Reassignment, demotion result of discovery
(Originally published Jan. 27, 2014)
An Humble ISD principal is charging retaliation in a situation involving her demotion and reassignment.
Diaka Carter was an associate principal at Humble High School (HHS) last year when she was suddenly notified she was being demoted and transferred to Summer Creek High School for the 2013-14 school year. Carter had previously discovered that Humble head baseball coach David Sitton, brother of Humble ISD School Board Member Robert Sitton, was “violating
campus and district policies concerning his athletic periods,” according to a complaint filed with the district.
Carter contends that when she reported this and reassigned David Sitton, his brother, Robert, complained, prodded and eventually succeeded in having district administrators reassign her to a different school and at a lesser position. Robert Sitton denies this.
Although Carter has an exemplary personnel record, Assistant Superintendent Trey Kraemer notified her she was losing her job at HHS, being demoted to an assistant principal, reassigned to SCHS, and would be paid thousands of dollars less per year. According to Carter, Kraemer’s explanation was that the actions were “political”and were not “job-performance related.” Carter, astonished, filed two grievances with Humble ISD over what she says is retaliation, copies of which were obtained by The Tribune.
According to the complaints, in early May 2012, Carter found out that David Sitton was not reporting to his assigned fifth period baseball class. He was “in essence being afforded an additional off period” and was “leaving campus every day and could not be located.” Carter attempted to discuss the situation with Athletic Director Troy Kite but he referred her back to the campus administrators. Carter reported David Sitton’s unauthorized daily absences to her superiors and eventually reassigned David Sitton (from U.S. History to World History) and compelled him to teach a full load of courses.
Carter says David Sitton confronted her and expressed his anger at her actions. According to Carter, Humble ISD Board Member Robert Sitton then became involved. Over the course of several months, he persistently demanded that leadership change at the high school and repeatedly asked HHS Principal Dr. Charles Ned “what he was going to do about it.”
After reassigning David Sitton, another incident occurred during graduation. Robert Sitton came to the ceremony and was angry to discover that he, as a board member, had no seat on the stage marked with his name. Robert Sitton then asked for a meeting with Ned the next week where he said others were complaining about Carter’s “strong personality”and suggested a change of leadership was needed, according to the grievance.
Kraemer was promoted to assistant superintendent the next month, in June of 2012. Robert Sitton met with him soon after to complain about the “lack of leadership” at HHS and about Carter’s personality. During the 2012-13 year, Kraemer had several meetings with Ned and board members concerning Carter and a general concern about HHS. According to Carter’s grievance, Kraemer even told Ned that he had too many African-Americans as teachers, to which Ned responded that his hiring tried to match the campus demographics.
In March 2013, Robert Sitton met with Kraemer and Deputy Superintendent Dr. Tommy Price to say that he was still getting complaints about HHS and asked “what the plan was” for the next year. Kraemer then met with Ned again and asked what members of his leadership team he wanted to retain. Ned identified keeping Carter and another principal. According to the
grievance, Robert Sitton again demanded of Kraemer to know who would be leaving HHS and that “drastic changes” were needed. Kraemer submitted his reassignment recommendations to Humble ISD Superintendent Dr. Guy Sconzo, who subsequently presented them to the board; Carter, however, was not recommended for reassignment.
Robert Sitton acknowledged he was “upset” when he noticed that the two top administrators at HHS (Ned and Carter) were not being reassigned and within a few days, asked Kraemer “point blank” why. Kraemer did not reply but Sitton vocalized his displeasure to Sconzo, board members and others. Again, Kraemer went back to Ned, questioning if he was certain he wanted to keep Carter. At this time, Ned finally agreed to her reassignment. He told Kraemer he was “weary of defending Carter to Kraemer” and he would agree to move her if that was what he wanted.
Within days, Kraemer had presented the changes to Sconzo and on May 10, 2013, met with Carter. At this meeting, he told her about the reassignment and, Carter contends, he said it was for “political reasons,”a phrase Kraemer later denied using. Carter met with Sconzo on May 17 where he allowed her to retain her title and the pay she was getting at HHS. He refused to allow her to stay at HHS, however.
On June 3, Carter filed a Level One grievance. The hearings officer agreed that additional investigation of the retaliation charge and response was due and that there were “no performance issues” but did deny Carter’s request for attorney’s fees and damages. On July 25, Carter filed a Level Two complaint and a hearing was held Oct. 14, 2013. Carter again stated that she was reassigned from HHS in retaliation for two incidents involving David Sitton, brother of board member Robert Sitton. She again asked for attorney’s fees and while agreeing to remain at Summer Creek HS, she asked that her duties be similar to those she had at HHS.
Carter is now an associate principal at SCHS. She has filed a Level Three grievance, an action which takes place before the school board. While she has requested a public hearing, she said she feels sure the board will exercise their right to hold it in private.
“In seven years, I never had an issue. Not as a teacher, or administrator or principal. But as soon as I discovered and reported that David Sitton was leaving every day, all this started. It hurt to leave Humble High School. It was very hard to leave that campus. I was invested in those kids,” she said.
Robert Sitton firmly and categorically denies having influenced the situation, “I had no idea. It was news to me when I saw the Level Two grievance,” Robert Sitton said. “I did hear from many people that the morale at Humble [High School] was very low, that the leadership was poor, and that things needed a change. When the list went to the board about all the district personnel changes, and there were no changes with Humble, I did question that. 'Is it still the case, are things still bad? And if they are, then why are there no changes?'”
Sitton said he never mentioned anyone by name and never pinpointed Carter or anyone else. Sitton also is recusing himself from the grievance hearing. “The district’s attorney, Leila Feldman, says that I am a board member and can certainly be there. But I do not want anyone to feel I am influencing anyone. There was no retaliation on my part at all,” he said. Carter’s Level Three grievance hearing is set for mid-February.