June 25, 2016

Mostly sunny

Wadsworth board president accused of verbal abuse

WADSWORTH — The two unions representing teachers and support staff for Wadsworth Schools have accused the school board president of verbally abusing a secretary.

According to a news release from the unions, Chuck Pfeister berated Kim Daniels, a secretary at Isham Elementary School, after her union announced it would not endorse him for re-election.

Chuck Pfeister

Pfeister, who owns and operates Chuck’s Barber Shop on Broad Street, is the only incumbent member of the board on the Nov. 5 ballot. Board members James McIlvaine and Lisa Jones did not file to run.

The Wadsworth Educational Support Personnel Association, the union representing 200 secretaries and other support staff, and the Wadsworth Education Association, which represents the district’s 280 teachers, formed a joint committee to screen the seven candidates vying for three seats on the board.

The unions endorsed Julie Batey, Amanda Gordon and Mark Casalinova.

In addition to Pfeister, three other candidates are Jason Arnold, Ron Mendel and Donald Thomas.

Daniels, who was the chairwoman of the screening committee, said Pfeister came to her school about 1 p.m. Oct. 16 and asked to speak with her in private, according to the news release. Once inside a room in the main office, Pfeister began yelling and demanding that she reconvene the screening committee and endorse him.

“Mr. Pfeister’s actions and confrontational behavior spurred Mrs. Daniels to file an incident report with the Wadsworth Police Department,” the news release stated.

Pfeister acknowledged going to the school to talk with Daniels the day he received a letter informing him of the endorsements. But he denied acting improperly.

“I threatened nobody,” he said in an interview Monday. “I asked some simple questions about how you could not support someone with my track record.

“How could you not?”

Superintendent Andrew Hill criticized Pfeister for interrupting Daniels at work.

“In our school district, I would say that to have someone pulled away from work for something that is more of a personal nature is not normal,” he said. “As soon as we became aware of the situation, we immediately addressed it.”

Hill said he does not know what was said between Pfeister and Daniels and is not aware of anyone who heard the conversation firsthand.

The police report states that Daniel described Pfeister as “very loud and argumentative with her, which did concern her.”

She told police that “Pfeister also stated that he will no longer be an ally for the secretaries in the future.”

The report also stated that Daniels “did not want to pursue any criminal charges against Pfeister at this time but would like this documented in case any future incidents do occur.”

The union’s news release provides a more detailed account of the meeting and accused Pfeister of making sexist comments.

“Mr. Pfeister’s most offensive comment made to Mrs. Daniels was ‘If there was a man on the screening committee he would have been able to talk to them better and things would have been different,’” according to the news release.

The release also stated that Pfeister noted that two of the candidates endorsed by the unions were women and commented: “If you think you are going to put two more women on that board so that there is a majority of women on the board to vote for you, that’s not going to happen.”

Patti Back, co-president of the WEA, said the screening committee selected candidates based on a questionnaire and interview process.

“We chose three candidates who are involved in the schools and are the top-quality candidates,” she said. “In a time where public education is under attack, we are looking for board members who have innovative ways of working through difficult times.”

Back said Pfeister is was not actively involved in union contract negotiations and does not know many of the teachers.

“I would say when most of us see him in public he doesn’t recognize us,” she said.

Pfeister has served a total of 12 years on the board, most recently elected in 2009 after a two-year hiatus during which he ran for mayor. He served eight years before that.

Pfeister cites the school’s 10-year track record of receiving an “excellent with distinction” rating from the Ohio Department of Education and said his record speaks for itself.

“We don’t have a school building beyond 13 years old. We just finished the stadium and turned Overlook into administrative offices. We went out and hired the best young superintendent the state had to offer. We have passed levy recently and settled a teacher’s contract,” he said. “What do you want out of me?

“I’ve got an impeccable record and I’m proud of it.”

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.