West Houston Charter School

First of a Two-Part Series

Problems for the beleaguered West Houston Charter School continue to mount, with the school facing the results of a TEA audit, declining enrollment, disgruntled staff and complaints that the needs of special education students are being ignored.

Several school insiders are also alleging headmaster Reginald Johnson is “just a puppet for an out-of-control school board.”

The new allegations come even as the lawsuit of former school administrator Jean Pickering continues to make its way through the court system.

The TEA has yet to publicly release the results of a recent on-site audit of the school but, during a weekend interview with InstantNewsKaty, two WHCS insiders said many of the problems that got the school in trouble with the state before Pickering was hired have now resurfaced.

According to the insiders, enrollment has plummeted and the school is in danger of defaulting on its bonds.

“We’ve lost students; we’ve got very nervous parents and everybody wonders what kind of future this school has. It’s had a TEA monitor before because of poor management, and it’s probably going to have one again,” one source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. “The school board is continuing to meddle and not let professionals do their job; morale is extremely low among teachers.”…

Another issue the school sources said is “a problem that’s about to blow up” is the school’s handling of special needs students. A lack of commitment by the board to special needs students has been a recurring theme for more than a year, and was one of the things that caused Pickering’s relationship with the board to sour, they said.

“Remember it was (then-Board President David) Dwyer’s wife who was improperly releasing information on a special needs student that seemed to start the whole thing going downhill for (Pickering). Since then, there have been numerous statements, including some from board members, that they didn’t really want to have to deal with special needs students because it would get in the way of their so-called ‘classical education’ theme for the school,” one source said…
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Second of a Two-Part Series

As allegations continue to mount that members of  West Houston Charter School’s board did not want to serve special needs students, a former school staffer has come forward to say she was repeatedly told the school was “not set up” for such students.

Kathleen Haymes was the school’s special programs coordinator/instructional technologist until the school decided to not renew her contract for the upcoming school year.

Haymes, who was also the parent of a special needs child enrolled at WHCS, was one of five employees let go, reportedly because the school needed to save money.

“As an employee, I was responsible for all struggling students and the programs required by state and federal law established for the struggling students. As a result, I was often having to say we needed to get this (or) that or get additional assistance for students who met the (special needs) guidelines,” Haymes told InstantNewsKaty. “Whether we had staff and resources, I’d have to find a way to make it work. I stayed current with changes in the laws in order to protect the school, but was repeatedly told that our school was not set up to serve students with special needs.”

Haymes also said she experienced the school’s reluctance to serve special needs students from a parent’s perspective when she had to fight to get the school to meet her own daughter’s educational needs…
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A move by the West Houston Charter School to have a lawsuit filed by former administrator Jean Pickering tossed out of court has been denied by 125th Judicial District Judge Kyle Carter.

Pickering sued the school under Texas’ Whistleblower Act, claiming board members forced her out as administrator after she raised concerns the board was meeting in violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act and that the wife of Board President David Dwyer had divulged confidential student information.

Attorneys for the school tried to have the lawsuit dismissed because, they said, Pickering “failed to invoke the grievance procedure of Defendant West Houston Charter School within 90 days of the claimed adverse employment action.” That failure, the school’s attorneys claimed, meant the court did not have jurisdiction over the dispute.

After hearing arguments from both sides, Carter ruled in favor of Pickering…

In the lawsuit, Pickering alleged then-board members Dwyer, Judy Paul and Lucina Botond engaged in a conspiracy to oust her as school administrator.

Pickering resigned before the board took action to terminate her, the lawsuit said.

Pickering has demanded unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as “revoking any certificate authorizing the defendant to do business in Texas.” If ultimately granted, that revocation could result in a loss of the school’s charter with the Texas Education Agency.

In documents filed with the court, Pickering said her relationship with the board began to turn sour after Dwyer appointed his wife Heather to a key school committee. It was then Heather Dwyer allegedly openly discussed a special needs student in violation of student confidentiality restrictions…


Anonymous said...

Is there any update on this case?

Anonymous said...

From what I just read, the court dismissed everything as they found Mrs. Pickering did not follow established school grievance procedures before filing suite.

Anonymous said...

Case is covered at "leagle.com" search for "West Houston Charter School Alliance v. Pickering"