‘(Expletive) idiot’: Scathing report paints Monroe schools as bully
MONROE – An outside investigation revealed numerous instances of inappropriate language, bullying and sexist outbursts by the principal of the Monroe school.
The report was posted online on Friday evening, on the eve of a holiday weekend, five months after Justin Blasko was placed on administrative leave amid concerns over his handling of racist incidents in schools and reports making state of a troubling work environment.
Emails, text messages and other records were reviewed and 50 people were interviewed for the report prepared by Kris Cappel, a Seattle attorney with the Seabold Group. Some of those interviewed said they had no problem with Blasko. Others working close to him were “some of his harshest critics,” the report said. Several reported that Blasko “leads through fear and intimidation and has created a toxic work environment that permeates the entire district.”
His future with the neighborhood remains unclear.
The investigation paints a damning portrait of Blasko as a man obsessed with self-preservation and public image.
Some witnesses described him as “volatile and unpredictable” and unreceptive to feedback. Respondents also said they felt targeted by Blasko if they confronted him. Several staff members were reduced to tears after he called them into meetings. And he sometimes made comments “considered insensitive, unprofessional and, in some cases, cruel,” the report said. For example, several witnesses told the investigator that Blasko – the former executive director of human resources for the district – referred to some women as sexist swear words or as “mean”.
District policy states that employees will “treat each other and students with dignity and respect” and “refrain from using abusive language.” Although the investigator did not explicitly write that Blasko violated this policy, the allegations leave little doubt.
Blasko was interviewed several times for the investigation. He denied many of the statements attributed to him, but the investigator concluded that he was not candid. He admitted calling a former manager a sexist swear word.
In a written response Also posted Friday by the district, Blasko apologized “to those who have been hurt by my actions.” He called the allegations against him “deeply disturbing”.
“As I coped with the stress caused by the pandemic, I recognize that I have not always been in control of my emotions,” he wrote. “Sometimes my professionalism was lacking and I vented my frustration in private meetings with colleagues. I should have been more discreet.
He added that he did not recall many of the specific incidents alleged in the report, but “I do not question the integrity of the individuals who contributed to the report, nor the validity of their personal experiences or perceptions.” .
Some of those interviewed said Blasko promoted an “us versus them” approach, according to the report. The teachers’ union subsequently voted overwhelmingly no confidence in the superintendent.
Three witnesses said he called a woman helping the union an “angry BIPOC woman trying to prove herself”. They also reported that he said he “felt sorry for her husband.” Another witness claimed Blasko said her employer couldn’t “get rid of her because she’s a woman of color.” The superintendent denied making these comments.
In another dispute between the teachers’ union and Blasko, he ordered first-grade teachers back to class in November 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the report. In a letter, he wrote that failure to comply could result in disciplinary action, including dismissal. The union filed a grievance and won.
Witnesses also reported that Blasko asked the head of public records to delay responding to a request for records until he had renegotiated his contract. Blasko denied this. Last summer, the board approved a three-year contract with Blasko, effective until June 30, 2024, to replace his initial three-year contract. Then, on November 22, the outgoing board approved an amendment to the contract extending it until June 30, 2025.
According to the report, Blasko also ordered directors to stop taking notes at meetings because they would become public records. It was unclear to the investigator whether or not this alleged directive was followed.
Other comments attributed to the Superintendent in the report include:
• Calling an elementary school principal a “cult leader”.
• Complaining about the principal bringing her newborn baby to work and stating, “Being a single mother is not my problem”.
• Label female administrators as “bipolar”.
• Calling members of his leadership team “(expletive) snowflakes” because they went on sick leave after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
• Saying someone was an “(expletive) idiot” that they would have fired if there hadn’t been lawyers.
• Joke about a male employee who painted his fingernails.
• Be constantly and openly critical of “awake culture”.
• Assuming that only women didn’t like him because some of them can’t stand “truly masculine men”.
• Calling teachers “lazy” which is why they didn’t want to go back to in-person learning.
• Commenting that a pregnant headmistress was a “disaster” who “didn’t care about having another baby”.
• Noting that “it’s not illegal to be an asshole” shortly before being placed on administrative leave.
• Lashing out when a building administrator insisted he wear a mask when entering the school.
Blasko joined the Monroe School District in 2010 as executive director of human resources. He earned a superintendent’s title in 2009 and a doctorate in education after being hired into the district. In 2016, he was appointed Deputy Superintendent of Learning and Teaching.
The Monroe School Board appointed Blasko superintendent on February 10, 2020, just as a global pandemic was underway. He earns nearly $250,000 a year.
Concerns over Blasko’s leadership in the district grew in the final months of 2021, when an argument at Monroe High School led to hate crime charges against a father. This sparked a discussion about racism that led to other black families reporting harassment in district schools.
Around the same time, two employees filed anonymous complaints alleging Blasko had created a ‘hostile work environment’, including instances of ‘bullying, abuse of power and unethical behavior’ that violated district policy.
While that was happening, Blasko told senior staff that he hired a consultant who recommended that he urge district leaders to support him, according to the report.
In mid-December, parents and teachers called for Blasko to be fired, saying an inadequate response to racist concerns and allegations of an unsafe work environment made him unfit to continue in that position.
A few days later, he was placed on administrative leave while Cappel investigated the issues.
The school board received the final report of the investigation earlier this month. It was also supplied to Blasko. The report remained confidential until it was made public just after 5 p.m. Friday.
In his written response to the report, Blasko noted that he “will continue to stand up for Monroe schools and the students, teachers, and families of the district.”
Director of Studies Kim Whitworth has served as acting superintendent since December.
On Friday evening, the Monroe Equity Council issued a statement calling for Blasko’s resignation:
“If we are to believe Blasko’s apology and his statement of his continued advocacy for the Monroe School, there is no option but to accept the responsibility and consequences that come with resigning. Forcing the board to to act by rescission, in order to receive financial payment from this district, is an abdication of moral responsibility.
In a statement, school board president Jennifer Bumpus said the board could not comment on the merits of the investigation. She pledged to “communicate clearly” with the public about next steps.
“We must hold ourselves to the highest neutral standards to protect the integrity of this process and to ensure that any decisions the board ultimately makes can take effect without questions about neutrality or due process. procedure,” Bumpus told the Daily Herald in a text. message.
In the two weeks since the board received the full report, the panel has held several closed meetings ‘to review an employee’s performance’, including one lasting an hour and a quarter Thursday evening. This meeting was adjourned without action.
Herald writer Jerry Cornfield contributed to this report.