Readers comments 5.19.12

A wonderful thing

Dear Editor:

I was witness to a wonderful thing tonight. I saw an outpouring of support for a man who has apparently earned a place of high regard in the hearts of many Claremont citizens.

The occasion was the May 17 meeting of the Claremont Unified School District at their offices on San Jose Avenue. Sumner School Principal Frank D’Emilio has been dismissed from his position for allegedly mishandling a situation involving 2 female students, 7 and 8 years old.

Many members of the 200-plus crowd in attendance seemed to think it was the school board that had mishandled the situation. Parents, students and educators, one after another, addressed the board, sometimes in high emotion, relating their experiences involving Frank during a career spanning 25 years working right here in Claremont schools.

The board in its wisdom has, it would appear, decided to end that career based on the advice of attorneys and a seemingly spurious investigation. The board seems to be moving very cautiously, as if under the control of an insidious force. Some say that force is Gloria Johnston, CUSD [Interim] Superintendant.

Apparently, Ms. Johnston has never spoken to Frank D’Emilio, even before his difficulties, although he was one of the principals in the district over which she assumed control. Ms. Johnston sat impassively as each speaker told how Frank had in some way influenced their lives for the better.

An ironic counterpoint to the evening was the presentation of a California Distinguished Schools Award to Sumner School, the very school where Frank was principal.

His staff credited Frank with being the driving force behind their achievement. It seems counter-intuitive to destroy a man’s long and much-lauded career without a thorough and fair examination of the facts and circumstances. You’d think an overwhelming show of support would carry some weight as well.

The board said they didn’t discuss the matter during their half-hour closed session. They said they didn’t discuss or decide anything during that half-hour. I’ll tell you what I decided, watching the byplay and listening to what was said: The issue doesn’t seem to be what is right or fair, the issue is what is expedient. I think in this case, what is expedient is a mistake.

Dan Wallace



In support of Frank

Dear Editor:

Frank D’Emilio was my daughter’s first teacher, and as she just said, “One of the best I ever had.”

I have been in education 30 years, the last 15 years as a counselor. I feel that Frank handled the situation professionally and appropriately. He informed parents and teachers, increased monitoring of the students, and provided counseling. Should he have called the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS)? He could have, but I showed the COURIER article to a school psychologist and he said that he has called DCFS on similar incidents and been told it is not a reportable offense.

The district is overreacting because of the extremely different situations that have happened in LAUSD recently. Frank did not try and cover anything up. He was open and honest and was trying to get these students help—that is what a good educator does.

The district should have met with him privately, commended him on the action he did take and counseled him that, in the future, they want all similar incidents to be reported to DCFS for legal purposes.

I have called DCFS in a variety of situations and they have made a record of my call when the case was not considered reportable. The parent of the older child had every right to call DCFS herself. It does not have to be from the school.

I stand behind Frank 100 percent. I wish there were more principals and teachers with his integrity and commitment to children.

Julie Starrett



A wonderful inspiration

[Editor’s note:?The following letter was addressed to Interim Superintendent Gloria Johnston and the entire CUSD school board with a copy forwarded for publication. —KD]

Dear Board Members, Editor:

I was saddened to read the article in the Claremont COURIER this Wednesday regarding Frank, or “Mr. D” as his Sycamore students liked to call him. I am sorry that we couldn’t offer our support sooner, in that evidently this has been going on for awhile.

I know Frank as a teacher to our daughters and as someone that supported me when I was a substitute teacher at Sycamore Elementary School. 

Frank was both our daughters’ kindergarten teacher. When the class list was posted we were thrilled. The word around town was that Frank was the best, and he lived up to that and then some. He was kind, thoughtful and respectful to our daughters.

When our oldest was in Frank’s kindergarten class, we would often bring our youngest with us as we volunteered in his classroom. He always encouraged and welcomed her. Three years later, our youngest was starting kindergarten in Frank’s class. Our children felt safe in Frank’s class.

Our youngest was particularly frightened by an older boy that some described as a “bully.” Frank knew this young boy and took our youngest by the hand to meet him, up close, so she could see he was okay and that he wasn’t so bad after all. Frank didn’t like children to be afraid and he also didn’t like children to put unwarranted labels on other children. He has always looked out for the kids. He is an advocate for children. He is also a wonderful father to his own children.

I am sorry this situation happened. However, from what I understand, I believe Frank did what he thought was right, which was to go directly to the parents, staff and children first.

I am hoping that in the near future this will be behind him and he can continue being a wonderful inspiration to his staff and to the children at his school.

We support Frank D’Emilio.

Deborah and Curtiss Bradford



Mr. D: A force in Claremont

Dear Editor:

I was a student of Frank D’Emilio’s at Sycamore Elementary School.

I am shocked, disappointed, vexed, saddened, enraged…honestly, there are not enough words in the dictionary to describe my throbbing infuriation with the Claremont “Unified” School District’s actions. Yes, that’s right, I quote “unified.”

It is a sad day when sensible actions are declared “immoral or unprofessional conduct.” That is complete and utter rubbish.

When someone looks to help families through quiet resolution—to help the children instead of throwing them into public scrutiny, then that should be applauded. Shame on the parents who felt that objectifying their child was the answer. This whole ordeal has been a waste of time and money.

Claremont “Unified” School District; I wonder.

Allison Town



Reporting child abuse

Dear Editor:

I forwarded this story on Sumner Elementary School Principal Frank D’Emilio to a friend who has 40 years experience as a worker and supervisor in child abuse investigation and counseling, including several years staffing the county’s child abuse hotline where his job was to decide whether or not reported incidents are child abuse.

He stated that this is not child abuse, since children of similar age are involved, not adults or older children preying upon younger children. If my friend had received this report at the hotline, he would not have opened a case and sent out a social worker. Based on my friend’s analysis, it appears that the principal did not have to report the incidents as child abuse.

If the offending girl in the Sumner incidents does not stop after counseling by her parents and school authorities, the district can suspend or expel her.

If she comes on campus anyway and persists in her unwanted actions, then a report of juvenile delinquency is appropriate. But it appears that the principal took the correct course of action by working first with the parents rather than reporting child abuse.

Many things can be handled without involving law enforcement, escalating confrontations, and increasing public and private costs.

Bob Gerecke



Celebrating success

Dear Editor:

We want to extend our sincerest congratulations to Sumner Elementary School for achieving the title of “Distinguished School,” to the teachers who work so hard there every day to provide a great education to their students, and to Sumner principal Frank D’Emilio for his leadership and student-centered educational philosophy that help make Sumner a great place to learn.

Those of us who have worked with Frank at Sycamore, served with him on district committees, or watched our students learn and grow in his classroom know of his deep commitment to education and to helping students develop a passion for lifelong learning. 

Frank’s kind nature, good humor, and ever-present smile make him a teacher and colleague we all feel lucky to know!

Talia Bowman                 Lynn Burrows

Jacqui Canfield         Emily Dauwalder

Penni Dauwalder         Lis Descombes

Dr. Timothy Dauwalder         Kelly Diaz

Jodi Erlinger-Irwin          Diana Fenner

Sara Garver               Damaris Hankins

Lydia Hernandez            Lenora Hester

Melissa Jackson           Lynne LeForge

Peg Mock                            Eric Nilsson

Margaret Nilsson           Ann O’Connor

Deborah Page                Anna Sanchez

Lisa Schuster                     Kris Surber

Michael Shea                   Victoria Shea

Lainie Tennant            Michelle Texeira                  

Mary Town                       Laurel Tucker

Leslie Wallace


Sycamore School community


A failure of justice

[Editor’s note:?The following letter was addressed to Interim Superintendent Gloria Johnston and the entire CUSD school board with a copy forwarded for publication. —KD]

Dear Dr. Johnston:

I am writing to express my support for Frank D’Emilio and my shock at how he has been treated by the Claremont Unified School District and board of education.

I have known Frank for many years, as a parent at Sycamore Elementary School, where he was a much-respected teacher, and as a member of this community. My children have been students in CUSD for the past 13 years.

Frank D’Emilio is a man of great integrity, a dedicated and compassionate educator, and a loyal member of the Claremont community.

His handling of the situation at Sumner Elementary is indicative of this character. He intervened responsibly and actively to address the needs of the children and to provide further counseling and education.

I do not understand how sexual behavior among very young children, such as 7-year-olds, requires reporting to Child Protective Services. It does not make sense to hold him accountable for not reporting an offense that does not require reporting, which from all I have read seems to be what has occurred. 

The school district and board of education, on the other hand, appear to have acted with excessive speed and poor judgment. A decision that could jeopardize someone’s career should require careful consideration and evaluation, not a quick, bureaucratic decision-making process.

Here we are, rising up in support of Frank, when he has about 2 weeks to file an appeal on his own behalf.

Given the facts of the case (the young ages of the children involved and Frank’s clear and well-considered actions to address the matter) the penalty of removing him from his position, and potentially ending his career as an educator, are disproportionate in the extreme.

What penalty would you reserve for serious offenses? Moreover, in reaching this precipitous judgment, you have actually jeopardized the quality and future of education in Claremont rather than protected or enhanced it, which is your responsibility.

You act to remove one of the most effective and well-respected educators and also one of the longest-serving. In the process, you diminish the quality of education available to our children and damage the city’s reputation. Who would want to come here to teach under these circumstances? How can any of us now recommend that families support public education in Claremont when it is damaged so effectively by the district and board of education? 

I ask that you reconsider and alter your decision. Nothing could more effectively address this failure of justice than to reinstate Frank D’Emilio as principal of Sumner Elementary. Failing that, he should be allowed to continue his work as a teacher in the Claremont Unified School District.

While I am sure that this heartfelt response by so many members of the community is discomfiting, you will find that your reputations in this community will be restored if you change a mistaken decision.

Julie Liss

CHS parent, classes 2009, 2012


Bad adult behavior

Dear Editor:

I read your article in the May 16  COURIER, regarding the principal who was dismissed by the board over the handling of student incidents. What is the world coming to?

And whatever happened to “playing doctor?” Kids at that age are noticing their bodies; this is perfectly natural for children of that age. Why do adults have to impose their sexual inhibitions on the innocent children? Where had these children observed this behavior? Certainly not at school. 

The thought that a parent believed her child was being victimized by another [child] is a legitimate concern. The principal did the correct thing by electing to talk to both parents. What did the parent who took her child to the doctor think she would find? This couldn’t possibly be child abuse, rather bad behavior.

The principal was correct by choosing to talk to both parents. It appeared one parent had ulterior motives, or maybe both.

The staff was made suspect, as well as the principal, and the principal was found to be guilty of a senseless incident of 2 children’s bad behavior.

In order for the district to protect themselves and their staff from being falsely accused and sued, the board had to depend on the attorneys because it then became a legal issue.

So what is the resolve? Dismiss the principal. Forget about all his years of good service and the fact that he has a family, and that he was trying his best to settle a very common childhood behavior.

I would imagine the staff of Sumner School were shocked and horrified that such a thing could happen to a good man who has served the district for 25 years of his life.

The attorneys should feel ashamed of themselves for being paid for such outlandish representation. And, if this is the best the board could do for one of their honorable principals, they should all be recalled for bad adult behavior.

Martha Dunham



A sad day in Claremont

[Editor’s note:?The following letter was addressed to Interim Superintendent Gloria Johnston and the entire CUSD school board with a copy forwarded for publication. —KD]

Dear Board Members of the Claremont Unified School District:

It is a sad day for friends and family of Frank D’Emilio, the families of Sumner students, and the city of Claremont when a gifted educator who, for over 25 years, has proven his commitment to our children may lose his job and teaching credential over his decision to work directly with those involved and not give up his professional responsibility to others.   

His effort in working with the children’s parents, as well as the Sumner students and staff, to resolve, educate, and protect those involved was both sound and professional.

I challenge the board to do what is morally right and support Mr. D’Emilio rather than succumb to the highly suggestive accusations from a small and hypersensitive few.

Kirk Delman



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