The principal at Briggs High School wants Bernard Gatti to stay away. Principal Marcy A. Drafts wrote the retired Briggs teacher on Sept. 23 to say that he must stop making allegations of wrongdoing to school officials - including the internal auditor - and stop questioning her staff. The letter says Gatti should have been barred from a recent football game for his "behavior and harassing tactics" and warns that if he keeps trying to "undermine" her school, she will seek to ban him entirely from Columbus City Schools property.
The principal at Briggs High School wants Bernard Gatti to stay away.
Principal Marcy A. Drafts wrote the retired Briggs teacher on Sept. 23 to say that he must stop making allegations of wrongdoing to school officials — including the internal auditor — and stop questioning her staff. The letter says Gatti should have been barred from a recent football game for his “behavior and harassing tactics” and warns that if he keeps trying to “undermine” her school, she will seek to ban him entirely from Columbus City Schools property.
“Your persistence in making unfounded allegations and submitting false reports through the vehicles such as the CCS auditor’s hot line, Human Resources, (and the Ohio High School Athletic Association) is nothing short of harassment,” she wrote. “As a result of your behavior, we believed it was in the best interest of everyone that you not be present at our school events.”
She wanted to keep him out of the Sept. 6 Briggs football game. She also accused him of failing to buy a ticket. (He said he paid his $5.) Drafts says in the letter that Gatti has been harassing Briggs staffers and coaches by repeatedly asking for information about students, which they can’t give him anymore because he is no longer a school employee.
Drafts’ reasons for keeping Gatti from public-school property aren’t the usual ones. Only seven people are banned from Columbus schools property right now, all because they have come into a building to fight students or threaten employees.
It is also an unusual case because Gatti has been trying to blow the whistle. He has told the district’s internal auditor and state investigators looking into the district’s student-data manipulation that Drafts tampered with student grades over his protests.
Gatti acknowledges that he called the district’s personnel office to say that a coach at the school was convicted of felony cocaine trafficking. The district has no record of having paid that person as a coach and said he might have been a volunteer. The man later was denied a coaching license by the Ohio Department of Education because of the cocaine conviction.
The district’s internal auditor is concerned that Drafts’ letter implies that tipsters could be punished for contacting the auditor’s office.
“I am concerned when I see one of the reasons given for the action is that someone took advantage of a resource that we encourage,” said Carolyn Smith, speaking of her office’s fraud-reporting hot line. “The concerns he expressed to me do not seem like harassing. To my knowledge, this is not a sufficient reason to issue a no-trespass order.”
District spokesman Jeff Warner said yesterday that district officials are looking into the matter. In short, the district wants to make sure that Drafts didn’t intend the letter as retribution for Gatti’s whistle-blowing efforts.
Warner said Drafts thinks Gatti has an ax to grind because he was told his position at the school was being eliminated. He retired at the end of the 2011-12 school year rather than find another job in the district. Warner said Drafts told him her letter has nothing to do with the former teacher’s participation in student-data investigations. It’s that he won’t leave employees alone, Warner said.
“None of (his allegations) have been substantiated,” Warner said.
Gatti, who taught at Briggs for a decade, said he has done nothing wrong. It is true that he doesn’t care much for Drafts, but he said this isn’t really about her.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” Gatti said. “I haven’t been wrong on anything that I’ve told. Nothing that I forwarded to anyone was fraudulent. Nothing did I make up to make anybody look bad. When I retired, I turned everything over and let (auditors) go through it. That’s what upset her."
He taught world history and met more than a year ago with state auditors to tell them that Drafts had changed one of his student’s grades.
In early September, he said he called the superintendent’s office to report that unlicensed coaches were working at Briggs. He thinks that might have been the last straw for Drafts, and although her letter indicates he wasn’t supposed to be let into the football game, Gatti said no one told him that. Warner said he was notified but not in writing.
So Gatti went, and then came the letter.
Gatti said he’s not going to stop reporting what he believes is wrongdoing. He also said he’s going to keep going to football games; he lives 4 miles from the building, and his son went there.
“I’d like an apology from her,” Gatti said.