Brewer Accepts Offer to Return as Dominion Principal

For the first time since John Brewer was suspended four and a half months ago, the beloved principal will walk back into Dominion High School on April 17.

He confirmed on Tuesday that he will accept the School Board’s offer to return as the school’s leader. In doing so, he agrees to a long list of conditions.

Superintendent Eric Williams had recommended Brewer be fired. The majority of School Board members voted last week to overturn that recommendation and instead follow the guidance of an independent hearing officer to reinstate him as principal, but with disciplinary measures.

The board technically voted to terminate Brewer and then rehire him for the same position on a probationary period, with contracts to be renewed annually, for three years. The stipulations also require the principal to comply with a “plan of improvement” as set forth by Williams.

The superintendent has not publically stated why he moved to fire Brewer, but it appears to stem from a letter of recommendation the principal wrote for former Dominion band director Brian Damron, which helped him secure a job in Duval County, FL. Damron is accused of making sexual advances toward a 15-year-old student there. He took that job in August 2015, seven months after he resigned from Dominion High School following allegations that he supplied alcohol to an 18-year-old student while at a conference in Norfolk.

Two years later, in January of this year, Williams petitioned the state to revoke Damron’s license, writing that more allegations had come to light, including that the teacher stayed in a hotel room multiple nights with that same student and that he sexually harassed several other students at Dominion. It’s unclear how much Williams or Brewer knew about those allegations against Damron in late 2014.

Three board members supported Williams’ recommendation to fire Brewer: Eric Hornberger (Ashburn), Brenda Sheridan (Sterling), and Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge). They have declined to comment on their vote.

School Board member Debbie Rose (Algonkian), whose district includes Dominion High School, explained her position to reinstate Brewer in a statement released Tuesday.

“After careful consideration of the entire hearing record, I concluded that while there were lapses in judgment for which consequences were appropriate, the evidence weighed in favor of offering Dr. Brewer an opportunity to return to his position on April 17,” she said.

The tense few months has put a spotlight on areas that need improvement within the school system, Rose added.

“In my opinion, this process has raised questions about the effectiveness of several LCPS policies, regulations, and practices,” she said, calling on a review of the “entire process.” “It’s a 360 review on everything that came through. That’s appropriate after any big situation—a division of any size should look back and say what did we learn and where can we do better?”

School Board member Tom Marshall (Leesburg), who chairs the board’s Personnel Committee, has also called for a review, in particular of how personnel decisions are made. He has said the board gets little information from senior staff members about their recommendations regarding employment decisions, and the board generally approves them unanimously without public discussion or debate.

Rose described the past several months for the Dominion school community as “uncertain, stressful, frustrating, sad.” But she said some positives have come out of it: “Students found their voice and learned to advocate for themselves. Parents and students from diverse backgrounds learned about each other and the challenges people in our community face to simply get to school and participate, much less excel. And, friends and neighbors engaged in civil debate over the issues involved, because we all want what is best for our students.  These are positive outcomes, the take-aways, to help us heal.”

She continued, “While the focus has been on one person, Dominion is not defined by a principal alone. Rather, let it be defined by how the inclusive practices we heard so much about make all students feel welcome, safe, and respected. May Dominion High School continue to thrive as this chapter comes to a close and a new one begins.”

dnadler@loudounnow.com
twitter.com/danielle_nadler

4 thoughts on “Brewer Accepts Offer to Return as Dominion Principal

  • 2017-03-28 at 7:42 pm
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    It’s very positive that Marshall has called for a review.

    But let’s be clear. Rose, Hornberger, Turgeon, and Williams have no intentions of making the results of any review public. They have still not articulated how many cases have been swept under the rug as “resignations”, what actions constitute improper conduct toward kids, or even what has been uncovered at Dominion during this investigation. Such public disclosure doesn’t have to include specific employees. However, it is clear that the school board’s main goal is to protect the image of LCPS and their political reputations. Most of them couldn’t care less about getting to the bottom of what’s going on.

    If your school board member doesn’t provide full transparency on this student safety issue, they care more about protecting the adults than the kids. Vote them out in 2019.

  • 2017-03-29 at 10:11 am
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    What would satisfy you, VirginiaSGP? What would “full transparency on this student safety issue” entail? How do expect that could happen without including specific employees? In the event Dr. Brewer wished to make information about this case public, he could do so as long as he protected the privacy of students and other employees. The school board is not in the position to release the information, if I understand it correctly. Take it up with the state legislature if you have a problem with that.

    As a reminder:
    1. No charges were filed against the former band teacher. Not in Florida, and not in Virginia where the police looked at his behavior in 2014 and again in 2016/7.
    2. The independent review of Dr. Brewer looked at 8 specific issues, and found that none of them – considered individually or cumulatively – warranted termination.

    • 2017-03-29 at 2:30 pm
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      Momto4, first the school board can release info on principal Brewer. Virginia law only protects “teacher performance indicators”. The info related to Brewer is not a TPI. LCSB chooses not to disclose personnel info but they have every right to do so. Maybe you were confused because Virginia’s FOIA laws allow public bodies to exempt personnel information. They can release it. They choose not to.

      I believe full disclosure would include:

      1. How many employees have been accused of misconduct and allowed to resign instead of being terminated? This would include those whose licenses were not revoked and the types of conduct alleged. None of this requires details about any specific named employee.

      2. What types of behavior is acceptable for employees? You have indicated no criminal charges were brought. It is not illegal to sleep with every single one of your senior class students if they are 18 years old even if they are still a student. LCPS goes further and has a policy of not sleeping with students while enrolled. But if they wait till graduation, is it ok for teachers to recruit students for sexual relationships while in school if they wait till afterwards to engage in that activity? To a large part, that seems like what happened here. Do you believe that should be a fire-able offense? I notice that none of the Brewer or LCPS defenders (they are not the same) have ever answered this question. Shouldn’t our public officials state their policy so we can choose whether to replace them or not?

      3. Who ultimately decides on whether teachers/principals are relieved of duty? Is that the Asst Supt for personnel? The Supt? The school board? Who is making these decisions?

      4. Under what circumstances will teacher licenses be revoked? Here, LCPS didn’t ask VDOE to suspend the license until 2 years later. VDOE did revoke it. Are there other situations where LCPS failed to seek revocation and “passed the trash”? What behavior triggers this process?

      Can you identify anywhere in these questions where individuals must be revealed? Do you think the public has a right to understand the policies of the school board? Or should we just “trust” them as knowing “what’s best” for everyone?

  • 2017-04-01 at 10:22 am
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    If the superintendent’s move to fire Brewer was based on the recommendation letter written for Damron, then why has there been no move to fire Michael Pierson, who also wrote a recommendation letter? Is anyone going to look into that?

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