The former co-chair of the Peachtree Charter Middle School Foundation has filed a complaint against DeKalb Board of Education member Stan Jester, saying she felt threatened by him during a recent meeting with him and other school administrators.
Allegra Johnson, a longtime school volunteer, filed the complaint with the DeKalb County School District on Jan. 5. She resigned her post last month as co-chair of the foundation, citing her concerns about Jester’s behavior toward her that included him saying he would “come after her” and calling her a “bully.”
Jester says Johnson’s allegations were unfounded and he did not threaten her.
“I do not feel secure in making decisions or suggestions for PCMS because of this current situation,” Johnson wrote in her resignation letter, obtained from DCSD. “I believe they may infuriate Mr. Jester and lead to other verbal recourse against me or my family.”
Johnson declined to comment.
A DCSD spokesperson said the board will be considering the complaint, but details were not known at press time. DCSD does not have a separate ethics board. Superintendent Stephen Green declined to comment about the allegations.
According to the complaint, Johnson said she and PCMS Foundation co-chair Fran Bartel met Dec. 14 with Jester, Green and school board chair Melvin Johnson to discuss Jester’s recent questioning of the PCMS Foundation’s purchase of 80 iPads for $23,500 at the Dec. 4 school board meeting.
That discussion led to discussion of Jester’s “Fact Checker” blog, which Johnson criticized for being too critical of people and the school district.
“Mr. Jester threatened to ‘come after’ me personally for raising the issue of his disparaging comments. His tone and manner caused me enough fear that I have submitted my resignation to the PCMS Foundation,” she stated. “Mr. Jester also was allowed to name-call; baselessly accusing me of being a ‘bully.’”
“In addition to the groundless delay of the iPad approval, the Foundation had concerns with Mr. Jester’s use of social media to disparage school councils and to criticize PCMS where his son attends. Multiple times Mr. Jester has mocked and ridiculed school councils on his ‘Fact Checker’ blog,” she stated in the complaint.
In an email, Jester said he had seen the complaint and it was his understanding that no action was going to be taken by the board. He also noted that his daughter went to PCMS for three years and now attends Dunwoody High School and that he has a son in his second year at PCMS. Each year he has donated to the PCMS Foundation, he said.
“While I appreciate the volunteering that Ms. Johnson has done over the years, she and I have disagreed on a number of issues concerning the Dunwoody school cluster,” Jester said in the email.
“Last year we disagreed about which plan would be best with respect to high school over-crowding. She also seems frustrated that I communicate my thoughts and opinions about school district matters in a transparent and open forum on my blog,” he said.
“I am left to surmise that Ms. Johnson is displeased with any public discussion of her thoughts or her work and advocacy, particularly on my blog,” Jester said. “I reject the notion that I have mocked or ridiculed anyone.”
As for his questions about the iPad purchase last month that delayed the board approving the purchase, Jester said he requested to see basic financial statements of the PCMS Foundation.
“This was a perfunctory request and one that I viewed as simple,” he said.
The school district was slow in providing the information and at the Dec. 4 school board meeting the information was not available, Jester said. He asked to defer the vote and the superintendent and board members agreed.
“It is puzzling why this routine deferral created such a truculent reaction from Ms. Johnson,” Jester said. He added he is currently reviewing the financial information provided by the PCMS Foundation.
As for the Johnson’s allegations that Jester threatened to “come after” her, Jester said his exact words were, “If you come after me, I will come after you and defend myself.”
“My use of the word ‘you’ in that sentence was an indefinite pronoun,” he said.
He said his comment was made after Johnson stated she didn’t like a November 2016 post on his blog titled “Chesnut ES and Kingsley ES Not a Fan of Their School Board Rep.”
The post included an email from the Chesnut Elementary Parent Teacher Council and Kingsley Elementary Parent Teacher Organization to the DeKalb school board as well as Superintendent Green and other school administrators concerning ESPLOST project plans that fund PCMS and DHS building additions.
The councils of both elementary schools wanted the school board to know they supported the additions as a way to allow their students to remain in the Dunwoody cluster. They objected to Jester publicly stating his opposition to the addition that he said would add 600 students to DHS.
“By promoting the misconception that 600 students will be added to the high school, Mr. Jester — who surely knows that in fact the plan allows for an enrollment of 267 net new students by 2022 (as DHS’ current enrollment already stands at 321 over capacity) — can only be attempting to incite opposition to the DHS addition,” stated Terri Young and Carrie Willard, chairs of the Chesnut and Kingsley councils at the time.
Jester said the email was emailed to public officials and therefore was not required to be kept private.
“I explained to Allegra that they emailed the board, administration and many of the elected officials around town at our public email addresses, so there was no intent of privacy,” Jester said. “In that email, they came after me. Subsequent to that explanation, my exact words were, ‘If you come after me, I will come after you and defend myself.’”
In December 2016, the DeKalb school board voted 6-1 to approve $16.9 million for a two-story addition and 29 classrooms at Dunwoody High School. Jester cast the lone “no” vote.