School superintendent's wife hawks commercial business to schools - urges principals to use massage service
Dr. Alice Gay Jenney, principal at Strawbridge Elementary School, has been caught using taxpayer resources, including school stationary, to promote the commercial interest of a couple girl friends. Her actions are in direct violation of School Regulation 4-30.1 - Endorsement of Commercial Products or Services . See: Letter
Dr. Jenney is the wife of School Supt. Timothy R. (Tinee Tim) Jenney. The couple was married last September.
In a letter on her personal school stationary, Ms. Jenney wrote principals on Nov. 10, 2003:
School Regulation 4-30.1 empathically states:
One person said, "This is highly unethical and unprofessional. Trying to get these women into the city school system with her '100%' endorsement is unheard of."
Ms. Jenney went on to tell principals, "I would highly encourage you to take advantage of providing your staff with this special, thoughtful treat from one or both of these wonderful ladies."
A source who provided Virginia News Source with a copy of the letter said, "This is intimidation pure and simple. When you get a letter from the superintendent's wife giving '100% positive endorsement' and with her 'highly' encouraging you to do this, what is a principal supposed to believe? You'd better do it or else."
In fact the two women (see: Flyer) emphasize even the superintendent's support of their using the schools to increase their business stating:
Jenney was dating the former Alice Gay Kampfmueller while she was principal of Strawbridge Elementary School. The issue of nepotism was raised by some since she is ultimately responsible to her husband @ home and @ work. But since the board's Nepotism: Employment/Supervision of Relatives - Policy 4-7 allows such marriages if they occur while both parties are already employed by the school system, the school board took no action.
Other school superintendents established higher standards, above reproach. The wife of former VB School Supt. E. E. Brickell left the VB system and went to work in Chesapeake to avoid any appearance of impropriety. The wife of Norfolk's School Superintendent works in Virginia Beach as a principal. But Jenney's wife works under him.
"As our system's 'First Lady of Education,' she's not going to leave the Virginia Beach systems. She'd just be another teacher or principal in another system, here she likes to refer to herself among friends as 'the First Lady,'" said one source. She can do anything she wants.
Another said, "The problem is that since she is now the superintendent's wife, these kinds of things have a totally different connotation.
"That was one of the concerns people had when it was learned he was dating her and that they were getting married: Were things from him going to be coming through her? Would she get special privileges? Will she be held to a different standard? How is this going to work?"
The current situation presents that dilemma to the board: Now that Ms. Jenney has been caught flagrantly violating the policy what will it do? One said, "The board won't do anything. It is scared to death of Jenney."
School Board member Emma Davis, a friend of Ms. Jenney's, when asked how she, as a former principal and now board member, would have viewed such actions, said: "I would have basically have discarded it. I wouldn't use it."
She said it won't result in anything more than a simple reprimand.
"I think Gay is a great administrator. She probably should have sent it out on her own stationary instead of the schools."
That was echoed by a teacher who said, "The sad thing is that Gay has always been a wonderful principal, highly respected, very much liked by her faculty ... she has good leadership skills, motivates people, and knows what she's doing. I'm surprised she put herself in that kind of position of ridicule."
As to the use of the school 'pony,' or the system's interdepartmental mail system, Ms. Davis said, "We had to be very careful about use of the pony for anything not related directly to education."
That was because Jenney won't allow the teachers' association or other groups to send items view in intersystem mail.
"I don't know what her thinking was on this," said Ms. Davis, adding she will "ask Dr. Jenney about it or email Gay."
As for intimidation, Ms. Davis said that as a principal, "I wouldn't have felt pressured in any way to use it or recommend it to anyone else."
Others, who said Ms. Jenney refers to herself as the 'First Lady' now that she is married to the superintendent, said they felt differently. "When you get an endorsement like this from the superintendent's wife, if you aren't secure or think following her advice will be reported back and you'll gain favor," you'll feel compelled to do it," said one source.