Are You

PISSTE?

(Protesting Insane Staunton School Truancy Enforcement)

It is error alone which needs the support of government, truth can stand by itself.
—Thomas Jefferson in Notes on the State of Virginia

HomeData and prosecutionsKaye Roberts
Tweet Follow @pisste_org


Who is this woman, Kaye Roberts, that has such power over the helpless parents of Staunton? What qualifications does she have to haul parents into court on her unsupported word? What is her reputation for probity that her sworn signature on a court document and her sworn testimony in the Staunton JDR court is sufficient to have parents prosecuted, grilled, and condescended to by the steely-eyed Anne F. Reed, Assistant Commonwealth's attorney for the city of Staunton?

The story turns out to be far, far more interesting than we could have guessed. It's a little complicated, so bear with us, because it's worth the time it takes to understand.

Perhaps it began to unfold in February 2009. At that time Kaye Roberts was the athletic director of Robert E. Lee High School in Staunton. She had been in that position for years. In February 2009 the Staunton City School Board announced that it was cutting the Lee High athletic budget by over $15,000. Staunton city schools director of finance Charlie Phibbs told the News Virginian that Kaye Roberts had told him that the programs that were being cut "can go on, and are not terminally ill by these. They will hurt, but they are not permanent."1

Now fast forward to August 2011. Lisa Michelle Harrison, a bookkeeper at Lee High, was arrested by Staunton Police and charged with embezzlement of money from the student activity account. Harrison committed suicide a week after her arrest and then-superintendent Steve Nichols placed Kaye Roberts on temporary leave. Nichols told the News Virginian that Roberts would remain on leave "until we know the depth of the problem." Nichols also told that newspaper that he hoped the situation would be resolved quickly and that it was "a temporary bump in the road."2 How wrong Mr. Nichols turned out to be.

At the end of October 2011 the internal audit revealed that more than $16,000 was missing from the fund.3 Does the figure sound familiar? It's roughly the same as the amount that Kaye Roberts was quoted as saying the loss of which wouldn't be fatal to Lee High athletics. You can read the sordid and pathetic details of where the money all went in the newspaper story referenced here. For our purposes, the most interesting item is a cash advance of $1,000 to an unnamed employee, authorized by Kaye Roberts but not by the principal of the school. Roberts authorized this advance on August 30, 2010. It was never repaid.3 Note that Roberts was placed on paid6 temporary leave in August 2011 until the school could figure out "the depth of the problem."2 As of October 2011, Roberts remained on temporary leave.3 Evidently the "depth of the problem" was not yet clear.

After the audit was released, Steve Nichols placed Mark Rowicki, Lee High School principal, on leave. Nichols reinstated him after a week,4 so evidently Rowicki wasn't in trouble about the missing money. At the same time, Roberts remained on leave and Nichols told the News Virginian that he had made a recommendation regarding her status to the Staunton city school board and that a grievance process had been initiated.4 So as of November 2011 it was clear to Nichols that Rowicki was uninvolved but evidently Nichols had no such clarity regarding Roberts's responsibility. It's not so plausible that anyone would have filed a grievance over a recommendation clearing Roberts of responsibility, but at this time, no one would comment on the substance of Nichols's recommendation. However, the News Virginian revealed in January 2012 that Nichols had recommended to the board that Roberts be fired.7

By the end of November 2011, Roberts remained on leave and the school board had turned against Nichols. Three members of the six member board called for his resignation, but he refused to leave voluntarily.5

In December 2011 Roberts remained on paid leave.6 Evidently the depth of her involvement of the scandal was still clear to no one. It took about a week to clear principal Mark Rowicki.4 By this point Roberts had been on paid leave for over three months6 and no one in the Staunton City Schools or on the Staunton city school board was ready to say that she was not responsible, or at least not anywhere we could discover.

By January 2012 Steve Nichols was gone. Edward Clymore had been appointed interim superintendent. Clymore recommended to the school board that they hire Roberts as attendance officer and preschool program assistant.7 This move ended the grievance process and presumably the investigation into Roberts's responsibility in the embezzlement. Clymore said that it would have taken two additional months to complete the process and that the schools just didn't have time for that. Clymore told the Staunton city school board on January 9, 2012, that "there have been several bad situations, but we are fast overcoming those."7 Note to Clymore: Ignoring does not equal overcoming and a coverup does not equal a fix.

So that's the story. Roberts was made attendance officer after over four months of paid leave and as-yet unexplained involvement in an embezzlement scandal involving funds under her control. She personally signed off on an unrepaid loan to an unnamed employee of Lee High activity funds and has never publicly explained (that we're aware of) why she approved it or what happened to the money. She was placed in her current position, the one she uses to hassle hard-working parents because they can't afford to take their kids to a doctor every time they're sick, because Edward Clymore thought that it was a waste of time to find out if she deserved to be fired from her previous job. She was hired as attendance officer (and preschool assistant) despite former superintendent Steve Nichols's recommendation that she be fired from her job with the Staunton City Schools.

Is she honest enough to sign affadavits that end up with you being prosecuted? Is she honest enough to be believed when she testifies under oath that you are the lawbreaker in the courtroom? If she didn't do anything wrong, why didn't Clymore give her her old job back? After all, it was still open in January 2012 when he made her the attendance officer. Clymore said it was because Roberts needs to be held accountable because she didn't know what was going on in the office she was supposed to be running. He told WHSV that "I have worked on the situation, worked with the principal, set up guidelines, and we feel like we got the accountability situation squared away. We will continue to monitor that very closely."8 Who's monitoring "that" now, eh?

Does she know what's going on in the office she's running now? If she did do something wrong, how can she be trusted in her new job? She may not be stealing money in her new job but she sure is wasting it on needless and unwarranted prosecutions. Don't forget that even if your case is dismissed, like so many of the Staunton City Schools attendance cases are, you may still find yourself liable for court costs. And there'll be no loan-that-does-not-have-to-be-repaid available for you to pay those costs, you can be sure of that.

Why not ask her about it next time she hauls you into her office for one of those lovely conferences and lectures you about obeying the law? Why not ask her what happened to the $1,000? Why not ask her if she can pay your court costs out of a slush fund? Why not ask her if she's read John 8:7. As Jesus said there: "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone..." Why not ask her if she thinks about her saviour's words when she's signing her affadavits and complaints against parents taken in truancy? Why not ask her?


References

1. Jimmy LaRoue. Lee dumps 6 assistant-coach stipends, travel over 50 miles News Virginian (Waynesboro, VA) February 25, 2009
2. Parkway suicide linked to R.E. Lee embezzlement case News Virginian (Waynesboro, VA) August 30, 2011
3. Bob Stuart. Staunton Schools audit details missing activity funds, abuses News Virginian (Waynesboro, VA) October 26, 2011
4. Bob Stuart. Lee High principal reinstated by superintendent News Virginian (Waynesboro, VA) November 4, 2011
5. Bob Stuart. Staunton superintendent vows to stay on job despite resignation request from three board membersNews Virginian (Waynesboro, VA) November 22, 2011
6. Bob Stuart. Staunton School Board hints at decision but takes no vote News Virginian (Waynesboro, VA) December 6, 2011
7. Bob Stuart. Lee activities director shifted to another position in Staunton Schools News Virginian (Waynesboro, VA) January 10, 2012
8. Litsa Pappas. R.E. Lee Athletic Director Gets New Position WHSV. January 10, 2012

Press inquiries may be addressed to press (at) pisste (dot) org
Other inquiries may be addressed to info (at) pisste (dot) org