During a special board meeting on Tuesday night, the District 209 school board voted 5 to 1 in favor of removing Claudia Medina as board vice president, because they said she violated her oath of office.
Board member Ned Wagner voted against the motion while Medina abstained.
The board then opened the floor for members to nominate Medina’s replacement, with Della Patterson nominating Sam Valtierrez, who declined, and Valtierrez nominating Patterson, who also declined.
Board President Rodney Alexander then nominated Theresa Kelly to replace Medina as vice president. After a second, that motion passed 6-0, with Medina abstaining.
“This will probably set a precedent that no board wants to set, but it is necessary,” said Alexander before introducing the motion to remove Medina as vice president.
Alexander said that the board has no punitive power and cannot remove a sitting board member from their seat on the board without getting permission to do so from state authorities.
“We do have censure, but that’s nothing more than a reading and if there’s not contrition and agreement on that, then it’s pretty much ineffective and the behavior will continue,” Alexander said.
When reached for comment after the Sept. 15 meeting, Alexander said that Medina had been sending “harassing and bullying” texts and emails to Supt. James Henderson.
“When Dr. Henderson sends his board a text message saying that he feels harassed as an employee, it is not our job to say what harassment or bullying is, our only option is to ask the person doing it to stop the behavior,” Alexander said.
Alexander added that Medina shared sensitive personnel information and executive session conversations with Forest Park Review about the superintendent search process, which is in violation of board policy.
He also said that during the superintendent search process, Medina withheld the fact that she’s close friends with a relative of one of the two finalists who were up for the superintendent job. The man, Dr. Terrance Brown, is the brother-in-law of Medina’s close friend.
“There’s nothing wrong with her knowing the candidate, but just tell us beforehand,” Alexander said. “As a matter of fact, every board member was asked to submit the names of people in our search group that we knew. We just asked that we disclose this to the board. We were so close to hiring this guy and if we’d done that [despite the fact that a member knew him without disclosing that knowledge beforehand], it would have been a disaster. We’d have looked stupid.”
The board president said that when Medina was confronted with the accusations in executive session, she was unresponsive.
“We just lost confidence in her,” Alexander said. “She won’t admit to anything or apologize for anything. She didn’t respond to any of the allegations. You don’t get to be our vice president and lead us, when you can’t communicate with us.”
Medina has admitted to knowing the finalist and said that she withheld the information, because doing so would have tainted her colleagues’ opinion of Brown, given the rancor between herself and the other board members.
“I didn’t share personnel matters [with the newspaper during the superintendent search process],” she said on Tuesday evening, after the special board meeting. “I shared concerns about the process.”
In response to accusations that she abused her oath, Medina said, “That’s not true,” adding “I’m not in violation of my oath of office in any way, shape or form.
She said that her communications with Supt. Henderson were only related to questions she had about the district’s budget deficit.
“I was not told that this special board meeting was going to be about me,” Medina said. “They said it was about communication. I thought this had to do with a communications director position; instead, it was about my communication and my requesting information from the superintendent. I would think that being fiscally responsible would be important to the taxpayer.”