ITHACA, N.Y.—News of Dr. Luvelle Brown’s resignation earlier this month from his post as superintendent of the Ithaca City School District to take another job came almost simultaneously as a petition calling for a state investigation into his conduct on the job began circulating on social media. That petition also took aim at the Ithaca City School District Board of Education for alleged inaction when presented with accusations about Brown’s conduct, prompting a look into what Board President Rob Ainslie has to say about the governing body’s investigation process into Brown.

Brown (Dr. Brown in this story) announced that he is leaving the district for a job boosting diversity and inclusion efforts at Discovery Education after a 10 year run as superintendent that included a litany of awards and recognition for both him and the district. The letter of allegations was written on behalf of Dr. Brown’s ex-wife Anjanette Brown (Ms. Brown in this story) and included a wide range of accusations regarding Dr. Brown’s time at the helm of the district. Dr. Brown denied the allegations in the letter (more information here), which has now been sent to the state Department of Education asking for an investigation into his conduct. He also said that the situation did not play a role in his decision to leave the district.

Ainslie emphasized in an interview with The Ithaca Voice that the Board of Education was not interested in some of the more private aspects of the letter and wanted to avoid delving into certain situations that would be better suited for Family Court, where the former couple is still grappling over matters having to do with their children.

“I said ‘We have no intention of getting involved in a child custody battle,’” Ainslie said, recounting a meeting he had with Peyi Airewele, the Ithaca College professor who was one of the authors of the letter on Ms. Brown’s behalf. Regardless, the letter and attached supporting evidence, amounting to just over 200 pages, was submitted to the district Board of Education in November in order to provide them with enough material for an official investigation.

A month later, Ainslie sent a response to Ms. Brown, informing her that following its investigation, the board would not be acting on the accusations in her letter. Ainslie’s message echoes the sentiments he has expressed throughout the process, that the Board considers many of the allegations to be the result of “ongoing family dispute and are therefore outside of the Board of Education’s purview.”

There are, however, plenty of allegations in the letter that would seem to fall under the jurisdiction of the school district, as they relate to professional behavior instead of familial or private—such as accusations that Dr. Brown used his position to influence his children’s education inappropriately, as a workaround of Family Court restrictions, and general displays of unprofessional behavior including personal relationships. Regarding those, Ainslie said the appropriate members of the school district staff were interviewed and the district is confident the charges were unfounded.

“Interviews were made of the particular personnel regarding whether there was undue influence,” Ainslie said. “Interviews were completed and our results of those interviews were such that it was obvious to our investigator that there was no undue influence, never any pressure put on any of the district personnel. We are confident that they were speaking openly, truthfully and without hesitation.”

Ainslie further claimed that this was the only time the Board of Education had conducted any investigation of this sort against Dr. Brown; Ainslie has been a member of the Board of Education for Brown’s entire decade-long tenure as superintendent.

“We have an obligation to look into anything that has to do with the Ithaca City School District, we are responsible for and we look into it, whether it’s good or bad,” Ainslie said. “Everything we do is under scrutiny, and so we’re used to this.”

Despite the storminess surrounding Luvelle Brown’s departure, Ainslie reiterated his support for the outgoing superintendent and commended his work with the district over the last several years, including the rocky last calendar year amid the coronavirus pandemic. Deputy Superintendent Lily Talcott will serve in the interim role until a successor to Brown is named.

“He has been an outstanding leader for this district and this community and really made a huge impact for the children of this community,” Ainslie said. “Frankly, nothing that has been said or alleged by this group changes that. (…) He has certainly tried to conduct himself through a very difficult family matter in as private a way as possible, and unfortunately, these other folks are not.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com