Restraining order keeps BISD from firing principal alleging retaliation

Shaunte Guillory (bottom right) came back to Beaumont to teach at Jones-Clark

Beaumont Independent School District’s Board of Managers deliberated the termination of Jones-Clark Elementary principal Shaunte Guillory at its most recent meeting held Thursday, Nov. 19, but a temporary restraining order granted by Jefferson County Judge Gary Sanderson on Nov. 23 will bring both sides of the conflict to a courtroom instead of a boardroom on Monday, Dec. 7.

Guillory has been on a forced hiatus from the job she says she loves, on paid administrative leave since August amid allegations she was reviewing standardized testing materials, failing to properly monitor and oversee student testing and personnel adherence to testing procedures, failing to report suspected testing security violations to the district testing coordinator, coercing teachers to retest benchmarks, thereby submitting fraudulent benchmark data from 2011-12 and 2012-13, and failing “to monitor and analyze instructional processes and academic progress in light of two years of low assessment data and known allegations of cheating,” as determined by then Human Resources Director Dwaine Augustine.

The ousted employee has fired back with a lawsuit alleging she was targeted in violation of whistleblower laws because of the sensitive information she provided to state and federal investigators mere weeks before she was relieved of her duties. And although Guillory has not been fired, according to BISD correspondence, her position as principal at Jones-Clark has already been filled by veteran BISD educator Anetra Cheatham.

In the pending lawsuit, Guillory claims through attorney Larry Watts that the most blatant act of retaliation was that of Human Resources Director Augustine, whom she spoke of when reporting suspected cheating incidents to the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office and federal investigators. Guillory complained of Augustine’s perceived bias in the “investigation” of her alleged infractions, but to no avail, according to the court pleading, although she was granted a grievance meeting – albeit with the very person she felt aggrieved her in the first place.

“Guillory went to the meeting with her union representative, Larry Josh, but Augustine refused to let Mr. Josh sit in on the meeting,” Watts asserts. “During this meeting, Augustine was visibly hostile toward Guillory. He placed her on administrative (leave) for talking to law enforcement officials, on the pretext of a ‘pending investigation’ regarding claimed testing irregularities at her campus.

“Guillory filed her second grievance on Aug. 6, 2015, alleging retaliation against her for filing the first grievance and for reporting information to law enforcement officials regarding a criminal investigation against the previous administration at Jones-Clark Elementary School. Augustine was specifically identified in this grievance as being part of the retaliatory process of demoting and then placing Guillory on administrative leave.

“Nevertheless, according to BISD’s custom and pattern, Augustine investigated Guillory’s allegations against him and BISD, held a hearing in his (Augustine’s) office, and he even wrote the decision concluding that Guillory’s grievance against him and BISD was without merit.”

Guillory, speaking exclusively with The Examiner, told her side of the fight to save her career.

“They’re trying to rip away my life, rip away my career,” she said. “I feel like I’ve been set up. It’s wrong. It’s just so wrong.”

Guillory has been through tough times before — at the same location where her current trouble began.

“Right there on that street, my dad was stabbed 27 times with a screwdriver. I watched him take his last breath – right there on that street,” she said as tears welled. “There was a time that, just passing by that street, I couldn’t do it. To be a principal in the same neighborhood that ripped me apart – it was a miracle. I would never jeopardize my career. Never.

“I remember standing in that building just in awe that I made it. I’m the only person in my family to graduate college. I wanted to be there, in that neighborhood. I wanted to help the children at my school, so they wouldn’t have to suffer what I had to suffer as a child. I went there every day because I love those kids. I would have given them my last.”

Guillory actually came back to Beaumont from a teaching career in San Antonio to work in her old neighborhood as the assistant principal at Jones-Clark in 2011 under then principal Jackie Lavergne, who has since been terminated from the district amid allegations of attendance fraud. Lavergne has also been accused of running Jones-Clark at a time when cheating on standardized tests occurred, but Guillory said she never personally saw any indication of wrongdoing on the part of her former boss.

“Everyone asks, ‘How can she work under someone for two years and didn’t know?’ I don’t know what the hell I was supposed to know,” she said. “I did all the scheduling, the discipline, dealing with parents, making sure we had a sub …

“I seriously did not know. I never saw that lady doing anything – never. But then again, I’m just one person; I can’t be everywhere.”

Still, Guillory had gleaned information since she took over at the helm of the elementary school – information she shared with criminal investigators. Guillory implies that she was uncomfortable talking to Augustine about the specifics of the information she provided to the investigators, however, considering that her intel was not favorable to the BISD Human Resources director.

After being placed on administrative leave, Guillory was offered a deal to resign. The deal proposed by BISD allowed for paid leave until Dec. 31 although a previous verbal agreement initally deemed acceptable to both parties would have provided for payment until the end of Guillory’s contract through the remainder of the school year.