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Sequoia MS principal explains offensive newsletter graphic

By Theresa Harrington
Sunday, December 18th, 2011 at 3:14 pm in Education, Pleasant Hill.

On Friday, parents of Sequoia Middle School students received the school’s “TGIF” newsletter via email. The newsletter inadvertently included a very offensive graphic image that appeared to be an African-American character from the Peanuts comic strip with a noose around his neck.

Shortly after the newsletter was disseminated, parents received the following message from Principal Connie Cirimeli:

“Good evening. This is Connie Cirimeli, principal of Sequoia Middle School. I am reaching out to apologize to our school community for the inclusion of a graphic on our weekly TGIF newsletter that went out via email today. This graphic was attached in error and without my knowledge or consent. Please accept our sincere apology for any offense this has caused. I assure you that this graphic does not represent our school’s values. Thank you for your understanding.”

Cirimeli followed up with an explanation of what happened, in this message sent to parents about an hour ago:

“Dear Sequoia Community,

I hope that you all received my message on Friday regarding the graphic that was included in the TGIF newsletter.

Since sending out my apology, I have investigated further and was able to determine the source of the image as well as the series of errors which led to its distribution.

The image was taken back in 2008 when one of our school murals was vandalized. It was stored on a secretary’s computer and used as evidence during the police investigation of the crime. Friday, a substitute secretary was working on the newsletter during a busy afternoon and embedded the image without examining it closely enough to recognize its content. It is office protocol that any public distribution of information be proofread by a second employee and given to the Office Manager for final approval before publishing. Unfortunately, the substitute did not follow office protocol for proofing prior to publication and sent out the newsletter without any staff member’s knowledge. Appropriate personnel action will be taken for this infraction.

In response, we will be making procedural and security changes to prevent such travesties from happening again. Those changes will include the following:

1) Any digital evidence of a crime will be stored on a secured computer with administrator access only.

2) Substitute staff will not have access to SchoolMessenger, which will require all messages to be sent by an office staff member.

3) All publications will require the approval of an administrator prior to distribution.

I sincerely apologize for this grave error. I too am deeply disturbed and offended by this image.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Connie Cirimeli”

Are you satisfied with the actions taken to address the incident?

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10 Responses to “Sequoia MS principal explains offensive newsletter graphic”

  1. Anon Says:

    Thank you Theresa for actually investigating this. Certainly seemed there was more to the story.

  2. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Do you believe Cirimeli’s message reflects the level of transparency, accountability and responsiveness the public expects from the district?

  3. Doctor J Says:

    @TH #2 yes. It would be nice to have such a detailed explanation from Rose Lock about QEIAgate and why she forwarded to the Board a SPSA plan that is impossible to fulfill due to lost funding. [Sarcasm on] I can hear it now “To meet the deadline”. LOL. When have deadlines meant anything to Rose Lock ? [Sarcasm off] The MDHS SPSA should have been pulled by Rose Lock and sent back for revision. That would have been the honest thing to do, or at least advise the public at the Dec 13 Board meeting, it was being pulled for review and revision.

  4. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Could Cirimeli’s way of dealing with serious issues be exported to the rest of the district?

    I’m thinking Lawrence and company could use a class or two from her in “dealing with problems”.

  5. Clayton Squirrel Says:

    Love, love, love Mrs. Cirimeli! She was a wonderful administrator when she was the vice-principal at DVMS.

  6. NitWit Says:

    You have to face challenges head on, like Ms. Cirimeli has done. This is a life lesson, a work lesson – something we should all abide by. Admit, Apologize (if necessary) fix it, move on. The district could learn some life lessons here.

  7. Flippin' Tired Says:

    Excellent follow-through. I am satisfied.

  8. NitWit Says:

    Oops, I posted my response in the wrong thread. I said thank you for your follow through and willingness to update your stories and amend as necessary. It brings truth and civility to our community matters.

  9. Anon Says:

    G.E. –

    Just because one chooses to support the charter school doesn’t mean they get paid to do so. Some people simply support the things they believe in and oppose the things they don’t. The concept is that easy.
    Maybe you can’t imagine someone supporting something without personal gain. Imagine that.

  10. g Says:

    I have to go against the grain her a wee bit. I don’t know Mrs. Cirimeli, and don’t feel like I know the whole truth even after her comment.

    I do know, your chain of command is only as strong as its weakest link. Does she only now realize a “sub” should have never been given access to a computer where staff stores sensitive information and what should have been secure files?? To say “we were busy”, and the sub “sent out the newsletter without any staff member’s knowledge” is a cheap cop-out—somebody gave her the instructions to build the newsletter and send it.

    The sub is not the one who should take the “personnel” ding for this.

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