The conclusion of a six-month investigation into eight allegations against the Healdsburg Union School District for wrongful termination, filed by former Healdsburg High School track coach Jenean Bingham, was released to the public this week.
Named in the complaints were HUSD Superintendet Jeff Harding and HHS Principal Chris Vanden Heuvel. The allegations were filed in October, 2012, five months after Bingham's termination.
The allegations largely concern Bingham's termination as athletic director and track coach in 2012, their place in a series of five coach replacements at HHS in the previous year and a half, and the role of "Family 1" in at least two open conflicts with coaches, including Bingham, between 2010 and 2012.
Vanden Heuvel begain serving as Healdsburg High's principal in July, 2010, Harding became HUSD superintendnt in 2008. Bingham became head track coach in 1999.
The eight-page "summary and findings" document, presented by Chris Reynolds Investigations of Santa Rosa, went over all of the allegations in some detail and found, in all cases, "The allegation was unfounded."
A digital file of the report is not available, although interested members of the public may obtain hard copy by contacting the superintendent’s secretary at the district office, located on the high school campus.
With the release of the summary, Healdsburg Union School District board president Vince Dougherty read the following statement:
Following the receipt of the formal complaint against the superintendent and the high school principal, the Board's legal counsel retained a licensed private investigator to conduct a thorough independent investigation. The Board convened multiple times in closed session to consider the results of the investigation and unanimously concluded that the investigation was comprehensive and accurate, and that allegations against the superintendent and high school principal were entirely unfounded.
The Board has complete confidence in the superintendent and high school principal to make important personnel decisions, and to foster a positive, supportive environment for all students and faculty in all facets of our schools, including the sports programs.
The allegations stem from the April, 2012 termination of Bingham from her job as track coach at the high school, and Athletic Director of the school, but she was not removed from district employment. Currently she is track coach at Healdsburg Junior High School.
Board president Dougherty and Superintendent Harding had no further comment beyond the official statement above. Bingham could not be reached for comment.
Among the allegations were that Bingham was subjected to a "hostile work environment," wrongful termination, inappropriate action in dismissing other coaches, improper management and violation of terms in the Healdsburg Area Teacher's Association / HUSD Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Investigator Reynolds was contacted by Patch, and clarified that he was engaged as third party investigator by the attorney for HUSD to "stand in the middle" of the two parties. He has done similar work for 29 years, and said he was comfortable with the findings. "I don't believe there was a close call in terms of the standards I have to work with."
Standards for these investigations are set by the U.S. Department of Education, Civil Rights office, he said. They require a "preponderance of evidence - 50.1 percent either way - to make a finding."
"I've worked representing teachers and school districts, every aspect of the field," said Reynolds.
He added, "You have to call cases as you see them, or you're no help to anybody."