GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 8, 2013

ME school worker who filed abuse claim quits

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — MANCHESTER — The manager of food services at the Manchester Essex Regional High School has mailed in her resignation, claiming verbal abuse in the workplace.

Maureen MacLeod had initially sent a letter to the regional School Committee, Manchester officials, the Times and other outlets in July, claiming food services director Sheila Parisien, who heads food services for the entire district, has created a verbally abusive work environment.

In line with district policy, an internal investigation followed to determine if the allegations were true, Superintendent of Schools Pamela Beaudoin said Monday.

Any personnel-issue investigation can consist of interviews with employees past and present, the individual against whom the complaint is filed and others who may know of an alleged incident.

Beaudoin said that process was completed at the end of August, and the regional School Committee was briefed on it in executive session, but according to district policy, its contents and any corrective actions are confidential. Parisien, however, remains at her post as food services director, Beaudoin confirmed Monday.

“The desired outcome is to identify the level of the problem and create a more positive working environment,” she said of the district policy.

The district gives some examples of corrective action, which can include an apology, direction to stop some behavior, counseling, training, a warning, suspension, exclusion, expulsion, transfer, termination or being discharged.

Beaudoin said she is confident that the district policies about reporting abuse or harassment are strong and effective and said they have proven successful in the past. She reiterated the goal is to resolve the problem — if there is one — amicably and promote a positive working environment.

“We have to take into consideration all the factors that are found throughout the investigation,” she said.

MacLeod said the internal investigation within the regional school district found there was no harassment taking place, only “tension” and “a lack of communication” between herself and Parisien.

MacLeod, who has been employed in the district for 13 years, said in her initial letter that the issues involving Parisien are not new and that concerns were brought before two superintendents. Parisien did not return calls placed by the Times Monday.

“It’s all very private,” MacLeod said of the district process Monday. “I can’t go back and work with this woman.”

MacLeod said that she has received calls and communications from current and previous employees who are supportive of her initial letter. MacLeod said Monday she was concerned about the future of her job, even if she did not resign.

She has not been the only one to raise a personnel issue with Parisien.

Melissa Davis was employed with the district as a part-time food service employee for about six months, and she, too, resigned, citing issues with Parisien.

According to her resignation letter, dated April 24 of last year, scheduling issues caused Davis to quit her job.

Davis worked 31/2 hours a day, five days a week in the morning; worked a separate job in the afternoon and regularly took her 90-year-old neighbor to lunch on Friday afternoon. When another employee was injured, Parisien asked Davis to switch to the afternoon shift with a day’s notice, but Davis was allowed to keep the Friday-morning shift.

When Davis and another employee showed up for the Friday-morning shift, confusion arose, and Parisien reprimanded Davis in front of co-workers, claiming it was Davis’ fault for the scheduling mix-up and that she should have reminded Parisien for the schedule change, according to the resignation letter.

“It is your job to keep track of the changes you made,” the letter reads, addressing Parisien.

Monday, Davis said she was contacted from a school district official about MacLeod’s claims, and she said she was not happy with the district’s findings.

When she quit, she did not file a complaint with the school district.

“I didn’t know at the time who to go to,” she said.

Beaudoin said the district has an appeal policy for investigations and findings, and district employees can also file complaints with external organizations and departments, according to district policy.

“I felt very uneasy being around someone who shifts her personality around quite a bit,” Davis said.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.