MOUNT VERNON — Returning for a second day of cross-examination, John Freshwater and school board attorney David Millstone frequently reached an impasse, prompting contract termination hearing referee R. Lee Shepherd to intervene at times.
For instance, Millstone attempted to find out when Freshwater understood that he was supposed to remove his Bible from his desk, and asked the question more than once.
“When did you understand you had to remove the Bible from your desk?” asked Millstone.
“Please restate the question,” Freshwater replied.
“What was your understanding after you were told to remove the Bible?”
“Your wording there ... It’s a conflicting mess.”
“Did you understand you were told to remove your Bible?” Millstone asked.
“You can’t be deceptive and put things out of context.”
“Did you understand you were told to remove the Bible from your desk?”
“Yes, to remove it from my room.”
Shepherd said that was not the question, and Millstone repeated it.
Freshwater again answered “Yes, from my room.”
“That’s not responsive to the question,” Shepherd advised.
Millstone repeated the question again and Freshwater answered, “Yes.”
A similar deadlock occurred when Millstone tried to discover when or if Freshwater made a decision to keep the Bible as a silent witness on his desk. Freshwater finally said he did make the decision to leave the Bible on his desk, and later testified he did not remove it when 2007-08 school year ended.
Throughout his testimony, Freshwater often asked for questions to be repeated or restated, and frequently answered a question with a question. He said he was trying to give Millstone more context for his answers and trying to clarify things. Freshwater also challenged Millstone on occasion.
At one point he said, “You’re narrowing it down, just like what other people are doing to me.”
Asked about a magazine article, Freshwater said, “It’s apparent you’ve gone through the classroom and taken stuff out. I’m wondering what else you do have. I’m baffled [with this line of questioning.]”
“Is this your handwriting [on the top of the article]?” asked Millstone.
“I’m going back to when Ricky Warren was here,” responded Freshwater, referring to Warren’s testimony Tuesday. “There has been some stuff put on documents that has not been accurate. So I will not say this is my handwriting.”
Later, when asked whether he prepared a certain lesson plan, Freshwater replied, “I would assume it’s mine. I’m being very cautious. I’m trying to err on the side of caution [so things aren’t taken out of context].”
Upon redirect by his lawyer, Kelly Hamilton, Freshwater explained his caution. He said again that he felt the HR on Call investigative report was flawed and that the school board was being one-sided. He said the presentation of evidence by Millstone and the school board was “selective in nature,” with the goal of making a point rather than disclosing the truth.
“The board’s been trying to prove a point?” Hamilton asked.
“Oh, yeah,” replied Freshwater. “They’ve been trying to prove I’m some kind of Christian fanatic. It comes down to my OAT [Ohio Achievement Test] scores. My kids passed. I’m doing my job.”
He also said he has the perception that Millstone “threw out that I’m lying.”
When Hamilton asked, “What would you say to someone who thought you gave contradictory or conflicting testimony?” Freshwater replied, “I don’t know how much clearer I can make it.”
Freshwater said HR investigators should have given him a second interview, or at least asked more questions to get clarity on the issues where there was conflicting information. He said they were not out for the truth, but to prove a point.
“They did a very poor job,” Freshwater said. “It’s sad to say, but the board based their decision on a poor, poor job.”
He told Hamilton that his teacher textbooks and lesson plans apparently now in the possession of the Mount Vernon City Schools would have exonerating and exculpatory material.
Millstone’s recross of Freshwater will take place at 9 a.m. Jan. 15, 2010.