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Allegations against 4J administrator's husband reemerge

Former and current Eugene School District 4J staff are raising questions regarding the finalist for interim superintendent and her husband.

Posted: May 6, 2020 7:30 PM
Updated: May 6, 2020 8:02 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Former and current Eugene School District 4J staff are raising questions regarding the finalist for the interim superintendent position and the sexual harassment allegations against her husband.

On Wednesday night, the school board approved the selection of Cydney Vandercar, who has been assistant superintendent in the district.

Cydney's husband, Brian Vandercar, resigned his position as a classified staff member at Holt Elementary in 2018 after allegations of sexual harassment prompted an independent investigation by the district. The investigation was completed after his resignation, and its results have not been released.

Former 4J sign language interpreter Jami Stirewalt said she worked closely with Brian Vandercar before she left the district. She alleged that he would make vulgar comments in front of students and sometimes about them. 

"He would try and talk about sex and get me to teach him inappropriate sexual signs during the school day in front of children," she said. "These terrible things were still happening to me and I was told not to talk to anybody about it."

According to Stirewalt, Brian Vandercar would commonly mention his wife's position in the 4J administration as a method of intimidating women who tried to get him to stop.

Stirewalt said that she repeatedly asked Vandercar to stop. When he wouldn't, she spoke to her supervisors who told her to tread lightly. When she reported her concerns to Holt Elementary's principal, she was told to regulate Vandercar's behavior herself.

She later learned that more than 30 others had similar experiences, she said. Some of them, herself included, were eventually relocated to different schools after raising concerns.

"Her power has already made it so that Brian already had the ability to harass women on a daily basis and whisper sexual things into their ears while children are present. Because of who Cydney is, it got swept under the rug," she said.

According to the district, Cydney Vandercar held the title of human resources director until she became the assistant superintendent in January 2018 before the investigation into her husband's conduct began.

The district said that Cydney Vandercar was in no way involved with the investigation and no allegations of wrongdoing on her part were uncovered.

School board chair Anne Marie Levis said that throughout this year's search for an interim superintendent, the district solicited feedback about all of the candidates. She said that many received both positive and negative feedback.

While one employee group did express concern about Vandercar, Levis said feedback about her was overwhelmingly positive.

"We looked at what had happened and we have no concern," she said. "She had really extensive, really great feedback. Throughout this process, we did checking of references, looking at job performance."

Jill Simmons is 4J's assigned field representative for the Oregon School Employees Association, which represents classified employees at schools across the state. 

Simmons said she had worked at 4J for many years, and since she began working for OSEA, she has seen decisions by the school board become less transparent and less reliant on staff feedback.

"The current process, led by the current chair of this board, tends to feel rushed and sometimes predetermined," said Simmons.

Below is a full statement from Eugene School District 4J on the allegations against Brian Vandercar:

Shortly before the end of the school year in 2018, the district received allegations that a classified staff member at Holt Elementary School had engaged in unprofessional behavior including alleged sexual harassment of fellow staff members. No sexual harassment of students was alleged.

Upon learning of the allegations, the district responded immediately and appropriately to address the concerns raised. The district engaged an independent investigator who conducted a thorough investigation. The employee resigned his employment with the district in the summer of 2018.

The employee’s spouse had no involvement in the investigation. There were no allegations of misconduct by the employee’s spouse.

Eugene School District 4J holds all district staff to a high standard of conduct and takes complaints of unprofessional conduct and sexual harassment very seriously. Employees are expected to maintain a professional and respectful workplace, refrain from inappropriate conduct, and avoid any behavior which could be interpreted as sexual harassment.

Any district staff, volunteers, parents or students who have concerns about unprofessional conduct or harassment are encouraged to report their concerns so they can be addressed in a timely and effective manner.

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