MOUNT VERNON — “Somebody’s trying to set me up,” said John Freshwater during Friday’s session of his contract termination hearing.
Freshwater was referring to what he characterized as discrepancies in some materials that allegedly came from his science classroom. The contents of 17 boxes full of various items were examined by Freshwater and his attorney in March and entered into evidence at Friday’s hearing, most in the form of a PowerPoint slide show of the material.
The boxes contained well over 11,000 pages of material including, but not limited to, photographs of students conducting experiments, worksheets, textbooks, newspaper articles, magazines, overhead transparencies, supplemental teaching material, correspondence, videotapes, seating charts and test results.
Two of the documents discussed Friday were stamped bd ex (board exhibit) 22 and bd ex 91, respectively. Freshwater said that was suspicious because the contents were supposedly removed from his classroom in August 2008, and the hearing didn’t begin until much later.
Aug. 12, 2008, was the date written on three of the boxes, along with a note that the material was from Room 215, Freshwater’s classroom in the Mount Vernon Middle School. UPS packing labels on those boxes were dated 13-Nov-08.
Freshwater said he could find no reasonable explanation for the date discrepancies.
“It’s confusing,” he said. “Materials have been moved around, added to and taken away.”
Freshwater concluded that indicates his classroom materials “were moved around and messed with.” As to the board exhibit marks, Freshwater said that indicates materials were tampered with.
Another issue was a document in the boxes showing the results of the spring 2008 science achievement test. Freshwater said he was suspended and out of the classroom before those results were published. There was also a letter dated June 1, 2008, also after he was, in his words, “ejected” from his classroom. He said he wondered how those results, the letter and a couple of other items could have gotten into a box of stuff from his classroom.
“Somebody placed them in there,” Freshwater said.
“What is your impression from all of this? Is someone trying to set you up?” asked Freshwater’s lawyer, R. Kelly Hamilton.
“Yes,” replied Freshwater.
Comparing the quantity of material from the classroom to the amount on which the HR on Call investigators based their conclusion, Hamilton asked if it is more reflective of what he taught and how he taught. Freshwater replied, “Yes.”
After school board attorney David Millstone requested a conference with Hamilton and hearing referee R. Lee Shepherd, no further items identifying students, such as test scores and grade book pages, were shown.
Late afternoon questions had to do with three or four conversations Freshwater said he had with former school board member Steven Hughes. Transcripts of two of those conversations equaled 32 pages, which were formally entered into evidence but not all read aloud in open session.
Millstone’s recross started with questions about the meetings with Hughes and the sequence of events concerning the “black bag.”
The hearing was put on hold when Millstone introduced an affidavit and prepared to ask Freshwater about it. Hamilton said the affidavit referred to the civil case, and advised Freshwater not to answer any questions due to a federal judge’s gag order in the civil suit.
Shepherd then adjourned the hearing so he could obtain a copy of the gag order and to give Freshwater time to contact the attorneys representing him in the civil suit. Millstone suggested that in order to prevent more delays, questions concerning that affidavit could possibly be asked on camera and not in public session.
The hearing is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. on Monday.