assistant superintendent of Mount Greylock in 2016. She was promoted to interim superintendent in 2017, and named superintendent in June 2018 with a three-year contract and annual salary of $154,500.

Paris said he made the Facebook post about Grady after having reached a breaking point in his dealings with her over his job performance and how she treats other employees.

In his message, posted in early March, Paris questioned her management style and accused her of "bullying" and leading the district by "fear and intimidation."

"She's running every great employee out of the district," he wrote, accusing Grady of creating "a hostile work environment that no one can succeed in."

The next day, he said, he received an email from Principal Martha Wiley informing him, without giving a reason, that he was on administrative leave from his $45,000-a-year job. A day later, Paris received another email from Wiley, with a "letter of intent to fire," stating that he is being investigated for insubordination and his use of social media.

According to records of the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office dispatch center, Grady called police after seeing the Facebook post, saying she felt threatened.

"Mrs. Grady was upset and stated she is in fear for her life and wanted it documented," according to the dispatch report filed by Brad Lepicier. He added that Grady felt "criminally harassed."

"Mrs. Grady stated she was in fear that a mob of people would come to her house in Pittsfield because the post had been shared on Facebook multiple times," according to the report. At the end of the report, the dispatcher wrote: "I was able to locate Mr. Paris' post and did not read any direct threats made to Mrs. Grady."

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She also reported the post to the Williamstown Police Department, which had a similar response.

'Immediate steps'

Paris' petition asks the School Committee to "take immediate steps" to address the turnover that has taken place in the district since Grady was promoted to assistant superintendent in July 2016.

It also lists a number of nonunion positions that it says were "vacated during that time period." They include custodial supervisor, administrative assistant and principal of Lanesborough Elementary School; cafeteria manager at Mount Greylock; and districtwide positions such as maintenance/facilities director, interim director of pupil services, director of pupil services, compliance monitoring assistant/pupil services coordinator, bookkeeper/business assistant, treasurer, office assistant, administrative assistant/HR specialist, administrative assistant to superintendent/HR, business manager and superintendent.

Three former employees who spoke to The Eagle on the condition they not be named generally agreed with Paris' assessment of the superintendent's management style.

Paris said employees belonging to the unions wouldn't sign the petition because the district is negotiating for a new contract with union members, but that a number of nonunion employees and others had signed the petition.

Several of those signing the petition, including family members of students and a former Lanesborough School Committee member, added comments in support of Paris' claims.

Joe Bergeron, chairman of the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee, said he cannot comment on individual personnel issues. But generally speaking, he isn't sure what the committee would do with the petition, saying there is not a set procedure for dealing with complaints about a superintendent other than during the annual employee performance evaluation process.

Grady's attorney, Robert Kinzer, pointed out that, among her duties, Grady is responsible for making personnel decisions at three schools. He also noted that some of the signatures on the petition only include a first name or belong to people who are not residents of Berkshire County.

Several parents of students attending Lanesborough Elementary School requested anonymity before talking to The Eagle about Grady, for fear of retaliation against their children in school. A common theme among them was the use of intimidation and fear.

"She will take away services, punish you and make your life miserable," one woman said, adding that she "absolutely" is considering a different school system for her kids come September.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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