Once again, the Sperry school board has shown extremely poor judgment in its selection of a superintendent for their district by hiring assistant superintendent Brian Beagles, to replace Jim Sisney, after Sisney abruptly announced his retirement July 13, several days after the Attorney General Scott Pruitt released the state audit of the Broken Arrow Public Schools to the public. The audit disproved Sisney’s very public accusations of criminal wrongdoing and corruption in the Broken Arrow School district related to the district’s relationship with local HVAC vendor Air Assurance and his claim that he was fired from the district because he started ‘investigating’ it. The audit also revealed that Sisney had unilaterally approved salary and travel stipends to a select group of administrators, outside of their employment contract stipulations, amounting to more than $250,000 over the three years covered by the audit, WITHOUT board approval or knowledge. His choices in awarding the stipends suggested a pattern of favoritism toward certain employees while neglecting others in similar administrative positions. Brian Beagles was one of those favored recipients of Sisney’s stipends each of those three years, amounting to $6,000 in salary and $6,800 in travel stipends each year, totaling $38,400 for all three years. This extra compensation equaled just over 11% of Beagles’ total gross pay (stipends included) each year. It is possible that Sisney was awarding these stipends in the previous years, as well, after he was hired as superintendent at BAPS in 2003.
Fortunately for Beagles, Sisney’s two-week notice didn’t give the board much time to find a replacement before the start of the new school year. However, instead of appointing Beagles as interim superintendent or signing a one-year contract with him as a precautionary measure, and allowing community input in making a more permanent decision some time in the future, board members signed a three-year contract with him at this Monday’s board meeting (July 11, 2011). This was a foolish and possibly costly move by the board, as demonstrated by the following information.
Longtime ties between Sisney and Beagles
Sisney and Beagles are longtime friends and associates and as such, Sisney’s professional misconduct, now proven by the recently released state audit, should have been considered when making a decision about hiring Beagles as the next superintendent. If they weren’t two of a kind, Sisney would not have had Beagles follow him from Broken Arrow to Sperry and Beagles would not have been so willing to go. Beagles had to be aware of Sisney’s deceptions and false accusations made against BA school district employees, board members, and local businesses long before he followed Sisney to Sperry in May 2009, when Sisney and the Sperry board created the new assistant superintendent position and hired him. Yet Beagles willingly chose to work with him again, even if it meant working in a much smaller school district than BA, with less than 1/12 the number of students BA has, in a lateral move to another assistant superintendent position, perhaps with the knowledge that when Sisney left Sperry, he was assured of becoming the new superintendent.
Beagles has been Sisney’s coworker since 1997, when both worked for the Bartlesville Public School district. (Sisney was hired in 1992 and Beagles was hired in 1997, after working at Caney Valley Public Schools in Ramona, OK, where Beagles still lives.)
Both men were hired in 2000 by Dennis Shoemaker to work for Broken Arrow Public Schools, after Shoemaker became superintendent at the beginning of that year. (Shoemaker has ties to Bartlesville. He had lived there for 19 years, and worked for its school district prior to 1985. It was his first school administration experience.) Sisney was hired to be the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. Beagles filled the position of Executive Director of School Improvement and Accountability, a position newly created by Shoemaker and which reported directly to Sisney.
When Shoemaker announced his retirement in mid-February 2003, he recommended that board members select the new superintendent from within the district and choose either Assistant Superintendent Gary Gerber or Jim Sisney, stating both were well qualified. The board members followed his advice, accepted applications during a one-week time period, and quickly made a decision. Although Shoemaker did not publicly endorse one man over the other, the board hired Sisney (who Shoemaker had brought into the district just three years earlier) as the new superintendent on March 24, 2003, with a start date of March 31. Shoemaker remained on as an advisor for the rest of the school year.
When Sisney assumed leadership of the district, he promoted Beagles to Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services (likely the same position that Sisney held for three years before he became Superintendent, but with an altered (or misquoted) title).
Sperry Board Ignores Warning Signs and Hires Sisney (and then two of his former BAPS coworkers and a BA neighbor soon after)
The Sperry board members chose to ignore problems created by Jim Sisney while he was superintendent of Broken Arrow Public Schools, and apparently took his claims for why he was fired from Broken Arrow at face value and hired him at the end of April 2009, without analyzing the sequence of events that took place in Broken Arrow and Sisney’s actions which were in stark contrast to his words.
Read the list of reasons that the school board gave for considering the termination of Jim Sisney’s employment, in a letter to Sisney dated October 7, 2008, the day after Sisney was suspended.
Board member Flippo holds press conference in February 2009 and informs the public that Sisney threatened BA board in July 2008 for personal gain
On February 5, 2009, then longtime BA board member Maryanne Flippo held a press conference and announced that Jim Sisney had threatened her and the school board with a PR nightmare if he did not get something he wanted related to his employment (at that time she was not specific what that was, due to employee confidentiality requirements). Read the full transcript of Maryanne Flippo’s press conference remarks here.
Sisney announces district in financial crisis, after he and the three new hires from BA add significantly to personnel expenses
Based on Sisney’s recommendations, the Sperry board hired Brian Beagles to fill the newly created position of Assistant Superintendent in May 2009, less than a month after Sisney arrived.
Brent Core was hired to be the new middle school principal with the added responsibility as director of curriculum in July 2009. He previously worked with Sisney in Broken Arrow (as Coordinator of Language Arts and Foreign Languages) just before coming to Sperry and had worked with him in Bartlesville as well (he was a HS English teacher at the time Sisney was the HS Principal).
Roger Snellgrove filled the newly created position of director of operations in November 2009. Mr. Snellgrove had no prior work experience in education, had been unemployed for seven months, and lived in Broken Arrow at the time. His wife Beth Snellgrove testified that Sisney called Roger to tell him there was a position available at Sperry for him. Beth was an officer of the BAPS PTA and was campaign manager for Trish Henley who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the BA school board representing Zone 4 during the early part of the Sisney/BA controversy and was defeated in the first round of votes cast in February 2009 (A run-off election between the other two candidates was held in April and Cheryl Kelly was elected). Both Beth Snellgrove and Trish Henley were publicly outspoken against the board majority’s actions in suspending and then terminating Sisney’s employment with the BA school district. Beth Snellgrove also was receiving confidential board information directly from board member Updike, which was then shared with Sisney after he was fired from BA. She was also one of Sisney’s allies that met with special state auditor Sherri Combs to influence the outcome of the (first/ now discarded) audit. Beth Snellgrove testified in her sworn deposition of May 2010 that when she and her family prepared for their move back home to Georgia, her husband found employment with a fencing company in April 2010. The Sperry position that was created for Roger Snellgrove disappeared when he left the district.
By bringing three of his buddies on board—two into newly created administrative positions, Sisney and the board added considerably to the expenses of running the small Sperry school district of just over 1200 students. This was in addition to the added expense for the district when the board approved a contract with Sisney for $142,367 for his first full school year at the district, which was just over $30,000 more in salary and benefits than the previous superintendent Rayma Harchar was paid.
Did Sisney also award additional payroll stipends to favored administrators at Sperry, just like he did at Broken Arrow, without board approval and knowledge? The state auditors no doubt looked for that in their investigative audit of Sperry that was just completed.
Sisney then announced that the district was in a financial crisis, in two January 2010 community meetings that he and Beagles spoke at to promote consideration of a school bond issue. It’s a “very dangerous time for the community,” he stated. Sisney also said: “Within 60-90 days there may be some people who lose their jobs. That is a distinct possibility that exists.” From the Skiatook Journal article “Future of Sperry Schools Discussed” dated January 27, 2010 (print edition only):
Sisney also presented details regarding a school bond issue, which he believes is needed to fund several projects, including replacing many of the school’s busses [sic], repairing roofs, replacing heating and air systems and buying textbooks.
During both meetings, the superintendent also explained that the proposed bond issue is one of the most critical in the history of the school, but if he can’t get the support from the community soon, he will tell the school board members to not have a bond issue.
Did Sperry’s financial crisis just all of a sudden develop out of the blue or were finances already a problem when he and the board decided to create two new highly paid positions for the school district the previous year, one of them just two months prior to these January meetings?
Lawsuit Settlements, Payout of Contract, and One Year of Paid Leave for Principal: More Drains on Sperry’s finances
Stephanie Holcomb paid a $54,500 settlement
Sisney also created an additional financial burden for the Sperry district when he neglected to honor Principal Stephanie Holcomb’s request for a due process hearing when her employment contract was not renewed. She filed a lawsuit against Sisney and two board members in August 2009 and upon Sisney’s recommendation, the board approved a settlement with Holcomb for $54,500 in September 2009.
Tim Weaver reinstated after one year of paid leave after suspension, without full internal investigation, despite problems at previous school district
High School principal Timothy Howard Weaver was suspended with pay in early April 2009 by Rayma Harcher, after allegations were made by eight high school students to Sperry police about Weaver’s alleged inappropriate behavior of sitting and watching students in the boys’ locker room as they undressed and showered, making them feel uncomfortable. Fox 23 reported the following in its April 13, 2009, article titled “Principal Under Investigation”
At his last job, as the middle school principal in Valliant, Oklahoma, a rural area located five miles from the Texas border and 20 miles from the Arkansas border, Weaver’s initial two-year contract, which ran from fall 2006 through spring 2008, was not renewed.
A school board member there confirms Weaver was placed on paid administrative leave for the last four months of that contract.
That same board member says civil lawsuits relating to Weaver were settled out of court.
Fox 23 further reported in its April 28, 2009, article titled “Sperry Hires Interim Superintendent:
We uncovered a record from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, indicating a Tim Weaver spent a month either in jail or on probation in 1981. A school district official confirms the birth date matches Sperry High School principal Tim Weaver, and the crime occurred in Pittsburg County. But it’s unclear what the crime was, since the record was recently pulled from the online system. DOC officials say that may be because the record was expunged.
The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Dept. announced, and the DA concurred, in May 2009 that their investigation did not find sufficient evidence to file charges against Weaver. Weaver remained on paid leave, despite several requests by the district administration for him to return to work. According to the Tulsa World article of March 27, 2010, titled “Principal of Sperry High will keep job”
Richard O’Carroll, Weaver’s attorney, told the board Weaver wanted to return to work but had never been given a chance to clear the air about a “false and unwarranted character assassination.”
Weaver was officially reinstated to his position as high school principal by the board at their March 25, 2010, meeting. Sisney said at the meeting that the school never did a full internal investigation into Weaver’s alleged misconduct.
Superintendent Rayma Harchar agreed to resign and was paid a sum of $62,500 to buy out the remaining two years on her contract
Harchar, who was only just hired as superintendent at the beginning of the school year was pushed to resign in April 2009, shortly after Tim Weaver was suspended, with the board agreeing to buy out the remaining two years of her three-year contract, at an agreed-upon total amount of $62,500. Sisney was hired as her replacement days after her resignation was accepted.
Harchar had recommended to the board in February 2009 that Weaver’s contract not be renewed, due to his deficiencies as an educator. Sisney stated in a letter submitted to the board in a November 2009 meeting that Harchar’s recommendation to not renew Weaver’s contract “had no basis.”
There had been problems developing between the board and Harchar over a period of several months prior to her resignation.
Sisney and Beagles rack up legal fees for the district while trying to prevent Annie Pham, a high-achieving foreign exchange student, from receiving a high school diploma
In a move typical of Sisney’s manipulative schemes, creating dissension among board members and controversy within the community, Sisney and Beagles told Annie Pham, a senior high school student from Vietnam, at the end of her senior year at Sperry that she would be ineligible to receive a diploma from Sperry High School, as she had not earned sufficient credits to meet graduation requirements. These claims were made despite the fact that school administrators had told her earlier in the year she was eligible to receive a diploma and that in previous years, other foreign exchange student had attended Sperry HS in their senior year and received diplomas. At the time, Sperry district had no written policy that prevented foreign exchange students attending Sperry from earning a diploma, although several other districts in the Tulsa area did. Pham’s school transcript from Vietnam had been reviewed by the World Education Services of New York, which concluded that she had completed the U.S. equivalent of 11 years of elementary and secondary education. In her senior year at Sperry, Ms. Pham was a better than straight-A student, having completed all AP classes, scored a 26 on her SAT test, and was awarded a scholarship to OSU (and also offered scholarships to attend TU and OU), based on her academic achievements. She also received special honors for high academic achievement at the end of her senior year at Sperry. (Not bad for someone whose first language is not English.)
The Oklahoma Education Code instructs that “state Board of Education shall adopt rules to ensure that students who transfer from out of state after the junior year shall not be denied, because of differing graduation requirements, the opportunity to receive a standard diploma.” School boards are able make exceptions to graduation requirements on an individual basis.
The Sperry school board voted 2-1 not to make an exception for Ms. Pham. (Two of the five board members did not attend the meeting when the vote was taken.) Although the matter was originally on the April 12 board meeting agenda, addressing this issue was delayed and not voted on until the May 13, 2010, meeting, less than a week and a half before the May 22 graduation ceremony.
Fortunately for Annie, her host parents, Perry and Angie Newman, supported Annie and fought for her every step of the way and took the matter to court, filing an application for peremptory writ of mandamus that following Wednesday.
On Thursday, May 20, the judge ruled that the Sperry school district must award Ms. Pham her diploma, in time for her to join her class at the graduation ceremony.
Even after the judge’s ruling, Sisney and Beagles were not satisfied to let the matter rest. The district’s attorney did not attend the court hearing on Thursday (he called Sisney that morning when he read in the news about the writ; Sisney told him not to bother going) to present their side before the judge made her ruling. However, Sisney then turned around and hired a new attorney (with or without board approval? We know Sisney had hired law firms for BA in the past without board approval * ) and on late Friday afternoon, the day before graduation, the school district filed an emergency motion to vacate the judge’s ruling and a request for a hearing. For some reason not understood by most people, the Sperry administration and board were trying to prevent a well-qualified, highly achieving, extremely motivated student from having that diploma.
The judge upheld her earlier ruling, on June 2, 2010, and stated that based on a certified Sperry transcript for Pham from November, Pham “has earned and exceeded the necessary requirements for graduation.”
Although the Newmans expected an appeal to be filed, one wasn’t. Annie Pham received her official diploma. But that didn’t stop the Sperry board from complaining about the judge’s ruling in the Pham case–four months later–at an October 14, 2010, board meeting, right before the judge was up for re-election in early November, as reported by the Skiatook Journal in its article dated October 15, 2011, titled “Sperry hears from its own auditor.” Read these revealing excerpts:
The board also took the opportunity to engage, with some assistance from Broken Arrow lawyer Steven Bulleigh, in a sort of venting session in regard to the district’s defeat earlier this year in a court case that involved whether or not to grant a standard Oklahoma high school diploma to an academically-accomplished Vietnamese exchange student. Bulleigh has represented the district in the case.
Sperry Board of Education members made it clear Thursday night they resented the judge trumping their authority by nullifying the decision they had made not to grant Annie Pham a diploma. Board members questioned Bulleigh sharply about what to make of Morrissey’s decision.
Superintendent Jim Sisney and Assistant Superintendent Brian Beagles voiced skepticism about whether Morrissey had the expertise necessary to correctly evaluate transcript materials that were provided to her as she weighed the competing claims of the parties.
“Who’s running against her?” Board Vice President Jonnetta Selvidge asked during the discussion, appearing to suggest the possibility of political retaliation against the judge.
Morrissey is currently a candidate for re-election.
Added note: Attorney Stephen Bulleigh was present at the October 14, 2010, board meeting to discuss the ongoing Annie Pham court case in executive session. On August 27, 2010, the Newmans filed a motion to assess and award damages against the Sperry school district and the school board to recoup legal fees incurred in seeking the court’s assistance to compel the Sperry district to award Pham the HS diploma she had earned. After considering both the plaintiff’s and defendant’s sides of the argument, based on case law, Judge Morrissey denied the motion on November 16, 2010.
It wouldn’t be the first time that Sisney tried to influence an election. After he was dismissed from Broken Arrow in 2008, he passed along confidential BAPS employee information to Rep. Mike Reynolds about payment of unused sick leave to employees, a practice discontinued years before. Then at the end of January 2009, right before the next BA school board election, Reynolds released a press statement, naming only two out of hundreds of BA employees who had received the payments: the current, interim superintendent Gary Gerber and Cheryl Kelly, one of the candidates who was running for school board (and subsequently won in the run-off election in April). Sisney was likely hoping his preferred candidate, Trish Henley, would win, as she was sympathetic to Sisney, believing the story he was telling the public. He may have had hopes back then that if Henley was elected and joined the board minority of two (Stover and Updike) who were biased for Sisney, Sisney could be re-instated as superintendent.
Do you want a clue as to what precipitated the objection to Annie Pham receiving a diploma? From a Tulsa World article dated April 25, 2010, titled “Diploma for exchange student at issue”
After Annie enrolled, she learned from school officials that she could qualify for a diploma because past foreign exchange students who were in the school during their senior year had graduated, he said.
That changed in February when Newman checked Annie’s chance of being salutatorian or valedictorian. Newman said Assistant Superintendent Brian Beagles told him she couldn’t be considered for top honors or for graduation.
On the Common Application for college admittance, Pham’s HS counselor Jan Clark wrote in December 2009 that Pham’s school transcript from Vietnam was not weighted to reflect that she had attended a school for gifted students all of her school years. If it had been weighted [according to Sperry’s MS/HS handbook] to reflect that she had taken those advanced classes, she would have been ranked #1 in her graduating class, instead of #5.
The Newmans acquired a copy of a letter that Brian Beagles wrote in April 2010 to OSU inquiring about Pham’s scholarship status and monies awarded. They state that Beagles repeated lied to OSU in that letter, that everything that he attributed to the Newmans having said was lies but the biggest lie of all was when he wrote that they had told him that she would not be eligible for the scholarship unless she was valedictorian. You can read Beagles letter to OSU here and the Facebook comments that follow the letter on that page.
The Newmans also reported on FB on June 15: “Beagles has refused to release a “certified” transcript for Annie to the Newman Family for her Visa interview since she is 18 years old. He wants a “Power of Attorney” to release this transcript.” Annie was in Vietnam at the time and preparing to return to the US to attend OSU in August.
After Annie Pham received her diploma, the Sperry school board approved a new district policy at its June 14, 2010, board meeting that will allow only one foreign exchange student in each school year to attend Sperry High School, restricting acceptance to only to students in their senior year of high school. However, these foreign exchange student seniors would NOT be allowed to receive a diploma from Sperry HS.
Were these two restrictions, seemingly incompatible to each other, put in place specifically to strongly discourage foreign exchange students from attending Sperry High School? If the district wanted to prevent FES from receiving diplomas, why not restrict attendance of FES to those in their junior year of HS? Why disallow junior year FES students? Normally, that is the school year that most FES visit attend US high schools.
(FYI – Annie is attending OSU and doing very well. She visits the Newmans as often as she can. And Judge Linda Morrissey was re-elected to the bench.)
If you want to read more about the Pham case and see documentation, read The Annie Alliance page on facebook.
* The Sperry Public School district has not published on its website any minutes of board meetings for over one year, since May 13, 2010 (coincidentally the date the board voted not to make an exception for Pham to receive a diploma), except for the minutes of the October 14, 2010, board meeting (which, again coincidentally, contained the gripe session about the Pham issue). The district has a website with a page specifically set up to post links to board meeting agendas and minutes, so what is the problem? Perhaps the administration and board prefer to keep knowledge of their activities and votes restricted to the barest minimum of persons possible–those who attend the meetings and those willing to formally request a paper copy of the minutes from the district. Howevever, if the district was interested in transparency and efficiency, the sensible solution would be to use the formatted website page already in existence to post copies of all board meeting minutes online for everyone to easily access and read at their convenience. Sperry residents should insist on it so they can keep a better watch over their district and be able to answer questions such as “Did Sisney get board approval the same day he told their existing lawyer he wasn’t needed and hired a new lawyer (Steve Bulleigh) to represent the district in the Pham case?”
Did Sperry school board members even bother to read the court documents from and related news articles about Sisney’s lawsuits? If not, why not?
BA board members counterclaim against Sisney published by media December 2009
Sperry board members compounded their initial error of hiring Sisney on an interim basis by then signing a new one-year contract with Sisney, making him the permanent superintendent of the district in August 2009. The board then signed a new three-year contract with Sisney on January 11, 2010, just a little more than one week before Sisney announced the district was in a financial crisis, and despite the shocking evidence about Sisney’s conduct in Broken Arrow that had become available to the public in news articles published in December 2009. The media published copies of court documents related to a counterclaim against Sisney intended to be filed by three BA board members who were being sued by Sisney in the defamation lawsuit that he originally filed in September 2008, before he was suspended or fired from BAPS.
The board members’ counterclaim alleges that Jim Sisney personally threatened Maryanne Flippo on three occasions and and attempted to blackmail board members in July 2008 with threats of a PR nightmare regarding district business with longtime HVAC vendor Air Assurance, if he did not get a favorable job review and an early extension to his employment contract. We now know that Flippo’s claim is true by the events that have unfolded in the three years since then, with Sisney’s allegations proven false by the release of the official state audit that clears Air Assurance and the district of all criminal wrongdoing he alleged and disproves many other allegations that Sisney made about corruption and conspiracy between district employees, board members, and Air Assurance. Sisney intentionally spread these lies and filed two lawsuits, knowing they contained false claims.
Evidence included in the counterclaim as exhibits were several damaging emails written by Sisney and his brother that demonstrated they were involved in a conspiracy to harm the reputations of certain board members and the law firm they hired, in order for Sisney to get that contract extension and favorable employment review he wanted.
Two emails from Sisney to BA board member Stephanie Updike in August 2008, with instructions for her to follow, sent just prior to each of the August board meetings, and her resulting actions, show that she was a willing participant in Sisney’s destructive campaign. These emails were also included as exhibits in the counterclaim.
Ignoring the information in the counterclaim was further demonstration of the Sperry board’s incompetence and gross negligence in their duties.
Sisney’s sworn deposition of December 2009 published by media February 2010
Sperry board members seemingly also neglected to pay attention to the availability of Sisney’s own sworn testimony from December 2009, with excerpts of the deposition included with defendant’s (BAPS) motion for summary judgment filed on January 14, 2010, on Sisney’s wrongful termination lawsuit. The full deposition was included as an exhibit with court documents responding to the district’s motion for summary judgement, filed by Sisney on February 1, 2010, and was published by the media the next day. His sworn deposition, which he had to be forced by the court to attend, should have woke up the Sperry school board to what Sisney was about, if they even bothered to read it. Among many other things, he admitted that he had no evidence of wrongdoing or bias on the part of the board majority, district employees, or AA—nothing to back up his allegations, despite his publicly having stated that he had plenty of evidence and filing court documents that stated he had specific evidence—and that he was waiting for the first (bogus) audit to be published to tell him what his proof was—an audit that he and his co-conspirators worked so hard to shape.
We know that he conspired with others to tamper with and influence the outcome of the first audit conducted by Sherri Combs and discarded by then State Auditor Burrage. Early in February 2011, Sisney attached a copy of the leaked, unapproved draft of that one-sided, bogus audit, full of unsubstantiated rumors and outright lies, as an exhibit to a court filing as evidence in his lawsuit. This was after Burrage had publicly announced the previous September it was a collection of hearsay and unsubstantiated information put together by an auditor whose independence had been compromised and who had colluded with a state legislator. It was also after the auditor’s sworn deposition in December 2010 that Sisney’s attorneys attended. By claiming that the discarded, unapproved audit was proof of his allegations, Sisney, in effect, was lying—again—to the court.
The two lawsuits Sisney filed have cost the BA district hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and staff time to defend against and damaged personal and professional reputations and the reputation of the Broken Arrow school district, causing emotional harm to many people in our community. One lawsuit is still ongoing. Sisney had to be forced by the defendants to participate in both of his lawsuits, costing even more legal fees for the district. Sisney has used the judicial system as a tool to intimidate his employer (the board members) and manipulate the public, while he attempted to salvage his reputation and, if he was successful in his lawsuits, to enrich his bank account .
Audit Findings Yet to be Published
It is likely there will be more revelations to come that are connected to Sisney, as there are State and Federal investigations still ongoing and two sections of the BAPS state audit that were redacted from the June 7 publication still to be released to the public once the AG’s investigation is completed.The field work for the Sperry investigative audit ordered by the AG based on a complaint received by the AG’s office in August 2010 is now completed and the state auditor stated it might be published as early as next month. The complaint alleged “improper procurement practices and possible illegal conduct” by the district.
Why did the Sperry board members hire Sisney in the first place?
Did Sisney manage to convince board members that he was the whistleblower he said he was? Did they find him personally likeable and made their assessment based on their personal impressions of meeting and talking with him, rather than taking the time to evaluate, without bias, the situation in Broken Arrow and Sisney’s actions, compared to his claims? Why was his version of events automatically accepted over what longtime board members and district employees in Broken Arrow were stating were the reasons for his suspension and then termination?
As the Sperry community’s elected representatives to serve the school district, board members have the duty to hire the best qualified individual to head up the school district and to determine if an individual’s past professional conduct was acceptable and worthy of such trust. If the board members had attempted to fairly and dispassionately review what was known already by April 2009 about Sisney and the Broken Arrow controversy, they should have arrived at a different conclusion.
SISNEY’S ACTIONS known by the public before April 2009, when Sperry first hired him:
Sisney files defamation lawsuit instead of providing information for authorities to investigate his suspicions of corruption and illegal conduct in the BA district
Sisney, as superintendent, had the authority, ability, and responsibility to take his concerns to the State Attorney General and/or the State Auditor and Inspector and ask for an investigation. He didn’t. Instead, what did he do? He tipped off the supposed conspirators that he’s on to them and created a media firestorm to bring attention to his allegations, damaging the reputation of the school district he was hired to serve, and filed a personal lawsuit that will cost the district a lot of taxpayer money. Wasn’t Sisney’s alleged concern over the district’s dealings with Air Assurance partly because he said the district was overpaying for HVAC work? Yet he saddled the district with an additional financial burden in the form of legal fees. These are contradictions between his stated intentions and his actions and should have caused Sperry board members to question his motivations.
Sisney attempts to coerce the board, again, in September 2008
At the very least, Sperry board members should have been suspicious that Sisney chose to file a defamation lawsuit on September 3, 2008 on his own behalf against AA and (at first) unnamed co-conspirators, and then filed court documents on October 2, 2008, which named the three board members as the co-conspirators the very next day after the board announced on October 1, 2008, that they would consider his suspension at the next board meeting on October 6. His attempt at coercion of the board should have been detected by that move.
Sisney further spreads the alleged rumors he claimed others were making that were damaging his reputation
The Sperry board members should have asked themselves why Sisney filed a defamation suit stating his reputation was being damaged by certain individuals allegedly saying he was stealing from the district and then called a press conference to announce that filing, bringing local, state, and national attention to those alleged statements, creating a much larger audience to hear them and subsequently causing further possible harm to his reputation. Did those individuals ever make those statements about Sisney or did Sisney fabricate that claim to give himself a platform to grab the media and public’s attention and create the PR nightmare he had promised the board if they didn’t comply with his demands. Or was it for another reason?
Sisney disobeys board’s directive and enters school premises after suspension, without permission
The Sperry board members should have wondered why, after the BA board officially suspended Sisney on October 6, 2008, and informed him he was banned from entering school premises without prior permission, he returned to the Education Service Center without permission that very night and removed six to eight boxes from there, stating they were personal belongings. The interim superintendent called the police who came and escorted him off the premises.
Sisney returned six boxes of books and other items belonging to BA schools later that week to Brian Beagles. Sisney claimed he didn’t know that the board’s instructions to stay off the premises were effective immediately, despite the fact that he was well aware this procedure had been used for administrative personnel whose employment was terminated in the past, while he was superintendent, as confirmed in his deposition in December 2009.
Were Sperry board members ignorant of the facts and duped by Sisney? Or did they already know just what they were getting when they hired Jim Sisney and chose him because of the way he operates, to assist them in pursuing their own personal agendas within the district?
In the year prior to Sisney’s hiring, three superintendents had resigned from the Sperry Public Schools district. A total of six administrators had left since 2007. In a one-and-a-half-year period from the fall of 2007 to the spring of 2009, it has been estimated that 40 staff and teachers had left the district. Former superintendent Jerry Burd, who retired from the district at the end of the 2007-2008 school year, after 13 years in that post and 26 years total working for the district, stated that during his tenure, only three or four staff members left during a school year’s time.
Many members of the Sperry community have expressed their dissatisfaction in the past with the board’s handling of district matters, blaming board members’ inappropriate behavior and the board’s poor decisions for causing turmoil in the district and community.
While much more could be written on the subject of the Sperry school board, for now, please read the following articles for some background information on the difficulties that the Sperry district has faced in recent years.
School board cited in Sperry exodus, published 05/01/09, Tulsa World
Some In Sperry Rally Against School Board, published 04/28/09, News on 6 (KOTV)
UPDATED: Sperry schools face turmoil as conflicts mount, published 04/27/09, Skiatook Journal
This article was updated July 16, 2011, to correct omitted words and typographical errors, and fix formatting. New paragraphs of information was also added the article, as identified by dark royal blue text.