ASDB staff fears for student safety, retaliation

Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind staff are concerned about the controversy that has made this past school year difficult for both students, and staff. They say that situation was created by the administration s questionable practices and even more questionable policies.

Many staff members are of the opinion that the return of Dr. Nancy Amann would be detrimental to staff and students.

Earlier this month, Governor Brewer appointed five new members to the ASDB Board of Directors amid what she characterized a firestorm. That firestorm is generated by a conflict of interest claim against former ASDB board president, Bernhardt Jones and ASDB Superintendent Robert Hill, as well as the disciplinary action taken against the school s principal, Nancy Amann.

Staff hopes that the replacements on the Board will move the attention away from Hill and Jones and focus attention to a situation that has grown progressively worse over the years, in which Amann takes center stage.

They say that Amann’s personal relationships, with numerous staff members on campus have led to higher costs, higher tensions, and most importantly higher dangers for students.

Since Amann took over travel costs have greatly increased. State budget documents show out-of-state travel expenses surged from $15,900 in 2010, the first year after Hill took over as interim superintendent, to $40,100 in 2011 and $29,700 in 2012.

They cite a trip to Hawaii 2011 to visit the Hawaii School for the Deaf. Four staff members attended while many other Deaf schools cancelled their travel plans and attended via web cam due to economic constraints. According to staff Dr. Amann wanted her own, personal interpreters in tow, so both staff interpreters accompanied her to Hawaii. Staff questions why interpreters were even necessary especially in light of the fact that it left no educational interpreters on campus for day-to-day needs or emergencies.

They have had little hope that the Board would take any action regarding their concerns since the Board has only met three times since last June, including a special meeting earlier this month.

Amann s camp, according to staff, has organized student protests at both ASDB’s Tucson residential campus and the affiliated day school in Phoenix, to demand the resignations of Hill and Jones and the return of Amann. They say that staff has successfully pressured other staff and students into signing a petition at change.org calling on the Board of Directors to “acknowledge the vote of no confidence in Superintendent Robert Hill,” and reinstate Amann.

But staff is terrified that if Amann does come back she will retaliate against staff that did not support her. Evidence of their lack of support was made clear when supporters wore matching colored t-shirts in solidarity, or helped to hide over 300 rubber ducks on the campus, or carried a coffin across campus, or protested both on and off campus, or encouraged the students to make posters and signs with derogatory comments, or wore t-shirts on campus with a picture of Robert Hill that say WANTED.

Support for Amann was supposed to be visible and those who were not visibly supportive were ostracized.

Amann worked at ASDB for 14 years until she was placed on administrative leave on February 15, 2013. The Board voted in the April 9 Special Meeting, not to renew her contract.

At the April 9 meeting, Hill cited the reasons for putting Amann on administrative leave. He said that she gave unilateral authorization of illegal search of staff private vehicles. Hill said he believed she had violated ASDB policies and practices, thereby violating staff privacy rights and creating liability exposure to ASDB.

He also found that failed leadership and oversight of the Tucson campus agricultural program including failure to develop and submit appropriate curriculum and failure to consult and seek approval of the superintendent prior to changing the structure of the program that caused a health and safety (sic)for students in compliance with local and state laws.

Hill said Amann failed to comply with the superintendent’s directive and ASDB practices to ensure that all educational staff receives student intervention techniques training.

Hill also cited the fact that Amann had started new employees prior to receiving approval for hire.

Hill testified that discourteous treatment of ASDB employees, creating a work environment that negatively impacted employee morale and workplace efficiency and productivity.

Hill told the Board that after he had placed Amann on leave he discovered other issues that also imposed liability to the agency.

Hill advised the Board that he believed Amann violated federal and state law.

The complaints against Dr. Amann were read aloud, to the public, at the Board meeting at the request of Dr. Amann.

According to school insiders, blind students were treated as second-class citizens.

Amann allowed one teacher, Richard Layton, to ignore the needs of blind, and not include those students to participate in working with the animals nor take part in the planting/care of the garden even though he stated that he was including them in the programs.

As a matter of fact, they say that for close to 10 years, the vocational program had a raised bed gardening system to accommodate the visually impaired students. Layton dismantled the beds inside the fence area thus making the area no longer accessible to students with disabilities or visual impairments. Layton admitted at the board meeting that the blind students weren’t working in the garden area because it wasn’t safe.

It wasn’t just blind students who were treated with disrespect. According to staff, Amann created an atmosphere of “No Voice” on campus. They said that she prohibited even deaf staff to use their voices when interacting with students.

Staff reports that workplace bullying is rampant at ASDB, but primarily caused by a few Deaf staff, all of whom are in supervisory positions. They say that those “staff members were unprofessional, screaming at and belittling of employees… leading to their early resignations.”

Staff say that they are presently afraid to speak up and share information out of fear of retaliation from School for the Deaf staff, supervisors and the deaf community. They say that hearing staff are afraid to speak against the Deaf because then they are accused of being an oppressor. Deaf staff are afraid to speak against the Deaf because then they are shunned from their community, which is not only their work life but also their social life.

Staff is concerned that the hiring irregularities and acts of discrimination will not be addressed due to the fact that Amann’s husband is associated with the Arizona Attorney General s Office. The Attorney General s Office has inspired little confidence.