By Harold C. Ford
Two central administrators of the Flint Community Schools (FCS) — Superintendent Anita Steward and Ayunna Dompreh, FCS executive director of finance — have both charged Laura MacIntyre, FCS board treasurer, with creating a “hostile work environment,” according to Board President Carol McIntosh.
McIntosh announced the charges at the end of an Aug. 18 board meeting, and explained to the rest of the board that she had sought legal advice about how to proceed.
“Ms. Dompreh said she did not feel comfortable,’ McIntosh said, in summarizing the charges from a conversation she said she had had with Dompreh. “She felt threatened. The situation was getting hostile,” McIntosh said.
McIntosh said a similar complaint was lodged by Steward. Based on McIntosh’s description, the charges apparently stemmed from in-person visits McIntyre made to both Steward and Dompreh at their work sites.
Details about how the complaints were lodged were not made clear by McIntosh at the meeting. Neither Steward nor Dompreh commented about the charges during the meeting.
“The situation did have the ingredients to become physical or violent,” McIntosh said, though she, did not state what she meant by “the situation.” She said she concluded after investigating the matter that her primary goal was to prevent that from happening.
“You don’t know, she (Dompreh) might attack you,” McIntosh cautioned. “You never know what a person’s breaking point is.”
“Maybe you’re not at the end of your rope,” McIntosh said to MacIntyre, “but she was.”
After consulting with attorney(s) about liability concerns, McIntosh said she devised a strategy to “defuse the situation.”
“To come up with a solution where Ms. Dompreh can come to work and do her job,” McIntosh said, “I determined that Ms. Laura MacIntyre will write her questions down …”
MacIntyre’s questions will be routed through Monaca Elston, FCS executive assistant to Dompreh, and then answers will be returned to MacIntyre from Elston. “That would be the way they would communicate,” McIntosh said.
“Nobody should have to come to work feeling threatened.,“ she declared.
The solution arrived at for Steward and MacIntyre, according to McIntosh, was to allow Steward to exit future meetings with MacIntyre when she felt uncomfortable or threatened.
“The legal opinion was, there’s nothing we can do about Ms. Laura except to have her step down off the board’s Financial Committee,” McIntosh said. “We cannot remove her as a board … The only person that could remove Ms. Laura from the board would be the governor.”
“I would like to categorically reject that I was behaving in any hostile way … I wasn’t being hostile according to the labor laws.” MacIntyre responded at the board meeting Aug.18.
“That’s just kind of ridiculous,” MacIntyre said of Dompreh’s accusations of feeling physically threatened.
“I am not a physical threat,” said MacIntyre. She said Dompreh’s charges were “hostile” and amounted to “character assassination” due to her (MacIntyre’s) “neurologically atypical” status “protected by the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act).”
Further, MacIntyre said she has a “physical disability” that affects her movements and looks.
Dompreh left the meeting during MacIntyre’s comments.
Tensions evident throughout Aug. 18 meeting
A history of tense exchanges between MacIntyre and other FCS officials continued into the Aug. 18 meeting. Some examples:
- After fewer than five minutes, sensing a double standard in McIntosh’s management of the meeting, MacIntyre protested, “So you’re allowed to say whatever you want …” She was cut off by McIntosh in mid-sentence.
- At the 45-minute mark, tension was evident during a discussion of transferring the district’s food services to the Northwestern building after the closing of the Sarvis Center in 2016. When MacIntyre inquired about the move, McIntosh responded, “I was on the board at that time [when kitchen services were moved to Northwestern], so that portion I can explain to you. That other [Sarvis closing] stuff I cannot.”
- MacIntyre dissented from a motion made by McIntosh to install air conditioning in the central kitchen and renovate the football stadium at Northwestern. “We need to be systematic and very careful stewards of this money … We can’t just say ‘I’m going to make a motion and let’s go put in the cooling system here’ … We need a strategic plan,” MacIntyre said. “I don’t think we need a strategic plan when the people in central kitchen need air,”McIntosh replied.
- MacIntyre pressed for information from Dompreh’s office about COVID relief bonuses awarded to FCS employees. The conversation turned into a tussle over a “deadline” for the information. “Can we at least get a week?’ implored Dompreh. MacIntyre expressed concern about other requests “that have been put off indefinitely” and was interrupted by McIntosh who said, in support of Dompreh,“She got a job to do.”
- During a discussion of the “hostile work environment” charges at the end of the meeting, McIntosh interrupted and admonished MacIntyre: “Wait a minute, hold on, you can’t speak on how she (Dompreh) feels.” MacIntyre responded, “I’m not done, please,”
“How we treat people”
“It’s not just how we treat people, it’s how we speak to people, how we talk to people,” said Danielle Green, board secretary. “I think that’s the biggest issue. We can’t deny we haven’t seen it and that ain’t right.
“Speaking to me in a disrespectful way can set me off more quickly than how you treat me,” Green said.
As a ritual repeated at the beginning of every board meeting, members recite the Flint Board of Education Standards of Practice along with the pledge of allegiance and roll call. At the Aug. 18 meeting, MacIntyre recited the following: “We will model trustworthiness and honesty in our relationships with each other, with our Superintendent, and with our constituents.”
Next board meeting
The next meeting of the board of education is a Committee of the Whole meeting on Sept. 8, 2021 starting at 6:30 p.m. The meeting location is expected to be the Accelerated Learning Academy (formerly Scott School) at 1602 S. Averill, Flint.
It was indicated at the Aug. 18 meeting that a complaint by FCS Executive Assistant Monaca Elston will be processed at the Sept. 8 meeting.
Past meetings can be viewed on YouTube. The link can be accessed at the FCS website.
EVM Education Beat reporter Harold Ford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.