MOUNT VERNON — Ricardo Warren was the first witness during Tuesday’s session of the contract termination hearing of suspended Mount Vernon Middle School science teacher John Freshwater. Called by Freshwater’s lawyer, Kelly Hamilton, Warren discussed an e-mail the school board submitted as evidence that Freshwater improperly contacted speakers for Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings.
Looking at the board’s copy of the e-mail, Warren said it didn’t look 100 percent like the one he received.
“It looks a little screwy,” he told Hamilton.
Warren, originally from Jamaica, explained that he writes a British-style of e-mail, and signs all of his e-mails, although the signature varies according to whom the e-letter is addressed. He said it was Jordan Freshwater, John’s daughter, not John, who contacted him to speak at FCA, and further said Jordan signed every e-mail she sent him. He denied ever receiving an e-mail from John.
The board’s copy does not have a signature.
“Does it appear someone backspaced and removed Jordan’s name?” Hamilton asked.
“It’s possible,” replied Warren.
Warren also testified that the conversations he had with Freshwater about the Will Graham celebration, held at Kenyon College in 2007, were at church.
John Freshwater was then called to the stand for cross-examination by the school board’s attorney, David Millstone.
Millstone asked whether Freshwater had any role in the Will Graham celebration; Freshwater said his role was organizing and working with the youth. Questioned about a Will Graham poster that had been in his classroom, Freshwater said it was posted by an FCA member with the approval of former principal Mr. Kuhn 18 years ago.
Millstone then asked a series of questions about the collective bargaining agreement with the Mount Vernon Teachers Association and whether Freshwater, not an MVEA member, had any rights under the contract. Freshwater said he did. He could not recall when he became aware of those rights.
After repeated requests from Millstone, who told Freshwater a master contract disc was found in his classroom, for details, Freshwater said that could be possible, but he didn’t recall looking at it. He also could not at first recall whether his attorney had advised him of his rights under the master teacher contract. Following several attempts by Millstone to elicit the information, Freshwater said, “I’m sure Kelly talked to me about those rights.”
Referring to Freshwater’s deposition filed with regard to the civil case brought by the Doe family, Millstone asked whether Freshwater stated in the deposition that he felt he was not subject to the collective bargaining agreement.
“That is correct,” Freshwater answered.
In previous testimony, Freshwater stated the investigation by HR on Call was flawed and the investigative report inflammatory. Millstone said the report stated there was no evidence Freshwater violated the school’s permission slip policy with regard to FCA.
“Is this inflammatory?” asked Millstone.
Millstone asked more questions about Freshwater’s interview with HR on Call, which Freshwater had recorded, then transcribed. Working from the tape and transcript, Freshwater prepared written affidavits to clarify his answers to HR on Call. Those affidavits were entered into evidence when Hamilton had Freshwater on the stand earlier this month.
Regarding the affidavits, Millstone asked how long Freshwater and Hamilton spent preparing each one. Freshwater could not recall the amount of time it took.
“We spent a lot of time,” he said.
Millstone asked whether the report was ever submitted to HR on Call.
“No,” said Freshwater. “I was waiting for a second interview.”
“When the interview was canceled, did you ask to have it rescheduled?”
“No. Why should I have to ask?”
“Did you ask Mr. Hamilton to contact someone to reschedule?” asked Millstone.
“The question is, ‘why should I have to?”’
Freshwater also said he did not submit a witness list to HR on Call, again because he was waiting for the second interview.
Regarding allegations that Freshwater engaged in prayer at FCA meetings, Millstone read Freshwater’s answer given to HR on Call.
“‘It may be verbal. It may not be. I pray all the time,’” Millstone read. “From the answer you gave, was it fair for [HR on Call] to say you were praying with kids?”
“No,” replied Freshwater.
Asked whether he told HR on Call it could have been he who initiated the prayer for an FCA speaker, Freshwater said, “Yes.” He added that’s what he said at the time, but now that he has “clarity on it,” he would say he did not initiate the prayer.
Millstone also asked a number of questions to clarify statements in the interview transcript, affidavits and depositions which seemed, he said, to contradict each other. He asked about the Answers in Genesis Web site, extra credit for attending activities with religious themes and the use of the Tesla coil.
Freshwater’s cross-examination is expected to continue today.