The unexplained departure of a French language teacher who was related to the director of the Monument Academy and has a criminal record has some parents questioning the school’s hiring decisions.
Parents were notified last week that middle school teacher Claudia Griffin, the daughter-in-law of Executive Director Don Griffin, is no longer teaching at the only charter school in Lewis-Palmer School District 38.
Asking not to have their names published, parents said they are concerned about nepotism and how the school screens teaching candidates.
“It’s shocking she was on probation when she was hired,” one parent said. “This is the type of thing our school district is going to get a bad name over.”
Court documents show Claudia had been recently released from probation for a DUI arrest, to which she pleaded down to the lesser charge of DWAI (Driving While Ability Imparied) when she was hired and was on probation for a Class 5 felony charge involving computer theft and another case of unemployment fraud.
Griffin said Claudia had undergone “the same background checks as everyone else,” and “there was nothing that would keep her from being hired.”
Colorado law allows schools to hire teachers with criminal records, as long as the infractions do not pertain to child abuse, sexual misconduct or use of a deadly weapon.
“She went through the normal process to be hired and met all of the qualifications,” Griffin said. “We didn’t find anything that would lead us to not hire her.”
It is unknown why Claudia Griffin is no longer employed by the school district since the letter sent to parents, and Don Griffin said school officials are barred from commenting on personnel matters.
Don Griffin, though, disputed that there was anything inappropriate about Claudia Griffin’s hiring while lamenting the anonymous sniping he and other leaders say has plagued School District 38.
It was no secret that Claudia Cline, as she was known when she was hired last May, was planning to marry his son, Griffin said. A French native, Claudia Griffin previously had taught 10th Special Forces Group soldiers at Fort Carson, he said.
It’s not uncommon, Griffin said, to have employees who are related working at charter schools, publicly funded schools usually started by a group of parents, teachers and other community members as an alternative to traditional public schools.
“We have two sets of husbands and wives that work at our schools,” he said, adding that many other charter schools have similar situations.
Griffin also said he did not hire Claudia — the K-8 school’s chief academic officer handles applications and employment — nor did she report to him.
“She’s never worked for me; she worked for the academic side of the house,” he said.
Claudia Griffin’s employment review in September shows she performed from “basic” to “proficient” to “superior” on teaching tasks and was described as “confident,” “passionate” and “hard-working.”
Parents of schoolchildren in Monument have been critical of what they say is unfairness throughout the school district. In December, anonymous comments on a D-38 survey seeking community feedback on two failed ballot measures led to personal attacks against some district leaders.
Superintendent Karen Brofft decried the practice, saying she hoped people would begin the new year focusing on what unites, rather than divides, the community.
Some Monument Academy parents also had questioned last spring’s hiring of Chris Jeub, a former reality television star and evangelical Christian. He and his wife, Wendy, have 16 children and appeared for one season in 2007 on TLC’s “Kids by the Dozen.”
Parents said they were worried Jeub would try to impart his religious views on students and were upset about one of his daughter’s claims that her parents were emotionally and physically abusive, which were never proven.
The school conducted an investigation last summer, before Jeub started teaching seventh-grade English, including interviewing Jeub children, and Griffin said they did not find any indication of wrongdoing.
Jeub’s daughter who has made claims against her parents and the way she was raised, last week posted a first-person account of her life on HuffPost Personal, saying she was kicked out of her parents’ house at age 22, moved to Washington state, where she became homeless, had tried to get her siblings out from her parents’ authority and was never able to “come out to them as bisexual.”
Griffin said Thursday that there have been no issues with Jeub as a teacher this school year.
“He’s doing a great job,” Griffin said.
This article was changed to add that Griffin pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of DWAI.
Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.