Hanna Boys Center staff call for board intervention
Faculty unrest over leadership at Hanna Boys Center and the management of its Archbishop Hanna High School continue to reverberate at the Arnold Drive campus – and this week a member of the board of trustees has submitted his resignation voicing similar concerns over the direction of the of the Catholic home for at-risk youth.
Hanna Boys Center has been embroiled in multiple storms in recent years – including a “whistleblowers” lawsuit and multiple allegations of sexual abuse.
In May, the school announced a complete faculty overhaul, in which the head of school was re-assigned and teachers were asked to re-apply for their jobs. That announcement was a catalyst for a chorus of outcries from the center’s staff, the resignation of longtime trustee Tom Angstadt, and a series of anonymous letters from staff members sent to the board of trustees – and to the Index-Tribune, which also received anonymous emails – describing a bottoming out of morale among teachers that’s led to a loss of confidence in Hanna leadership.
Angstadt, a 10-year member of the board of trustees, resigned on May 29, citing among a list of disappointments, that “all teachers were informed that they needed to reapply for their jobs (they were terminated),” noting that, “May is one of the worst times of the year to force teachers out into the job market.”
“The timing of this notice was a very poor decision by Hanna’s staff and its board,” wrote Angstadt in his resignation letter.
The letters sent to the Hanna trustees and the I-T were unsigned, but outline concerns confirmed in independent conversations between the Index-Tribune and more than a dozen current and former Hanna staff members, who requested their names be withheld out of fear of retaliation. Among the common refrains have been concerns over safety issues and rampant drug use among the residents of Hanna Boys Center. Each letter, and several people who spoke directly with the Index-Tribune, ask for the Board of Trustees to investigate, and some staff members are calling for the removal of Brian Farragher, the executive director of Hanna since 2015.
“The working culture among staff is at an all-time low. Staff are insecure about their positions and don’t feel valued or understood,” one letter said. “We encourage the board to consider the negative directions that Farragher has taken HBC over the past four years and consider checks on his power and/or finding a better executive director.”
Farragher announced earlier this year that all teachers would need to reapply and interview for their jobs, and that there would be three fewer positions to be filled bringing the teaching staff from 19 to 16. A new model for the school is being put in place, Farragher told the Index-Tribune, and new job descriptions reflect the need of faculty to understand and practice the new concepts.
Tullus Miller, chair of Hanna’s board of trustees, said the letters and staff concerns about Farragher, safety and drug use were only brought up after the reorganization was announced.
“(Those concerns) never made its way to the board,” Miller said, “The board has a whistleblower program. None of this has come up until we wanted to make the changes with the program.”
The staff sources who spoke to the Index-Tribune stressed that their requests for anonymity stemmed from the firing of former Hanna employee Tim Norman in 2016. Norman had been clinical director at Hanna, but was fired after raising concerns with the trustees over excessive drug use and unchecked bullying among Hanna’s residents.
One staff member described the firing of Norman as “clearly a warning sign” to anyone who wanted to “bring to light what is going on behind the scenes” at Hanna.
Miller said Norman’s case “was different.” Norman was a candidate for the executive director position at the same time Farragher was being considered, Miller said, but Norman didn’t get the job and animosity between Norman and Farragher developed. The men “clashed in philosophy and science” and Miller said the board agreed with Farragher that “we should let Tim go.”
Norman later was awarded $1.1 million in a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Miller said the board fully supports Farragher and, in spite of staff complaints, stands with him and the new direction of the center. Miller said some of the teachers are part of the “old regime” and in spite of being trained in the school’s new emphasis on trauma informed care (TIC) – a structure and framework for providing care and understanding to those who have experienced trauma in their lives – they are not fully implementing it as they should, Miller said.