Tracy Rose has been reinstated as principal of Washington High School (WHS) with a number of stipulations in place after a third-party investigation concluded that he was culpable in two separate acts of harassment, under board of education policy, against WHS assistant principal Beth Day.
On Feb. 9, the Washington Court House City School (WCHCS) District placed Rose — who has been principal at WHS since July 2015 — on administrative leave pending the conclusion of an ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct. According to WCHCS documents requested by the Record-Herald, the investigation began after Day made a complaint that Rose created a hostile work environment through bullying and/or harassing behavior.
A formal written complaint dated Feb. 15 was submitted by Day to the WCHCS Board of Education’s legal counsel, Ennis Britton Co., of Cincinnati, which handled the investigation for the school district.
In her written complaint, Day alleged a pattern of bullying and harassing behavior from Rose that created a toxic work environment. Day, who said she had previously worked for Rose as a substitute teacher in 2004, accepted the assistant principal position in 2018.
“Quickly I realized that my new job was going to be more challenging than I anticipated,” Day wrote. “With little to no training on processes and procedures Mr. Rose had extremely high expectations and little to no guidance. His way or the highway. When he would give guidance — it would be out of convenience, lip service or instructions. He expected me to know what he wanted. He eventually reduced my role to a daily checklist. Simple tasks. Never a team player.”
Day also wrote: “I try to work with struggling students — filling every available space to serve teachers and support kids — the second it showed any success — he wanted all kids out of the office. This hostile/toxic work environment is destructive, and it is impeding all forward movement. There is so much more I could have documented – but….I leave school with a weariness – wondering what made him mad today – what could be issues the following day – trying to predict moods and issues ahead of time.”
On March 1, Ennis Britton Co. provided a full investigative report to WCHCS Superintendent Dr. Tom Bailey.
“I summarized Ms. Day’s complaints as ‘a claim that Mr. Rose created a hostile work environment through bullying or harassing behavior,’” the investigative report written by Gary T. Stedronsky states. “Given the nature of Ms. Day’s hostile work environment claims and her belief that many other employees would have similar complaints, you wanted to provide all teaching staff with the opportunity to speak with me to express any concerns or complaints about the high school work environment. Staff were not required to speak with me and were also given the opportunity to express praise or support for the high school work environment and Mr. Rose. Other administrators, classified staff, and former employees were also interviewed.”
According to the report, Stedronsky spoke with 50 individuals. Including Day, 17 people expressed varying degrees of concerns or complaints, and 33 expressed praise or support for Rose and the high school work environment.
The investigator also met with Rose on Feb. 25 to address the complaints made against him by Day. He had the opportunity under board policy to submit a written response to Day’s complaints, but he chose not to, according to the report.
Day’s complaint is primarily based on personal notes she began taking in August 2019, according to the report. There are 48 separate entries, but not all of them applied to this investigation, Stedronsky wrote. Eliminating those entries resulted in 29 remaining relevant entries.
“Many of Ms. Day’s entries involve comments that Mr. Rose allegedly made to Ms. Day that she believed were nasty, hostile, or unprofessional,” the report states. “Most of these entries are general in nature, which makes them difficult to investigate or corroborate.
The report concludes that two incidents — on Dec. 3 and Dec. 5, 2019 — constitute “harassment” under the board policy. Both incidents allegedly involved Rose yelling and/or screaming in front of Day, and in one incident in front of Day’s children.
“These two incidents occurred within two days of each other,” the report states. “They occurred while Ms. Day had only been working for Mr. Rose for slightly more than one year. Given that, I can certainly understand how Ms. Day felt that those incidents were insulting, dehumanizing, and constituted verbal conduct that substantially interfered with her work performance and disrupted the orderly operation of a school. Mr. Rose admitted that he should have remained calmer. Although the December 3rd incident was not directed toward Ms. Day, another employee nonetheless heard his comment and informed Ms. Day. Given the admissions obtained and the temporal proximity of these two events, it is my conclusion that they constitute harassment under the policy. Even if they did not constitute harassment, Mr. Rose was clearly unprofessional.”
The report further explains that the investigator was unable to conclude, based on the evidentiary standard required by board policy, that Day’s other complaints constituted harassment by Rose.
“It is difficult to conclude whether the statements Ms. Day alleges Mr. Rose said under the General Complaints heading described above were said exactly as she recorded them because Mr. Rose did not admit to making most of the statements he was alleged to have said,” the report states. “Furthermore, even if he did make those statements or similar statements, the context and tone is missing.”
The report concluded that the working relationship between Rose and Day is “severely damaged.” It is unknown whether they can continue working together, the report states, and there is animosity and a lack of trust between them.
“Mr. Rose is the leader of the High School. As the leader, he should not have permitted his relationship with his Assistant Principal to degrade to its current situation,” the report states. “Mr. Rose undoubtedly believes that Ms. Day deserves some of the blame, which is likely true. For instance, she was certainly wrong to access his computer to print an email and to comment about the contents of another email she saw. Mr. Rose also reported that Ms. Day has told him that she does not like constructive criticism. Most employers view constructive criticism as critical to improving employee performance. Ms. Day should be open to constructive criticism and suggestions from Mr. Rose and others.”
The report concluded that the working relationship between Rose and Day must change or improve.
“In addition, there are enough concerns about the work environment in the high school to warrant intervention,” the report states.
In a March 7 decision by the WCHCS superintendent delivered to Day and Rose, Dr. Bailey wrote, “I concur with the findings in the enclosed report and intend to take appropriate action to ensure that the harassing behavior complained of does not occur again. Furthermore, even though many of Ms. Day’s complaints were not substantiated because of the evidentiary standard that was required to have been met, when they are considered with the issues raised through the investigator’s discussions with staff as described in the report, it is apparent that the work environment at the high school needs to be improved. I intend to address those issues outside of this process.”
Rose returned to WHS Tuesday with a district-mandated performance improvement plan in place for the remainder of this school year and the 2022-23 school year. Rose has been removed as the evaluator for Day and, at least through the remainder of this school year, is directed not to meet alone with Day.
Rose also must attend leadership training, as well as counseling for help with anger management issues for at least five sessions by Sept. 1. He must report to Jeff Conroy, who is currently employed in an advisory capacity. Conroy will facilitate mentoring for Rose and serve as a buffer between Rose and Day through the facilitation of communication, according to documents provided.
Other aspects of the improvement plan include:
– Rose must control his temper at all times and maintain professionalism at all times;
– Rose must not retaliate against any employee, or cause any person to retaliate against any employee, for their participation in the investigation;
– Rose must work collaboratively with other district administrators in a peer-to-peer relationship in order to accelerate culture, student achievement, and the overall high school experience for the students and staff;
– The district may implement a quarterly climate survey to gauge the staff’s opinion on a number of factors, including fairness, professionalism, leadership, direction of the building, etc.
Reach Record-Herald Editor Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352.