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Principal John Barsotti: 'I Am Very Sorry For How I Handled the Situation'

Principal John Barsotti admits that the Junior Prom 2012 Dance Contract was not honored by the school, apologizes to The 35 and Dixon families.

It was a tense, oftentimes emotional meeting last night at Dixon High School's Theater. The students who were not allowed into Saturday's Junior Prom, and many of their parents, had an opportunity to vent their frustrations to the Dixon High administration and ask them questions.

We did a live blog of the event, but towards the end, we had some technical difficulties (the modem this editor was using fried) that resulted in us not being able to report what happened.

<<Click here to see what was said and how the administration responded>>

Principal John Barsotti told the students: "I am very sorry for all the students and the families who are involved in this. There’s no question."

A student in the audience asked for a public apology for which Barsotti replied:"This is what I am giving you. A public apology. I am very sorry for how I handled the situation, having students be upset. I wish I could have done things better. That was my fault. There's no question, I was reponsible."

Interim Superintendent also apologized to the students at the beginning of the meeting He told them that that the buck stops with him and told the students that things might have turned out quite differently if he were to have scrutinzed the dance contract and would have known the clauses it contained.

But at the same time, he also told them that he does not doubt that a student had alcohol on the bus that transported the students to the prom in Elks Tower, Downtown Sacramento.

He told the students however, that the staff would no longer investigate who allegedly brought the alcohol along in the bus, unless some definitive evidence were to show up that would give them a reason to re-open the investigation.

Dolan vowed to form a task force to investigate constructive ways to make things right. Students and their parents seemed open to it. But many in the audience said that Principal Barsotti was not answering their questions sufficiently about the details surrounding Promgate, his response to the situation and the school's lack or preparation to enforce the terms of the dance contract.

The contract states: "Students suspected of being under the influence will be subject to evaluation by DHS Administration and/or local law enforcement, including a breathalyzer exam. The students who are under the influence will have their parents contacted for pick-up."

The students were invited by Dixon Unified School District Board of Education President Irina Okremtchouk to attend tonight's meeting of the school board and speak during public comment.

Okremtchouk told the students to summarize their key concerns about the way that the prom was handled, and to provide solutions. The meeting is set for tonight at 7 p.m., in the chambers of the Dixon City Council, 600 East A Street.

Key points of last night's meeting:

  • No student was found under the influence of alcohol from the 35 leadership students.
  • Dixon High School does have a Breathalyzer but it does not work
  • Principal Barsotti said the bottle of mineral water that contained the suspected alcohol had a minimal amount of the liquid, which he suspected to be vodka. The liquid was poured out.
  • Barsotti said he sniffed the bottle to determine that it was alcohol inside.
  • Barsotti said he did not sniff each of the students' breaths, administer Breathalyzers or see them exhibiting signs of being under the influence of alcohol.
  • Barsotti said did not call in local law enforcement to administer Breathalyzers because there was not enough reasonable suspicion that the students were drunk or had consumed alcohol, only that someone brought it on the bus.
  • Barsotti said he made a mistake and has issued a public apology to the students and their families for the way he handled the situation.
  • Barsotti said he does not know what the consequences of his decisions should be, but said he would like to remain as DHS principal.
  • Barsotti said that DHS Teacher Michael Vlach was outside with the students and that Assistant Principals Nick Girimonte and Stephanie Marquez assisted him in asking the students if they knew who brought the bottle of vitamin water that contained the suspected alcohol. Students however, say they were unsupervised and felt unsafe. They said they were denied use of the bathroom and had to go to nearby restaurants to use their bathroom.
  • Students waited as much as four hours, outside of their prom, for their parents to pick them up.
  • The bus company used by the students, API, had a contract that stipulated that if the minors were in possession of alcohol, they could leave the students without honoring the rest of the contract.
  • The school has no control over the contract and is not responsible for the way that the students get there if they are not using the school's resources (i.e. a yellow bus) to get them to the prom, according to Brian Dolan.
Rachel Tenedora May 03, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Thank you for this overview from the meeting last night. It's very informative for those of us who couldn't be there but are following the situation with interest. The Patch is a great source for local news, and I find the reporting to be balanced. I'm respectful of but not in agreement with "concerned".
Bonnie May 03, 2012 at 05:14 PM
His apology is worthless. He cost these kids their junior prom because of his complete incompetence as an administrator. The only way he can make this right is to give them another prom (for the whole class) and pay for it out of his pocket. Maybe then he'll learn to THINK like an administrator instead of making stupid, knee jerk decisions.
Wendy McGuire May 03, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Maybe he can personally pay for the kids that missed out to have another small prom for them out of his own pocket. These kids look forward to this all year and the parents fork out alot of money for this to happen. Are all the kids getting there money back they had to spend to go! I think the principal really needs to step up to the plate if you ask me!
Sharie Sprague May 03, 2012 at 06:03 PM
My concern is that this is just one incident in a series that causes me to question if Mr. Barsotti is good fit for DHS or, worse, if he's incompetent. What has to happen to merit a firing offense? A student's injury or death?
Bonnie May 03, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Wendy, I agree with you, but why should these kids get the consolation prize of a small prom just for themselves? I'm sure they were looking forward to an evening with their entire class. They were denied this by the incompetence of one person. I think they're entitled to a "do-over." It's the only way to make this right. (And at least I'm not calling for his job). These kids need to be shown that when adults abuse their power they are held accountable for it. It's the only way to restore the trust between the students and the administration.
Teri Ruggiero May 03, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Based on what I have read, I believe that when the privately paid for bus pulled away from the kids at the prom, that was the consequence. Having to arrange a way home and losing out on their money was inconvenient for both the kids and the parents and would likely take time away from the event. However, as an administrator myself, I KNOW if the situation had been handled that way, some i-rate parents would be demanding justice to the yahoo who brought the alcohol which made their lives inconvenient. So, I think the appropriate way for the administrator to handle this was to hold the kids out for an hour (while the kids arranged a way home) trying to figure it out who done it. After that, I would have let them in. Now, the only correct course of action is for the administrator to make it right. Making it right is something to be negotiated with the students and their parents that were affected.
Betsy May 03, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Betsy 1:45 pm on Thursday, May 3, 2012 Barsotti is a total noncomp. I worked 'under' him as a teacher at another school before he infected this one and all I can say publicly is that fate is a.. well.. you know the saying... It's extraordinarily satisfying to see all this play out. It’s sad for the many of us who have had to deal with him and his overwhelming ego over the years, but at least some will now see him for what he is. He will keep bouncing around till he finds a place that has a strong enough ‘good ole boys’ network to protect him. He had that where I used to teach and then lost it and moved on. Now you have him. Hopefully not for long. Just don’t let him come my way!! Keep him in California!
Korie Robinson May 03, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Betsy, I have heard rumors of him being fired from previous jobs, but if what you are saying is true then it gives some of those rumors a little credibility. Can you confirm if he was indeed fired?
Betsy May 04, 2012 at 12:09 AM
I can't confirm, sorry. I left my former school before he did. I heard 'things' but can't confirm. It was sad, I knew I'd miss my students and what had been a good environment at one time. But I was so glad to be away from that man, that it made it a little easier to leave. It's bittersweet, but I'm glad I got out when I did. My former school fell into a period of turmoil shortly afterward and it was a relief of sorts to not be there when it happened. School districts tend to be like churches in this regard- when someone screws up, they'd rather demote them or shuffle them around to avoid having the blemish stick to their particular parish. One thing that districts HATE to do is admit that they made a bad hire. Not speaking of Dixon at all!! I'm making a generalization. Partly this comes from having a litigious population. For whatever reason, people seem to LOVE to sue school districts. If you admit you made a mistake, it makes is much easier for people to sue you. One thing that school districts live in continual fear of is being sued. Choices that school districts make are driven by money. Either it's cheaper to risk being sued by the person you are firing or cheaper to pay for something to 'happy people up' and get them to quit making noise. Again, a generalization. I have never worked in Dixon and have no knowledge of their practices.
Battering Ram May 04, 2012 at 01:26 AM
I was told he was let go or forced out of Fairfield because he tried to fire the same teacher twice. A drama teacher and the drama teacher proved he was lying. I was told the drama teacher sued him and the district and won and that's why he left. Another teacher who still works there says he will lie to achieve what he wants. I find the frightening.
Miranda L. May 04, 2012 at 01:48 AM
What about holding these kids accountable? Or the ones who brought the bottle? You are quick to take away someones livelihood over kids missing a dance but care little about what started all of this. This could have been avoided had one or a few of them brought the guilty forward. They chose to close the ranks and subsequently were penalyzed for it. No alcohol means no alcohol. It was there and no genius needs a PHD to know what it smells like. Quit blaming everyone for the mistakes one or more kids made. And I think im gonna choke if I hear one more person/parent talk about lack of supervision. Im sure you don't have an issue with it every friday and saturday night when your kids take off while you sit around on the couch. The hypocracy is sickening.....
M.Owens May 04, 2012 at 02:08 AM
The students involved are taking time to think about what a fair compensation from the administration would be. I am working toward a "party" not connected to the school that would allow the students and their classmates to have a "re-do". I am aware that I can never replace what they missed, but I really want to gift them with a small gesture. If anyone would like to contribute in any way to this event please contact me @ Tinsel 2011@att,net. Thank you.
Dave May 04, 2012 at 04:58 AM
at this point it makes no difference who brought the bottle. The Dixon administration had a very poor plan or did not follow it as per the contract. Its really very simple. If they suspected any of the 35 kids, they should have done a breath test on all of them. Ones that passed go to prom, ones that don't parents are called for pick up. It is so simple. The Dixion administration really dropped the ball. The alcohol again is not the issue. it is the poor common sense the the principal used and by piling on his poor decision, with another bad one. It said the had a Breathalyzer but it does not work? What high school has a dance these days with no Breathalyzer? that's the principals fault. I hope when John Barsotti says it was his fault he was sincere.
Carlos Villatoro May 04, 2012 at 05:10 AM
Just a friendly reminder to keep it respectful, on topic and to the point. Remember guys and gals, tone is lost during online communication. Just food for thought. Thanks.
Bonnie May 04, 2012 at 12:32 PM
I haven't seen any proof that someone actually brought alcohol on the bus. The driver "thought" he smelled alcohol. The principal dumped it out before anyone could test it. Then, he barred all of the students from the prom instead of giving them a breathalyzer (as indicated in the prom contract). It's his word against the word of 35 students. He has already proved his "word" isn't worth much by the horrendous way he handled this situation.
Ian Arnold May 04, 2012 at 05:57 PM
@ Miranda - The bottle itself was fairly large, and by all accounts, there was very little left of whatever liquid was in it. The principal says he determined very quickly that some of the kids hadn't been drinking. Why didn't he determine which kids HAD been drinking (if any) and hold them accountable? The limo driver claims the bottle couldn't have been left by an earlier party, but we've seen comments that this company has done this type of thing before. Why are the kids presumed guilty, but the adults presumed innocent? Had it been my kid, I'd be livid at not getting a call. Had I received a phone call, I'd have driven to Sacramento and evaluated my kid to determine if he'd been drinking. If I determined he had, there would have been consequences. Had he appeared not to have been drinking, I'd have demanded a breathalyzer or immediate entry to the prom. Had entry been denied, I'd have taken him inside myself and left it up to the principal to either call the police and eject us, or attempt to physically block entry at which point I'd have called the police myself.
Kerry Jacobs May 05, 2012 at 01:19 AM
I wonder if he's sorry for Dixon's 0-9 record next football season also ! I just cant wait to see the 10's of fans come to watch another losing Crumpactor season due to another bad Barsotti decision. Damn, just when things were starting to look good. Sorry to hijack the thread but theres not much more to say about the students who lost-out the night of the Prom other then its TIME to manage the decay before it grows !
Betsy May 05, 2012 at 03:09 AM
I spoke to another FF teacher who said that this is totally TRUE. I believe it too. I've experienced his wrath. I'm having the last laugh though, now that people are learning the TRUTH.
Betsy May 05, 2012 at 03:21 AM
It sounds as if the district is going to let it slide. And make no mistake 'task force' is another way of saying 'happy them up so that they don't make too much noise'... Sad that the concerns and pain of the parents and students is not worth more than what is being honored. Out of control power trips are not usually self correcting conditions.....
Ian Arnold May 05, 2012 at 06:45 AM
@Betsy - I might have agreed with you about the "task force," but my understanding is it was the 35 who asked for the task force. Remember, many of these kids are in leadership, so they might just have a plan for the task force.
WD May 05, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Kerry you couldn't have said it any better. Right now some of the staff at our high school really need to be looked at. The vast majority of the students and parents are not happy and nothing seems to change, it just gets shoved aside to make make room for more DRAMA. Here's an example: The complete farce of a football program with a varsity team that can win a national rugby championship in the highest highschool division in the nation but can hardly win a game in division 5 football! / the athletic director who says things to young girls and is the center of controversy over and over again,when our quarterback club quit this year because of the horrible decisions of the varsity staff, Crumpackers comment was "we don't need them anyway!" the changing of the school colors that nobody wants, the removal of zero period that nobody wants,and now the prom issues, and an attitude and arrogance that Barsotti and Crumpacker have displayed is something this community can do without!! I really feel sorry for the kids, and I'm thinking of sending my kids to another high school if things don't change real soon.
Betsy May 05, 2012 at 03:18 PM
I get what you are saying, but my thought is that this is the kind of thing that, while good at placating people who are upset, it won't do anything to oust Barsotti. The good people of Dixon are still stuck with him. Trust me on this, his ego will not be satisfied with getting away with this latest one... There will be something else brewing soon, if there isn't already.
Kerry Jacobs May 05, 2012 at 04:02 PM
This quote from Ronald Reagan pretty much sums up our school system today. "Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn’t so."
Miranda L. May 06, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Kerry Jacobs... You truly just showed your colors. What a shame!
WD May 06, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Miranda, you mentioned earlier that "this could have been avoided had one or a few of them brought the guilty forward". The kids did exactly that, a couple of kids took blame for the container but Barsotti just ignored them. If you really think this was handled properly then I hope to God you are never left in a position of making "adult " decisions for young adults or children.
brook stiler May 06, 2012 at 03:32 PM
same thing applies in DUSD.

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