The Trashing of John Sosa's Reputation
(Randall Roth comments on two stories on the DoE investigation into education reform advocate and former Kaiser HS Principal John Sosa which ran on KHON Feb 6 and Feb 7.)
By Randall Roth
1. Despite 45+ years of dedicated and exemplary service—indeed, while in Washington D.C. to receive a Principal of the Year award—John Sosa received a call on his cell phone, ordering him not to return to his school until further notice. Although the caller was Sosa’s Complex Area Superintendent, he told Sosa that he had no idea what this was about.
2. Years later, Superintendent Matayoshi revealed to KHON News that Sosa’s removal was based on a “tip” from an anonymous source who had called the DOE’s Fraud and Ethics Hotline. According to Superintendent Matayoshi: “You don’t know with the anonymous fraud line whether or not it’s someone who’s just angry and trying to put something out there, so you do need to take a look at it.” (LINK)
3. Sosa’s requests to meet with the Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent were summarily rejected, “due to the ongoing investigation.”
4. The DOE had previously stated: “'If the individual being investigated is not deemed a safety threat to the school environment, he or she can remain in the position to fulfill their role…’ teachers or principals alike.” (LINK)
5. It was later revealed that the investigation addressed allegations of improper reimbursements, misuse of facilities, misuse of appropriated funds, and misuse of contracted personnel ... none of which appear to pose a “safety threat to the school environment.”
6. Word of Sosa’s banishment from his school spread like wildfire within that school community and among public school educators, and was widely reported by the media. As vicious rumors circulated, the DOE refused to comment on why Sosa had been summarily removed from his school and was being investigated.
7. Many people probably assumed that Sosa had done something terrible: Why else would a principal be abruptly and publicly banned from his own school?
8. Three months later, Sosa learned from his Complex Area Superintendent that the investigation had not yet begun.
9. Nine months later, Matayoshi wrote to the Attorney General: “There appears to be evidence to show that there are several instances where Mr. John Sosa [and three others at Kaiser High School] misappropriated funds or misused facilities.” That letter included mention of a “binder containing evidence,” but the DOE declined KHON’s request to inspect the contents of any such binder. (LINK)
10. Sosa received a short, formal letter on March 14, 2016, informing him that the investigation had been completed, but did not explain why he had been summarily banned from his school on the basis of an anonymous complaint; why more than three months passed before the investigation was begun; why the investigation had taken so long; or why it had been terminated. This was two and a half years after Sosa’s abrupt banishment from his school.
11. In a recent interview with KHON, Matayoshi implied that investigation details had been provided to Sosa and that he could make those details public if he thought doing so would clear his name, as though Sosa’s failure to make such information public must mean that it would cast him in a negative light. Specifically, she said “all of the information we receive, any report, are provided to the individual ... to the extent they would like to release it, to clear their name, that would be their choice.” (LINK)
12. As of today’s date, the DOE has not provided to Sosa any details regarding the charges against him, the investigation of those charges, or any findings by the department or its investigator. This includes the above-mentioned “binder containing evidence.” Matayoshi’s public statement to the contrary is simply not true. The DOE has NOT provided any details relating the charges, the investigation of those charges, or any related findings.
13. Matayoshi has yet to meet with Sosa, apologize to him, or even just to express regret for what he had to endure or for the damage that was done to his reputation.
14. Asked by KHON if she learned any lessons from the Sosa investigation, Matayoshi responded: “I think I would have like to have done it faster, but it was complicated.... [W]e were not adequately staffed, and we’ve added investigators. I do think it took too long. It just took too long.“
15. Matayoshi did not explain why she would summarily banish an award-winning principal from his school on the basis of an anonymous complaint at a time when she lacked adequate staff to investigate the matter.
16. Invited to reflect on the role she had played in the smearing of John Sosa’s reputation, Superintendent Matayoshi chalked it up to “having to make difficult decisions.”
17. I barely knew John Sosa before all this happened, but I believe what was done to him is inhumane.
18. I think it would be shameful if people with knowledge of this do not demand more accountability than has evidently been demanded of Matayoshi thus far. I’m virtually sure that the board of education’s decision to replace Matayoshi was based on considerations unrelated to her treatment of John Sosa: Governor Ige’s vision of transforming the bureaucracy into a school-centered system (i.e., school empowerment) will be difficult under the best of circumstances. Having met with Matayoshi four or five times over the past 33 months, and even more times with various members of her senior staff, I can say with absolute certainty that she does not believe in school empowerment. That’s why it would be absurd even to consider extending her contract.
19. The favorable evaluations Matayoshi received is a red herring. The current board was contractually obligated to evaluate her using a system that had been put in place by a very different board under the leadership of Don Horner. That system measures how well Matayoshi manages the existing bureaucracy. What's needed now is a change agent who understands and believes in school empowerment. That person will transform, rather than manage, the existing bureaucracy.
20. What happened to John Sosa says much about the abuse of power and lack of accountability in the existing bureaucracy. Whether we the people support efforts to transform the bureaucracy and achieve justice for John Sosa will say a lot about us.
Feb 6, 2017: Matayoshi Dismissal -- Retaliation for Investigation of Kaiser Principal?
Feb 7, 2017: It goes to the Top: Ige Education Policy Based on Underage Drinking and Football Recruiting Trips