POMPANO BEACH — The controversial principal of the A-rated Blanche Ely High School has been found to have harassed and bullied teachers twice this year but there has been no formal investigation or disciplinary action taken against him.
In two unrelated incidents this year, an area superintendent found “sufficient evidence to provide credence to concerns” that Principal Karlton O. Johnson harassed and bullied teachers at the Pompano Beach school.
The grievances were filed by teachers Djuna Robinson and Marsharie Powell.
In each case, Area Superintendent Sharon Airaghi concluded, “I have found that there is sufficient evidence to provide credence to this concern.”
“During the (grievance hearing) it was alleged that Principal Johnson has repeatedly harassed and bullied (Powell) both privately and publicly, in the presence of other adults,” Airaghi wrote in a May 21 internal memorandum detailing her findings.
Airaghi stated that Johnson would “be instructed to conduct himself in an appropriate manner” and would no longer share “confidential information” with others.
In Robinson’s case, she alleged that Johnson “repeatedly harassed and insulted” her in front of witnesses.
Robinson, a steward with the Broward Teacher’s Union (BTU), also accused Johnson of “targeting” her with unwarranted investigations, attempting to “discredit” her and interfering with her teaching duties and union responsibilities.
Airaghi ruled in Robinson’s favor, as well, and ordered that she must have “an environment where she can appropriately perform her job responsibilities free from bullying and harassment.”
Despite those findings, Robinson’s attorney Johnny L. McCray Jr. says conditions have not improved and is calling for Johnson to face disciplinary action.
“There have been an incessant number of complaints made by a number of faculty and staff about the bullying and harassment they have experienced at the hands of this principal,” McCray said. “Many of them have gone to the union and filed grievances but there has been no disciplinary action taken.”
McCray also alleged that teachers and students are afraid to come forward with complaints out of fear they will be targeted for retaliation.
“I have written letters to school board members, I have provided sworn affidavits and met with staff about this,” McCray said. “But there has been no action that I am aware of.”
Johnson could not be reached for comment.
Tracy Clark, the school district’s public relations officer, said that Johnson is currently under investigation but declined to provide details.
“There is an investigation but he has not been suspended,” Clark said in response to questions from the South Florida Times.
Sources say that investigation is being conducted by the district’s Special Investigations Unit and surrounds an unrelated incident involving a March trip the school’s boys basketball team took to Maryland to participate in an ESPN network tournament.
SIU investigator Kathleen Anderson has been taking statements to determine whether Johnson violated district policy by allegedly leaving a female student in the care of male staff members, instead of a female chaperone, during the trip, as policy dictates.
Under Johnson, the grade of the historic and predominantly black school has risen from near failing to a top-rated A. But along the way some teachers and students have accused him of harassment.
During a 2010 district investigation into allegations that two Christian teachers sprinkled Holy Water on an atheist colleague, several other teachers gave statements that Johnson harassed and threatened them. The final outcome of that investigation has not been determined.
Also, in 2011, a lesbian student complained to School Board members that Johnson targeted and harassed her and a girlfriend for holding hands on school grounds. No action was taken against Johnson.
In 2011, Jacquelyn Haywood, an area director, held a meeting with teachers, students and members of the community to discuss other harassment allegations against Johnson.
McCray, who was at that meeting, said Haywood, gave assurances that an investigation would be conducted, but said he has heard nothing further. District officials have not offered any explanations of what occurred.
McCray said he is calling for an investigation of all the allegations so teachers and students can speak without fear of reprisal.
“Kids can’t learn in an environment where the teachers are petrified of the principal,” McCray said. “This has to stop and we are prepared to go before the school board to have our concerns heard.”
*Pictured above is Blanche Ely High School principal Karlton Johnson.