Thacher Community Letter Questions Actions Of The Thacher Board Of Trustees

OJAI, Calif., Aug. 25, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Members of The Thacher School community, including former trustees, alumni, and parents, today sent the following letter to The Board of Trustees of The Thacher School, questioning, among other issues, the credibility of a so-called impartial Report by the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, commissioned by The Thacher School Board, and the Board’s subsequent handling of the Report with The Thacher School community. The letter requests the Board make public to the community certain information.

The Letter follows:

Dear Board of Trustees of The Thacher School,

We have been concerned for quite some time with the ongoing impairment to the reputation of The Thacher School as a result of the Board’s handling of the Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP (“MTO”) Report with the Thacher community. The Report, commissioned by the Board with School funds, was supposed to be “impartial,” but to many of us, it and the Board’s subsequent reaction to the Report’s narrative are anything but impartial. Rather the Board’s subsequent actions smack of not learning from the past but rather of concocting a revisionist past under the guise of the Report to avoid accountability and responsibility by the current Board and administration for The Thacher School of the present.

Taking the Mulligan name off of the dining hall building, for example, makes no sense. Michael Mulligan is viewed by most of the Thacher community of the past three decades as a former sterling Head of School and as instrumental in building a supportive, positive community and healthy environment for teenagers’ growth at Thacher. He is not responsible for whatever cultural problems Thacher may be experiencing today. He brought Thacher to a level of national recognition for a healthy learning community, which, in turn, resulted in an exceptionally high admission selectivity among boarding schools. Indeed, the MTO Report itself does not describe him as a wrongdoer but rather is written in a way to unfairly depict him in certain situations as not doing enough or acting in a timely enough manner – all of which is bunk based on the governance and procedures at Thacher during his time there. In addition, the removal of Joy Sawyer-Mulligan’s name from the dining hall without explanation is neither justified by the Report nor warranted in light of her decades of contributions to the Thacher community.

Since the Board began this past June to use the revisionist history it commissioned to position its actions, we are aware that the Board has received significant pushback and cries of “foul” from a cross section of the Thacher community – a community whose entire interests the Board has a responsibility to represent. We, therefore, ask that the Board publicly inform the community of the quantity of letters, e-mails, and phone calls it has received protesting its handling of the MTO Report.

In addition, we have numerous questions for the Board and current leadership of The Thacher School, to which the entire Thacher community is owed honest answers.

  1. To assure the Thacher community of its commitment to transparency, we ask that the Board publicly release its actual vote tally to remove the Mulligan name from the dining hall. Dan Yih, Board Chairman, has said the vote was “unanimous,” but does that mean all Trustees voted to remove the name or some number less than the full Board? Does “unanimous” mean the full Board even voted? Does “unanimous” mean that each member of the Board was even notified that a vote would be taken?  And was the removal of the Mulligan names from the dining hall deemed by the Board to be voting on a major policy issue under the Thacher Bylaws? If so, does such voting not require two separate votes by the Board? Were two such votes taken?”
  2. And now, we, as a community, learn from Board Chair Dan Yih in his July 29, 2021 letter that the present Head of The Thacher School has “asked MTO to investigate her awareness of, and response to, sexual misconduct that occurred during her ongoing tenure as a Thacher employee.” That is fine but how does this square with the MTO report issued by the Board this past June being “impartial” if the present Head of The Thacher School was not investigated given her long tenure at the School?
  3. We ask the Board to please disclose to the Thacher community how much of the School’s funds it has spent to date to produce the MTO Report and the actions the Board has subsequently taken resulting from the Report. Has it been several hundreds of thousands of dollars? Has it been over a million dollars? And from what Thacher resources are these funds being taken?
  4. Finally, in Thacher Board Chair Dan Yih’s letter to the Thacher community of August 2020, he makes clear a “Special Committee of the Board will oversee the work of MTO.” What specific oversight did this special committee exercise with respect to the MTO Report?

The Thacher community deserves answers to these critical questions.

Respectfully,

Philip L. Pillsbury, Jr. CdeP ’67, (Son CdeP ’32, Parent of CdeP’2008)
Parent Trustee 2007-8, Trustee 2009-2018, Board Vice Chair (2016-18), Chair, Audit Committee (2009-2018), Co-Chair Search Committee (2017-8)

George and Ann Smith (Parents of CdeP ’86 and CdeP ’87, Grandparents of CdeP ’16 and CdeP ’19)

Lauren McClosky Elston CdeP ’98

Edward (“Ward”) Waltemath (Parent CdeP ’18 and CdeP ’21)

Janice and Jim Day Parent Trustees 2019-2020, Parents CdeP ’20

Edmund T. (“Ned”) Banning CdeP ’74

Ann G. and Tom Oliver, Parents CdeP ’08

Media Contact:
Philip Pillsbury
[email protected], 415-710-7985

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SOURCE Members of The Thacher School Community

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