Grandview School Board gets an earful from concerned parents

GRANDVIEW - A group of 15 or so parents in the Grandview School District flooded the Grandview School Board meeting hall last night to air concerns about a hire the district made this past fall.

Maggie Pezzullo led the band of parents at Monday night's meeting. At one point she went toe to toe with school board chair Alfonso Contreras because she wanted all of the parents to testify during executive session to bring a complaint against a staff member.

Pezzullo was ultimately allowed to bring only two or three parents with her into executive session.

She said the source of concern was Superintendent Kevin Chase's decision this past September to hire Kendra Ott, his secretary's daughter, to work for the district.

Pezzullo said until a recent TV report she had no idea of Ott's background, including a six-month sentence for second-degree assault, domestic violence. Pezzullo claimed Ott was initially charged because she beat her child.

Grandview Police records obtained by the Daily Sun News last month indicate that in February 2008 Ott was charged with assault of a child in the first degree for allegedly beating her four-year-old son with a belt buckle to the point that he had to be taken to the hospital.

The record reflects testimony to that effect as well, including from Ott's own children.

Records from Yakima County reflect that Ott eventually was convicted on a lesser charge, second degree assault, domestic violence, and was sentenced to six months in jail.

State law does not forbid school districts from hiring applicants with felony convictions in their background, as long as it wasn't against a child.

As a result, since Ott's conviction was not related to assault of a child it did not prevent her from being hired by the Grandview School District.

Pezzullo's point last night is that she alleges the district knew about the original charges against Ott and should not have hired her.

Pezzullo feels the district shouldn't hire anyone who has been charged with a crime against a child, whether or not they're convicted of that particular crime.

This isn't the first time Chase and the board has heard from concerned individuals about Ott's hiring.

During a recent phone interview with the Daily Sun News, Chase confirmed that he hired Ott over four other candidates because she was better qualified.

He said she has been a good employee since her hire in September. Chase said his decision to hire Ott had nothing to do with her mother working as his secretary.

Chase confirmed that Ott was hired to support the bus garage and at one point was promoted to work as a support person for the athletic department. She also worked playground duty for the district during this school year.

Chase said he heard from parents concerned about Ott working with children in the district, and as a result "modified her work schedule so she has no contact with children either at the bus garage or at the district office."

When Pezzullo asserted last night that Ott was seen escorting children as recently as yesterday, Chase said he knew nothing of it and would look into it so it "never happens again."

In the earlier interview with the Daily Sun News, Chase suggested that some of the complaints brought about Ott are, at least in part, because she is seeking custody of her children.

When contacted this morning for response, Ott had no comment other than to say she has an "outstanding work performance" in her duties with the school district.


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