Thursday, June 14, 2012

La Mesa-Mount Helix Patch investigates Rani Goyal resignation, $56,000 severance deal

The La Mesa-Mount Helix Patch investigation of the Rani Goyal resignation can be found at the bottom of this post. The whole brouhaha got me to thinking about a previous Helix High principal who unfairly came under attack. Here is that story:

East County Magazine
February 6, 2009

Did administrators at Helix Charter High School respond appropriately to four incidents of sexual abuse and misconduct involving teachers and students and has enough been done to prevent similar problems in the future? The Helix response criticizes ESI's investigator Robert Price as unqualified and lacking impartiality. A prior ESI investigation was used to revoke the charter of another charter school, the response notes.

According to Helix, Price received over 80 names of former Helix employees provided by the district. Amazingly, when the investigation into 80 separated employees from Helix did not produce the results sought by Mr. Price, the Helix response said, Mr. Price thereafter ground its conclusions in the comments of a small unspecified (and unknown) group of separated Helix employees not reported by the district. The report adds, "Clearly Mr. Price has discounted and omitted any positive comments about the Principal or Helix from his Report despite receiving many such statements." Multiple witnesses contracted by Price called Smith and complained that questions asked appeared to be aimed at finding fault; 2 witnesses told the Helix principal that "The investigator was clearly out to get you", the Helix response states.

The ESI report also fails to list corrective actions taken by Helix after the first incident, including meetings at which staff was encouraged to be vigilant in reporting possible educator sexual abuse/misconduct and told that the school would investigate any such reports and terminate employees for such conduct. Other steps included involvement of social workers, counselors, contacts to parents and more. Why is all of this material information absent from Mr. Price's report? The Helix document asks.

As for allegations that state reporting requirements were not met, Helix maintains that police were notified the same day that the Principal was made aware of the first reported case of sexual abuse/misconduct. The school's response did not encourage future sexual misconduct, Helix argues, because the other case in question was an incident that occurred earlier, but was not brought to the school's attention until after the first incident and the teacher was no longer employed at Helix. The school's reporting of two other incidents was not in question in the District report. Shinoff stood behind the report. "I don't think that is accurate at all", he said when asked about allegations by Helix of bias and omission of facts favorable to Smith. "Quite frankly, Helix from the very inception of the investigation took exception to our investigator talking to their staff." He added, "Absolutely he was never told by us or by the Superintendent or by anybody to come to any specific conclusion. I did not conduct the investigation; these are his findings...I feel quite confident that he was doing his very best for it to be a fair and balanced investigation."

See all Helix Charter High School posts.

Helix Leader Rani Goyal Got $56,000 Severance in Settlement Deal
“General release of all claims,” which included a gag order, leaves reasons for resignation unclear.
By Ken Stone
La Mesa-Mount Helix Patch
June 14, 2012

Rani Goyal was promised a $56,000 severance check from Helix Charter High School when she suddenly resigned May 25 under still mysterious circumstances.

As executive director of the La Mesa school, she was almost two years into a four-year contract paying $130,000 a year plus expenses, according to documents obtained by Patch.

A 1,500-word settlement agreement signed by Goyal and Helix charter board chairman Brian Kick stipulated that “Goyal intends and expressly agrees that [the setlement] shall be effective as a bar to each and every claim, demand and cause of action Goyal has against [Helix].” See attached PDF.

But neither Goyal nor Helix officials have commented on what possible legal actions preceded the agreement, and the deal includes a “No admission of fault” clause for both parties.

The settlement also includes a gag order, saying Helix and Goyal “agree that the events leading to this agreement shall be maintained in privacy and confidence.”

The agreement itself was made available to Patch in response to a California Public Records Act request, and in a separate letter, Kick said the school “is not required to produce documents protected by the attorney client privilege. … To the extent your request includes the above information, or any other information exempted by the Public Records Act, Helix Charter High School denies your request.”

...Goyal signed the three-page agreement May 23, and Kick on May 25. It is described as a “complete, final and binding settlement of all claims and potential claims, if any.”

She quit less than two weeks before graduation.

On May 31, Goyal was to receive full pay for that month, and within 10 days was to be paid “a gross severance amount equivalent to five months of salary in the amount of $56,418.60,” the deal said.

Her original employment contract (attached as a PDF) had a clause on early termination that said:

The board may unilaterally and without cause or advance notice terminate this agreement. In consideration of the board’s right to terminate this agreement without cause, the board shall pay to the executive director the remainder of her salary (based upon any remaining calendared work days) for the term of this agreement or for a period of four months following the effective date of termination, whichever is less.

...At least one theory on her resignation was posted on a San Diego education blog.

On June 1, an anonymous commenter wrote:

Politically powerful teachers doesn’t even begin to describe the Good ol' Boys club of Helix. There’s a specific group of teachers who enjoyed the power and privilege of being the former principal’s cronies and fail to adapt to change. They are blinded by their own hurt egos to see that Ms. Goyal was the best thing that happened to Helix in a long time. The staff at Helix has gone and ignored the students and the parents, and showed that the charter board will forget democracy in order to please the Good ol’ Boys.

The commenter concluded: “I’ll always be a fan of Helix, having been a student there through recent tough times. But I sincerely hope that the teachers that I love and respect pull their act together in the interest of the students.”

The settlement also stipulated that “both HCHS and Goyal agree that they will do nothing to disparage the other in any communications after the date of this agreement.”

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