The Jerk

Gary Stevenson is making good teachers want to quit. Why is he still employed?

Meanwhile, the photos had been printed too dark, so the company agreed to print them yet again -- and yet again, they vanished. "I was livid," recalls Shrader. "I went in to Niemeyer, yelling, 'You and I both know what happened to those pictures!'" She says Niemeyer didn't respond, just nodded, and a few days later brought her the missing photos. The students finished the layout barely in time, Shrader paying out of her own pocket to FedEx them to the printer. "Anything Stevenson could do to undermine you, he did it," she says now. "And I've seen him put his arms around 14-, 15-year-old girls and say things like, 'Oh sweetie, if you were just a little bit older.' The kids don't even like the man."

On Dec. 18, Burns wrote Hammonds by registered mail, because she wasn't convinced he'd ever heard the full story. After recapping, she added that a student had informed her of rumors that Niemeyer and Stevenson had been in trouble with the district in the past and were never supposed to work together again.

Central Visual and Performing Arts High School
Jennifer Silverberg
Central Visual and Performing Arts High School
Cheryl Burns won top marks as an English teacher but couldn't abide what she describes as continued harassment by an administrator.
Jennifer Silverberg
Cheryl Burns won top marks as an English teacher but couldn't abide what she describes as continued harassment by an administrator.

The letter was indeed signed for, but with an indecipherable signature that looked nothing like "Cleveland Hammonds." Flieg, however, called immediately to suggest they settle matters. They met on Jan. 2, and he offered her a transfer to another high school (yes, he knew she was on medical leave and couldn't work, but they'd wait). Then he sent her a letter, enclosing the request-for-leave-of-absence form she'd been requesting for weeks. "Be assured," he closed, "I will continue to investigate your concerns."

In early March, the district sent the EEOC the information they'd requested the previous fall. Burns went eagerly to the investigator's office, curious to see the "investigation report," but it wasn't in the file. All she saw were documents that had been supplied by her. Apparently the district had forgotten to include the report. The investigator called again, eventually received it, and relayed the gist to Burns: Stevenson had denied all charges, and the one possible witness, an assistant principal who might have overheard the "ball-squeezing" comment, didn't remember.

According to Chester Edmonds, spokesman for the district, "The superintendent asked that that situation be investigated. The investigation did not result in a finding of blame. He personally wrote a letter to both people involved, ordering a cease-and-desist and asking that the complaining teacher let him know of any future concerns. And that did not happen."

In point of fact, the letter had directed Burns to report future concerns to Niemeyer, not Hammonds -- and she says she not only did that but wrote Hammonds by registered mail, then left several phone messages begging to talk to him before she went to the press. She says he never returned the calls.

On March 15, Burns went back to Central to clean out her classroom. Feeling like a soldier stripped of rank, she slowly pulled down all the motivational posters and boxed up the poems and novels. When her students ran up to ask her where she'd been and why she'd left them, she wasn't sure what to say.

The next day she received a letter confirming her unofficial unpaid leave of absence and instructing her to apply for reassignment elsewhere.

Stevenson remains at Central, still watching the halls.

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