The board of Monument’s only charter school ousted its leader May 28, voting 5-0 with one member absent to not renew the $114,500 annual contract of Monument Academy Executive Director Don Griffin.
The decision was effective immediately, though Griffin’s contract was to have run through June 30.
The move came less than three weeks after board Chairman Patrick Hall opened the May 9 meeting by saying board members were aware of “the rumors and allegations circulating around in the public sphere” regarding Griffin.
Hall did not specify the nature of those rumors and allegations, but parents and grandparents said last week the problem centered on Griffin having a relationship with a paraprofessional who also works at the school, is a subordinate and appeared to have been promoted.
Griffin and the woman were married May 19, according to an online post.
He was placed on administrative leave May 21, said Monument Academy attorney Brad Miller.
Hall said at the May 9 meeting that with the help of its attorney, the board investigated and found the rumors and allegations “are not based on facts and are completely unfounded,” though it’s unknown to what exactly that refers.
“There is nothing based on the actual situation that has impacted or is impacting our school’s operation,” he added.
Hall said May 28 the board is “not giving any public reason” for Griffin’s removal, as it’s a personnel matter.
About 40 staff members and parents waited an hour while the board discussed Griffin’s contract in a closed-door session before reconvening in public to vote.
Hall also read a statement, saying the decision to terminate Griffin was made “in accordance with our school’s commitment to the values of integrity and transparency.”
Board members thanked Griffin, who took over as head of the school in December 2010, for his service and commitment, including pioneering an expansion project to add a high school. Construction is expected to break ground soon, and the building will open in the fall of 2020.
“We will consider utilizing him (Griffin) in a consulting capacity on this project,” Hall read in the statement.
The board also agreed to have two members lead a transition committee that will include the school’s principal.
Parents said they hope things change for the better.
Lorri Halenkamp, who has had four children attend the school, said Monument Academy was built on a “character first” model, which in recent times has been absent.
“Each month, a character trait was emphasized, taught and modeled, and that’s not happening now,” she said. “A lot of things that have happened in the last year have been from a lack of oversight.”
Some parents want greater transparency.
“The whole culture and climate between parents and teachers has declined,” said a parent named Susan, who declined to give her last name. “There’s not a lot of clarity on what’s true and what’s not.”
She said she’d like to see stronger leadership and improved communication, along with more parent and staff involvement in decision-making.
“I’m here to show I care about the school and the direction of the school,” Susan said. “I wanted to hear first-hand what was happening. Otherwise it goes on social media, and everyone takes their own version of the truth.”
Griffin also came under scrutiny last year, when parents complained about hiring as a teacher high-profile evangelical Christian Chris Jeub, a former reality television star, saying they were concerned he would try to push his views on students. No such issues arose with Jeub this school year, parents said.
Some parents also objected to having Griffin’s daughter-in-law work at the school and asked why she abruptly left in March. They questioned her background, which showed she was on probation for criminal activity when she was hired.
Griffin told The Gazette in March that it was no secret she was going to become his daughter-in-law, and she went through and passed the same background check as anyone else. He said then that a group of parents was intent on getting him removed from his position because they didn’t like him personally.
Emphasizing good character and good morals have set Monument Academy apart, said Carolyn Bedingfield, a grandparent of a student.
“We’d like to see the culture at the top the same as what they tell kids to do,” she said.