LACEY – The school districts’ food director and nutrition specialist Crystal DeCaro whose service was terminated during a recent Board meeting spoke up against that action during the public session.
She asked to speak per her right to do so during the Board meeting. The Board’s attorney Morgan Cameron said while this rarely happens it was within her ability to speak to the Board in public.
According to Business Administrator/Secretary Patrick DeGeorge, she began her role in December of 2018 at a base salary of $55,000 and at the conclusion of the 2019-20 school year included recommendations which included additional training on how to deal with difficult employee situations. Another recommendation was for her to receiving training on how to think “more globally.”
Her year-end evaluation for the 2020-21 school year also included recommendations. It was recommended she repeat the first recommendation from the prior evaluation pertaining to how to handle difficult employee situations and to also repeat the training on how to think more globally across the district prior to taking action.
Recommendations for the 2021-22 school year also came with recommendations. Officials said a “major issue” caused the repeat of the second recommendation to think more globally. She also failed to file state reporting on time and these recommendations formed the basis for a corrective action plan.
Her attendance was also a cause of a memo in her record in January 2022. Incidents of being absent without notice were stated as was her availability to be contacted by district personnel including the superintendent. “These incidents happened numerous times prior to this,” DeGeorge said. He added she was put on administrative leave until the outcome of the night’s discussion.
An issue of an athletic event came up that DeCaro was reported to have been involved with in February which alleged she was rude to district staff and parents and “allegedly threatening one of our employees if that employee did not cover certain aspects of those actions,” DeGeorge added.
DeGeorge said that “in our opinion the principals of due process and discipline have been followed in this matter and support the superintendent’s recommendation.” That recommendation was to sever the continued service by DeCaro to the school district.
The recommendation came to terminate employment. During the meeting DeCaro spoke knowing the decision had been made.
“This decision was not made based on my work performance and availability. The events leading up to the March 3 meeting: I was on an approved vacation proved by Mr. DeGeorge on February 10. My first and only written discipline was given on January 24 of this year and it was made due to a medical emergency with a doctor’s note provided. I trained my staff and secretary to address any concerns during my absence.”
DeCaro added that her work is still continuing to be used and said all her reports were submitted ahead of schedule and onsite reviews and health inspections were all satisfactory. She challenged the accusation that she was unavailable saying she was available beyond her 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. required time including while in the hospital recovering from surgery while on approved sick time and vacation time.
She added she was available to cook and serve during staff shortages. She also noted a congratulatory visit to the school district by Congressman Andy Kim that involved appreciating her department and staff. She read off a list of awards presented outside the district involving her role that she had received that “were unacknowledged which proves the positive impact I have made in this school district in the last four years.”
Among her accomplishments she said she increased breakfast participation by more than 78% and developed the COVID users template used by the entire district. She also claimed to have reversed profit losses in the department for the first time in years. She received applause as she left the podium from the audience largely made up of Lacey Teacher Education Association members.