Letter: HES mom tells her side of PTO rift

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To The Editor,

Editor’s Note: due to a legal demand, we are forced to pull this letter from publication.

We disagree, and would prefer a free, open and frank exchange of ideas. But, the legal burden of defending such a case in court is prohibitive.

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30 Comments

  1. David says:

    I have sat quietly and watched this play out, but I cannot sit by any longer. The comments on here are outrageous. You have all judged and condemned someone without even hearing the facts!!! In fact, this entire email chain is akin to cyberbullying. Everyone is on the bandwagon to crucify a person that you don’t even know and haven’t heard her side of the story. This is a woman who had volunteered her time, had obtained tens of thousands of dollars for the school, (no small accomplishment) and who was asking that the school hold a proper PTO election. And when the school did not do so, she asked nothing other than to be released from her position in a lawful manner. Instead, the PTO and principal, due to ego and sense of empowerment, decided not to do the proper thing. So she had no option but to fight back through the legal system. I am an attorney. Nobody wants to go through a law suit of this sort – spend their time, significant expense, emotional energy, have their integrity questioned, be insulted and vilified by neighbors and community and have their children ostracized. Do you people not recognize how typical a situation this is?! The facts speak for themselves and things are not always what they seem, and that is why the court case is still pending and has not been dismissed. You people should be ashamed of yourselves for your judgment and condemnation of Ms. Carmody.

  2. Becky says:

    As a former HEPTO Board member, I am wondering if anyone supporting her has considered contacting the grant provider to verify if she has any legal responsibilities to be released from as she claims. Maybe that would give us a clearer picture of things. Don’t you think the lawyers involved would have looked into her demand immediately with that organization? Wouldn’t the lawyers have been obligated to release her from that if there was actually something to release her from? Grant writers leave Hillendale each year (as their children move to the middle school) without any legal binding from which to be released – is she somehow different? Why does no one seem to want to do any fact checking before jumping on this lady’s bandwagon?

  3. Trixie says:

    Has anyone taken into account that SHE herself is a lawyer? Has anyone considered that SHE is abusing the system? Has anyone considered the fact that SHE may not need to be released from the very document SHE wants to be released from? Are we ignoring what SHE originally demanded? Remember, lawyers are taught to write well and spin a story… please don’t be fooled by what she wrote.

    Before you go any further on bashing people please go educate yourself on what she originally filed and demanded, then read the preliminary objections so you have “the true story”.

  4. Pat says:

    I find it ironic that a gang of mobsters is calling this woman a bully. It’s not brain surgery to figure out how it deteriorated. You have a group of people (Mean Girls, anyone?) willing to toss Carmody to the curb after she raised lots of money for them. THEN, they won’t even let her cover herself from legal responsibility. I get the hating on lawyers thing, but here’s the reality: she was up against it, was ignored and fell back on what she knew – the legal system – to get relief. Some of you sound like you’re thriving on this situation so you have someone to attack, so sad. Ms. Carmody – I get it, it was a heck of a thank you – I hope you get your piece of paper.

  5. John Wayne says:

    She is the classic egocentric, controlling, neurotic person who is a victim of her own making. Her belligerence is directed towards everyone else in the community, and she is sucking our collective educational tax dollars over a PTO issue. Her original filings were thrown out as spurious by the court, but she wont stop because of her overwhelming delusional ego-even at the cost of her children’s best interests Steve Dissinger and Al Ioccoca are both fine men who I have known for decades both as a parent, and through social circumstance. John and Jeremy you will find you’ve picked the wrong side here in time. Go hang out with Mrs. Carmody and take inventory. This isn’t a conspiracy, its the “reasonable man” resisting an unstable bully.

  6. Al says:

    I feel compelled to address what is an uninformed comment by John that makes malicious accusations against me and bases that on misinformation and ignorance.

    First, a PTO meeting held solely for the purpose of discussing PTO business (which might include a lawsuit filed against the PTO) is not a per se public meeting. PTOs have a restrictive membership policy (ie private) in that in order to be a member of the PTO, you have to meet the proper criteria, one of them being that in order to be a PARENT member, you must have a student enrolled at that school. It’s simple: If you don’t have a student enrolled, you can’t be a member. (Teachers/ Administrators at the school would form the other half of the membership.) Membership in the corporation (that’s right, this PTO is a private, non-profit corporation separate and distinct from the public entity it serves) is also set forth in the corporate bylaws. As such, it would be considered a private meeting and not public as John incorrectly concludes – unless it were advertised as a meeting open to the public. Further, how much time is spent on a topic in a PTO meeting is irrelevant and of no consequence to anyone other than those attending the meeting: again, private meeting, private agenda, private time allotments. This is just noise intended to seem ominous and conspiratorial. Members at a PTO meeting could spend two hours talking about puppies if they wanted to – that is their prerogative and RIGHT to do so – besides, who are we to judge – I like puppies.

    Since the specter of defamation was raised, let’s make sure that everyone has at least a passing knowledge of the legal definition so we are all informed about what we post, especially when making accusations that certain attorneys are “threatening” and “bullying” publications with lawsuits in order to prevent them from exercising the most sacred concept to our founding fathers: Freedom of the press and freedom of expression, as embodied in the First Amendment.

    A defamatory statement is a false statement of fact that exposes a person to hatred, ridicule, or contempt, causes that person to be shunned or ostracized, or injures that person in their profession or trade. (Google it – you’ll find it.) You see, defamation is all about reputation – because after all, that is all we really have at the end of the day, so we have to protect it as much as we can – would you believe even a dead man can have a defamation claim. While the First Amendment grants us the right to express opinions on matters and offers protection to those making such opinions known, opinions that include defamatory statements or through innuendo prompt defamatory conclusions to be drawn from the facts provided are not given the benefit of that same protection. Simply put, an individual is not entitled to hide behind the protection of expressing an “opinion” to guise what is really a “back door” attempt to make false accusations about an individual that would cause someone to believe they are true and cause the reader to reach conclusions about the character and reputation of those individuals named in those factual allegations. An excellent example of such an attempt to do this would be when the body of an “opinion” letter includes an enumerated list of purportedly factual conclusions under the heading: “My True Story.”

    What Ms. Tobia presented to this publication’s editor for publication was not simply an opinion, but rather, it was an attempt to place facts into a public record, some of which are patently false and/or inconsistent with her prior legal allegations, perhaps to induce sympathy and support for her cause by imputing onto my client and a beloved principal actions that would surely cause others to conclude were improper, which would then by design cause people to conclude that they are therefore of lowly character, competence, and moral integrity.

    While publications such as Mr. McGann’s are generally given protection when printing “Letters to the Editor,” that privilege is not absolute, so it is incumbent upon the editors to perform some measure of due diligence when deciding whether or not to print something in its publication. Further, it is not mandatory that all “Letters to the Editor” are published. In this instance, I laud Mr. McGann’s decision to withdraw the letter after being advised of the defamatory content of what he was asked to publish. While litigation, as my client has been made abundantly aware of since being sued by Ms. Tobia, is something that people always want to avoid, it is understandable that Mr. McGann’s decision would be motivated by a desire to avoid it. That is good risk management, especially when he is made aware that leaving it up might expose him to liability. It might also be that he did not want his publication to be used as a tool for litigating Ms. Tobia’s concerns publicly instead of allowing the legal process to conclude and then offering up an opinion about the ineptitude of the whole process were things to not go her way. Again, I laud his good judgment.

    However, for John to insinuate that I or anyone else threatened Mr. McGann’s publication with a lawsuit as he does in his post is something akin to Ms. Tobia’s “Letter to the Editor.” John would rather point fingers at those who want to protect and promote true free speech and minimize attempts to print defamatory statements, than to look squarely at his own posting, and recognize that he is clearly issuing sensationalized and defamatory statements of his own by maligning the character and reputation of the attorneys who are protecting the rights and reputation of the individuals involved in this dispute based on improper facts. I refer him back to the definition of defamation and suggest he determine if his comments were intended to injure me in my profession or trade. (Getting Fox News involved would take that to another level altogether.)

    John’s clear attempt to assassinate my and Mr. Hoffman’s reputation character further reveals his ignorance of not only the law of defamation (and privacy), but what an attorney’s role is in the representation of a client. My job as counsel is to protect my client’s legal interests, and if I come to the legal conclusion that something is improper and to my client’s legal detriment, I would be committing malpractice if I did not act in a manner that would protect her legal interests – which would include placing a publication on notice that something they printed contained false and defamatory information about my client so that it would be removed. Further, and to be clear, my abject refusal to discuss the contents of Ms. Tobia’s letter at the PTO meeting was in furtherance of my obligation to protect my client’s good name. You see, it is incumbent upon me to ensure that I do not act in a manner that would cause further damage to my client’s reputation, which a protracted discussion about the facts contained in a document full of malicious and hateful accusations would certainly do. I was not hiding; I was doing my job to preserve my client’s dignity and respect and to avoid her having to listen to a discussion about those lies yet again. If defending my client’s rights and reputation means that I have to make statements that someone can use to fallaciously insinuate that I did something wrong, then I will do that every day. I am standing up for the “little guy” in this situation, because I am protecting the rights of a woman who volunteered when others didn’t and has been crapped on for doing so. I rest easy with my actions.

    Perhaps what we can take from all of this is that when we don’t know the veracity and/or the ramifications of the ill-informed legal conclusions and accusations we make, we should perhaps remain silent. Because as my second-favorite President, Abe Lincoln,* said: Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

    *James Carter is a man whose lifetime commitment to humanity and community I can only hope to fractionally replicate.

  7. Linda says:

    As a 20 year educator, I can say with conviction that you, Ms. Carmody, are the reason it is difficult to get parent volunteers.
    Your personal agenda is appalling and does nothing but serve your own ego.
    Here is an idea – get a job. Work. When you do so you will realize that you are simply not busy enough. Leave volunteers alone and put your energy into real issues.

  8. Jeremy says:

    I smelled a rat from the time I read all the Carmody-bashing articles in the fall. I see a pattern of taking down anyone who dares to differ: Rowe, Carmody and now Rock. This school needs to remember that the other 3 fingers are pointing at them. Silencing and talking over don’t usually happen unless there’s something to hide. Too bad the supporters don’t see it. Hope they’re not next on the list.

    • John says:

      I totally agree Jeremy and it is rats not one lone rat. There are plenty of things to hide in this “perfect” school district. There have been incidents of a Hillendale kid being beaten up on school bus with lacrosse sticks by other students and Steve completely trying to sweep it under the rug, the district paying for a student to go to private schools because they didn’t want to address the issue with the student and their family, with parents signing non-consents for images of their children to not be made public and to have images of their children still made public (this one went all the way up to John Sanville and he completely dismissed the parent), with a Hillendale teacher using parent email addresses to solicit the sale of a relative’s Eagles tickets (curious if this is where the PTO bought the Eagles tickets that they gave to Steve – I wouldn’t be surprised). Need I go on. The district and all of its supporters needs to look in the mirror and be honest with themselves. They are so quick to find fault in others but not themselves.

  9. Elaine says:

    Do you need attention?

  10. Kevin says:

    While I respect everyone’s opinion, the David vs. Goliath references are ridiculous. This is not a situation of a big corporation bullying a consumer. This is a situation of a not for profit school district at odds with an attorney/resident. The only attorney that seems to be doing any “bullying” is the resident attorney, not the school district. Let’s not forget, that’s why litigation was started in the first place – the resident sued the school district. We’re talking about PTO issues here people, not Big Pharma! The fact that this case ever got filed with the court is outrageous in and of itself. The attorney resident that filed this case knew exactly what she was doing and what it entailed so please pump the breaks on any pity party for her.

  11. John says:

    Are you kidding me. Again the school and its lawyers act as bullies against the press and anyone willing to try to get both sides out. Mr. Iacocca and Mr. Hoffman already threatened another paper with legal action so they wouldn’t print a letter and now this.

    After attending the school meeting last night there are a couple of things I would like to point out. I am appalled that Mr. Iacocca would have any expectation of privacy in a public forum and to announce that the meeting cannot be recorded it outrageous. The fact that nobody from the district challenged this is even more appalling. Then in what was supposed to be a general meeting regarding many school issues (there was a lot on the agenda) 53 of 73 minutes was spent with Mr. Iaccocca monologuing about the situation . As soon as he was asked one question about it he hid behind the guise of “I can’t discuss the case” but he can surely pontificate! I applaud the attendees who stood up and said just give Ms. Carmody what she wants, releasing her from the grant and holding a new election. Whom does this hurt. Now who is digging in their heels.

    I surely hope now more news media takes notice of this and how the “big company man” is trying to beat down the lowly man. I myself am going to place a call to Fox news seeing if they will make public the injustice done to Ms. Carmody. I commend you Unionville Times for trying to bring attention to this matter and at least have the other side of the situation represented and made public instead of the messaging being completely controlled by the district and its bully lawyers.

    • Janette says:

      I have so many thoughts on what you’ve said here but I will try to keep it simple. I’m not sure why you are appalled that no one fought recording the meeting. It was an open meeting. If someone wanted to hear what was being said- they could have come. No one was shutting anyone out. And parents can ask questions or speak up at any time. The board doesn’t decide how much time is spent discussing each topic. Obviously if someone is going to sue the PTO president, the PTO and our Principal then that is going to take up the majority of the conversation. I also think you were at a different meeting. I missed the part where someone said we should just give the plaintiff what she wants. I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen. But then I’m pretty sure your name is not JOHN but who knows. Am I right, Don? And finally who is this ‘big company man”. Are you referring to the volunteers who, wait for it…ARE VOLUNTEERING?!? Are the volunteers trying to beat down the lowly man? What does that even mean? I think the volunteers are trying hard to move past this and continue on with business, even under these unusual circumstances. I for one applaud them for that. I support the HEPTO and no one speaks for me.

    • Al Iacocca says:

      While normally I wouldn’t respond to such postings, I feel compelled to address what is an uninformed comment by John that makes malicious and defamatory accusations against me and bases that on misinformation and ignorance.

      First, a PTO meeting held solely for the purpose of discussing PTO business (which might include a lawsuit filed against the PTO) is not a per se public meeting. PTOs have a restrictive membership policy (ie private) in that in order to be a member of the PTO, you have to meet the proper criteria, one of them being that in order to be a PARENT member, you must have a student enrolled at that school. It’s simple: If you don’t have a student enrolled, you can’t be a member. (Teachers/ Administrators at the school would form the other half of the membership.) Membership in the corporation (that’s right, this PTO is a private, non-profit corporation separate and distinct from the public entity it serves) is also set forth in the corporate bylaws. As such, it would be considered a private meeting and not public as John incorrectly concludes – unless it were advertised as a meeting open to the public. Further, how much time is spent on a topic in a PTO meeting is irrelevant and of no consequence to anyone other than those attending the meeting: again, private meeting, private agenda, private time allotments. This is just noise intended to seem ominous and conspiratorial. Members at a PTO meeting could spend two hours talking about puppies if they wanted to – that is their prerogative and RIGHT to do so – besides, who are we to judge – I like puppies

  12. Maureen Fricker says:

    Thank you to Steve and the Hillendale PTO for continuing to serve our students during this difficult ordeal. As a teacher at Hillendale, I can attest to the overwhelmingly positive vibe that permeates our walls on a daily basis. Steve and the wonderful Hillendale PTO are worthy of the utmost praise and respect. They always have the best interest of our students at heart.

    Steve Dissinger is kind, humble, genuine, and honest. That is indisputable!

    We are Hillendale Proud!!

  13. Kim King says:

    I feel truly grateful to work for the UCFSD school district, and specifically at Hillendale Elementary School. The HES PTO is an amazing organization that is supportive of the teachers, staff, and students at Hillendale. It is through the PTO that many new programs, resources, and activities are funded and made possible. Steve Dissinger is a phenomenal leader for our school. He sincerely has the best interests of each and every student in mind as he make decisions that impact our school. Steve provides the teachers of HES with valuable resources and support to help students reach their fullest potential academically, socially, and emotionally. He is constantly focused on creating the best possible elementary experience for the children at Hillendale. Steve’s support and enthusiasm motivate me to be the best teacher I can be each and every day. Thank you to Steve and the Hillendale PTO for your tireless work in making “Happy Hillendale” a wonderful place to work, learn, and grow.

  14. Melissa Riggs says:

    “Oh darling, you cant fix yourself by breaking someone else” – unknown

  15. Leigh Castle says:

    Where is the “like,” hell- “LOVE” button for each and every one of these comments? My husband, kids, and I feel so grateful and blessed to be a part of this awesome school community, “Happy Hillendale.” I applaud John Sanville, Steve Dissinger, the teachers and staff, and the fabulous PTO for continuing to do a thankless job while having utmost professionalism amidst these crazy and relentless allegations!

  16. Jennifer Gottesman says:

    The notion that Hillendale’s PTO is elitist and exclusionary is unfounded and outlandish.
    In my 9 years as a Hillendale parent, the PTO has worked very hard to encourage and increase parent participation. PTO leaders have struggled not only to fill board positions, but to get parents to attend monthly meetings. In my experience, those individuals that do volunteer their time in board positions and by leading committees do so in a spirit of kindness and positivity with the ultimate goal of building a fantastic environment for our students and their families.
    I am deeply saddened that lawsuits and character attacks have surpassed rational conflict resolution as a means of solving differences. I truly believe this is one disgruntled parent. I do not know a single other person in the community who agrees. I’m commenting here to let our voices be heard, as well. So thank you Steve Dissinger for your respectful, compassionate leadership. Thank you to Jen Scattolino and the other many PTO board members over the years who have stepped up to do a job that’s more time consuming than most of us realize. Your dedication has helped all of our kids. Thank you so very much!!!

  17. Becky Baccellieri says:

    Let’s call this what it is – a personal attack on an amazing principal and a group of volunteers by a woman with a vendetta because she did not get the praise she felt she deserved for helping write a school grant. She wants exactly what she claims to be “fighting against” -special treatment. I have read the author’s lawsuit in its entirety and find both it and this ridiculous letter not only offensive, but childish. I was a member of the HES PTO for 12 years, serving on the executive board four times and find her allegations as best, meritless (at worst, outright lies.) I can say without a moments hesitation that Steve Dissinger has the utmost integrity and makes decisions based on his students’ best interests. You assert that the district is trying to destroy you publicly – how so? Is it not you who continues to make public allegations against Steve and question his character – in court and now in the paper? Mrs Carmody, please look in the mirror and see who the true bully is.

  18. Dave says:

    I’ve been taking the temperature of our community on this issue for several months, and I have only found one defender of your position. This family friend provided a qualified defense, and then proceeded to explain how he feels the frustration of the UCF community is justified. Ms. Carmody, the people you see as “juice drinkers” are thoughtful, conscientious people who have a great deal of respect for those parents who volunteer their time to benefit our children’s educational experience. Steve Dissinger is a good man who does not deserve this. To threaten lawsuits over these disagreements is unspeakable. This is hurting our community. This is not about right and wrong; this is about your hurt ego. This will not get better until it goes away.

  19. Dave says:

    I’ve been taking the temperature of our community on this issue for several months, and I have only found one defender of your position. This family friend provided a qualified defense, and then proceeded to explain how he feels the frustration of the UCF community is justified. Ms. Carmody, the people you see as “juice drinkers” are thoughtful, conscientious people who have a great deal of respect for those parents who volunteer their time to benefit our children’s educational experience. Steve Dissinger is a good man who does not deserve this. To threaten lawsuits over these disagreements is unspeakable. This is hurting our community. This is not about right and wrong; this is about your hurt ego. This will not get better until it goes away. “The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions.” — Virgil

  20. Sheila says:

    This is the most ridiculous letter. So many vague accusations with no fact and a total lack of understanding of how the PTO Board election process works. (Teachers do not vote in PTO elections) I am very confused by the point of the multiple lawsuits and this letter. No one is destroying you publicly other than yourself. A judge has dismissed your case and called it without merit and you continue to make unfair and misleading accusations. If there had been or was any merit to this tale you would have support legally or personally. Please stop wasting everyone’s time and energy. Hillendale is a great school with great leadership, supportive parents, ethical PTO members and fantastic teachers/staff.

  21. Heather says:

    It is shameful to put your ego ahead of the students, wasting unnecessary funds which could be put to good use FOR THE CHILDREN.

  22. Kelly Cicchino says:

    I have taught for 16 years, worked in 3 different states, in 6 different buildings, under the guidance of 7 different principals. In addition, I have 4 children who are in this school district. Without hesitation, of all the principals I have worked with, I have never interacted with a more compassionate principal, Steve Dissinger, whose love and caring for student success (both in and out of the classroom) has always been number ONE on his priority list. Furthermore, I have worked in schools with NO PTO’s, limited parent support in PTO’s, successful PTO’s and finally Hillendale’s PTO which, above all else, has provided opportunities for students to reach out to their community, help others, learn, have fun, and show respect for the building, staff, fellow classmates, and other students in need. THIS PTO stands out to me, in my professional opinion, as an awesome place that provides opportunities for children and staff and the community at large. No other school has a Husky like ours that brightens the children’s day and makes these kids WANT to be here. As I survey former and current Hillendale students and parents, I often hear that “Happy Hillendale” was/is a wonderful place to raise a child. Special thanks to our current PTO who has continued to make this a wonderful place for me to work and practice my craft in an outstanding environment. And to Steve Dissinger, thank you for leading our staff to great heights as we continue to find the best in each and every child who walks through the doors of HILLENDALE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL!!!

  23. Patrick Ricci says:

    As a 20+ year employee of not only the school district, but also Hillendale Elementary, I have always found our PTO to be not only professional, but well organized, helpful, kind, considerate, huge advocates for both the students and staff, and above all, possessing the utmost of integrity. The current regime is no different, having dealt with them on multiple occasions as a grade chair and as a liaison for many school events. I have also served under six different principals, having worked with Steve Dissinger for the past ten years. He, as well, possesses the utmost of integrity, and is fair, kind, compassionate, a huge advocate for the students, staff, and parents, and for countless reasons, the best boss we could ask for.

  24. Kathleen says:

    I am disappointed in the Unionville Times for publishing this article and allowing a bully to further malign the good names of people who have our children’s best interests at heart. I know I speak for hundreds of Hillendale parents when I say Kathleen Carmody does NOT speak for us.

  25. Erik Dietrich says:

    The HES parent community does not support your agenda as witnessed at the PTO meeting last year where parents overwhelmingly showed their support of our Principal and PTO leadership. It is a shame that Hillendale kids (including your own) will loose out in the end based upon your actions Since you are the self proclaimed expert on what is right for our students and community as a whole, which PTO student programs do you think should be cut as a result of lack of funding due to court costs associated with your lawsuit?

  26. Janette says:

    Bitter was not the comment I was using. Try Narcissist or Entitled. Please do not spread more lies and blame others for something you have control over. I would like to see some proof of the statements you are making in this ‘true story’. Perhaps this is your story but it’s far from the truth.

  27. Robin Fahs says:

    Paranoia in its purest form. Take note.

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