Many of the actions of Ms. English only make sense when they are considered in the context of her animosity toward Mr. Josephson stemming from a major confrontation they had in 2009 concerning Ms. English’s decision to renege on her commitment to share the results of a survey she commissioned Mr. Josephson to undertake with parents, teachers and students and a conference call during which Ms. English, based on erroneous assumptions she made no attempt to verify, accused Mr. Josephson of unprofessional and unethical conduct. The incident is described in more detail in the offer to settle letter but the following e-mails give context and credence to demonstrate Ms. English’s hostility to Mr. Josephson.
The confrontation, later described as an “ambush” by the President of the Archer Dads organization Jeffrey Spitz began with a seeming innocent request by Ms. English to meet with Mr. Josephson. We have underlined sections we think are particularly relevant.
November 20, 2009 2:29 PM From: Maria Servello To: MSJ Subject: Speaking with Ms. English
Hello Mr. Josephson:
Thank you for speaking to me today. Due to your event this evening and the start of the Thanksgiving holiday, Ms. English would love to set something up for Monday, November 30th. She is free from 10:30 am until 1:30 pm. Please let me know what time might be best for you.
Kind thanks, Maria, Assistant to the Head of School
November 30, 2009 10:06 From: MSJ to Maria Servello:
I understand Chris [Mr. Josephson’s assistant] has been talking to you about setting up a time for a conversation with Ms. English. I am so sorry that other commitments preclude a face-to-face at Archer today. I understand we have a phone appointment scheduled.
I am delighted to have a discussion about the survey (I presume we are talking about the survey administered by the school at the end of last semester) but I need to refresh myself on the data and my previous communications regarding it to make the best use of Ms. English’s time.
Is this to be the discussion concerning the meaning/significance of the data and/or a possible strategic plan to address it and/or the way it might be introduced constructively to students and parents? Are others to be present?
Is Ms. English available in the next hour for a brief telephone discussion about her goals so I can assess whether I can be prepared for the discussion as scheduled?
I will ask Chris to follow up to see if we can have a touch base conversation prior to the real conversation.
November 30, 2009 10:48 AM
I am forwarding your email to Ms. English so she may respond to your questions.
Kind thanks, Maria
It is very significant that Ms. English never responded to clarify the purpose of the meeting or who would be attending as exactly this same technique was used prior to her meeting with Mr. Josephson on January 13, 2014, the one and only personal interaction between Mr. Josephson and Ms. English regarding discipline of C1 or the exclusion of C2.
When the phone conference began as scheduled, Ms. English surprised Mr. Josephson with the news that she had asked two board members to participate in the call, one of whom (Cathy Helm) was described as an educational lawyer. Ms. English also surprised Mr. Josephson with the news that her topic was not the school-wide survey she asked him to conduct a year earlier but an online survey Mr. Josephson had just conducted in preparation for a presentation to Archer Dads organization scheduled for December 1.
Ms. English opened the conversation expressing outrage and dismay that Mr. Josephson would conduct a survey of Archer girls without her permission. She also seemed concerned that Mr. Josephson would reveal some of the negative data from the survey she had commissioned or that the data he just collected would be similar in nature.
An acrimonious conversation ensued consisting primarily of a tirade by Ms. English and Ms. Helm apparently designed to humiliate and intimate him. Ms. English repeatedly accused him of being unethical and unprofessional for his failure to recognize the right of the head of school to control such matters and to seek her approval. Mr. Josephson protested that she was operating under a false assumption that she could have and should have sought to verify. He insisted that she did not understand the nature or origin of the survey, that he had no intent to reveal the data she was so intent on concealing and that since this was an Archer Dads event he did not think it was his role or responsibility to “clear” the matter with her.
Mr. Josephson expressed his own outrage at the tactic she used to set him up for this sort of phone call without any notice of its purpose or knowledge of who would be involved, especially since he specifically inquired on these issues. Finally he asked that Jeffrey Spitz, President of Archer Dads be included in the call. A recess was arranged and the conference call resumed at 5:00 PM. This letter sent by Jeffrey Spitz to members of the Archer Dads Board written and sent midway through the call reveals the tone and nature of the conversation he experienced.
November 30, 2009 5:28 PM
From: Spitz, Jeffrey To: Kevan Lynd; Greg Spahr; Mark Sarkowsky; Morgan, Nicolas; Jan Russell;
I am on a contentious phone call with MSJ, Archer and the Archer Board (by representation). We will need to have a discussion shortly about the Thursday event and maybe beyond. Are folks available NOW for a call??? IF not, how about tomorrow at 3 or 4 pm???
Jeffrey Spitz, Attorney at Law
Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP
Immediately after the call he wrote this note to his board demonstrating both Ms. English’s need and demand for complete control and how angry (Mr. Sptiz used the term “incensed”) she was at Mr. Josephson. Unfortunately, this emotion did not subside even when she learned that her accusations were groundless and based on false assumptions. Apparently she has harbored a grudge against Mr. Josephson since that time and decided that the incident with C1 concerning a minor act of rudeness could be the excuse for a vendetta that ended with the exclusion of his two daughters and the separation of the Josephsons from the Archer community.
Nov 30, 2009 at 6:07 PM
From: Spitz, Jeffrey to Board of Archer Dads
EE ambushed MSJ this morning, complaining about the things discussed below.
The call was continued to 5 pm and I joined at that time.
Elizabeth and her Board, as represented by Debbie Bass and Cathy Helm were incensed that we were doing the survey without talking to her first and getting her input (read, approval). She is particularly concerned b/c the survey includes questions about rating the job Archer is doing and inquires about the prevalence of drug use, cheating, bad behavior, etc.
I told her it was not on our radar to run our activities by her in advance, that no disrespect was intended and apologized that she felt that way.
Michael and I tried to steer the discussion to what do you want us to do now? The answer is for Michael not to discuss the actual survey results on the sensitive topics but to simply use the results to inform the discussion. I am ok with that.
Unfortunately, Michael may have suggested previously that we would allow school administrators to attend the meeting; EE wants to have Samantha Coyne Donnell and Karen Pavlick attend. On reflection, Michael pointed out that their presence would likely chill the discussion from some of the girls. I agree 100%.
I advised EE and the others that we would consider her requests and get back to her quickly.
You should all be aware that the entire tenor of the discussion kept coming back to how offended they were that we did this without prior disclosure to EE. EE stressed that we are tie together with the school, use their name, etc. I said that she and we had a meeting in her office and numerous discussions with her from day one about the relationship between AD, Inc. and the school.
My recommendation is that we NOT undermine this program that we have busted our asses over by allowing school administrators to attend and chill the discussion but that we DO AGREE not to have Michael discuss the specific survey results. I think we also need to give the Thursday night crowd a caveat that what we discuss in that room should stay there, between us, and not be discussed outside the meeting. At bottom, EE’s big nightmare, I think, is that Michael reveals negative survey results (Archer girls drink and do drugs) and that this info winds up in the LA Times or on some blog.
I do not think EE will be happy with us over this and we may be endangering AD, Inc.’s long term relationship with the school, but I think it is the right decision.
Based on the forgoing and the shortness of time, if we all agree, great. If not, or if folks want to talk, and I am more than fine with that, we should have a discussion tomorrow afternoon; I can be available after 3 pm.
Jeffrey Spitz Attorney at Law
Mr. Josephson’s contemporaneous reaction to the incident is conveyed in his note to Mr. Spitz at 10:34 that night.
Sadly, none of this matters. EE was absolutely beside herself with indignation that someone did not explicitly and reverently approach her “as head of school” to get her approval (which it is absolutely clear she would not have given) BEFORE we decided we wanted the survey. Though she occasionally used the language of the courtesy of advance notice she made it clear that she was “incredulous” that we would not abide by her wishes.
I remain personally offended by the manner in which this has been handled but I don’t think it’s good for anyone to widen the gap between Archer Dad’s and the admin. It’s not clear what role she thought the Board members were playing and why they were in any way necessary to the conversation unless she intended intimidation with the lawyer and wanted to send the message that she has full Board support.
I think she will view a refusal to allow her deans to attend the meeting as a declaration of war and a cooler head than hers will be necessary to prevent her from being vindictive even though it is not justified nor in the best interest of the school. Is there anyone you know on the Board that might take a more conciliatory approach?
I am sooooo sorry I dragged you in this direction.