In an email sent over the weekend of 6/14/2024, former Executive Director Karla Hayslett writes the following:

June 15, 2024

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to you because, at one point, you had connections with the Ohio Council Teachers of English Languages Arts (OCTELA).  Over the past year, OCTELA has been embroiled in turmoil resulting in the affiliate no longer resembling the organization that served teachers of this state for over sixty years.

You may be wondering why.

The remaining leadership of OCTELA will tell you that the problems are because of me.  I was selected as Executive Director in 2011, helping to ensure that the board-adopted governing documents were upheld. Changes were made within OCTELA during my tenure as Executive Director—some more quickly than others due to the amount of work and due process required to stay in compliance with the OCTELA constitution, by-laws, and handbook.  A faction of board members wanted changes to happen at a rapid pace, possibly not understanding, recognizing, and/or caring about the procedures that should be followed. 

As Executive Director, I had a responsibility to protect what had been built by keeping OCTELA compliant; however, when change was needed or wanted, I shared what steps were required to begin that process.

Sharing those steps did not seem to be enough.  During my last six months as Executive Director, I was expected to disregard the governing documents, mandate changes that I was unauthorized to make, and questioned relentlessly on what felt like every decision the organization had made over the past few years.  Former board members and NCTE employees were contacted on the sly, partial information was shared to help others form opinions, and—ultimately—I was removed as OCTELA’s Executive Director in August 2023 during my annual evaluation.

This removal baffled me—I have been told that there were no complaints or concerns about my work performance or ability to complete the tasks assigned to me by the organization.  Instead, during the evaluation, lengthy discussions were held outside of executive session about how I could be “nicer” and speculation was made about my mental health.  This continued for an hour and a half.  I was fired not because I was bad at my job.  Instead, I was fired because some people did not like me and chose to spin a narrative that cast me as a person who served herself, not OCTELA.

The events surrounding my removal as Executive Director have damaged my professional reputation.  Additionally, I now fully understand the lasting effects of gaslighting.  I hope none of you ever have to endure these things.

However, this letter is about more than just me and my experience.  Every person receiving this letter has also felt the impact of OCTELA’s disintegration.  Some of you knowingly and willingly took part in its dismantlement.  Others have fought to restore the organization to its intended purpose. 

All of you, though, have been mislead in some way.  The attached document (gathered via public records requests and senders choosing to forward their letters to me) shows this.  I have also included a brief outline/key to help you with navigate the main points pertinent to this letter.  The entirety of the experience is complex, like a story with multiple subplots—way too much for a simple letter like this.

Those of you who served on the OCTELA Executive Board from March 2023-August 2023 will notice that many of the attached emails provide answers to questions that we had during that time period.  To highlight a few:

  • Why was NCTE in attendance at the OCTELA May 2023 meeting? — Because the OCTELA President requested it.
  • Why were current (and former) board members being contacted about appointments? — Because the OCTELA President was gathering information. 
  • Why did a letter/notes from 2020 surface?  How did it come into the hands of a new appointee who then read it? Why was it allowed to be read when the one who wrote it never submitted it in 2020 nor let me know about concerns?  — Because the OCTELA President obtained it and provided it.

None of this was shared with us while it was happening, even when the OCTELA President was asked directly.

After the August 2023 OCTELA Executive Board Meeting, the secrecy and lack of transparency has continued.  As it stands right now, it is unclear what is going on with OCTELA.  The most recent constitution, by-laws, and handbook are not readily available to its members.  Likewise, it is unclear who is serving OCTELA.  The affiliate did not hold elections this past spring and only they only sign correspondences “The OCTELA Board.”  The OCTELA Trustees are no longer acknowledged as a group, instead being referred to as “Past Presidents.” Furthermore, the trustees’ call for the remaining board to resign and hand the organization back to the trustees has gone unacknowledged.  The organization no longer publishes newsletters or journals. The Ohio Department of Education and Workforce has severed ties with OCTELA. It has been discovered that two of the board members have shared Personal Identifying Information (PII) of previous board members and conference keynote speakers, leading to one school district conducting a formal investigation into said board member and notifying affected individuals; OCTELA has neglected to do so.

Therefore, even if the information presented below and in the attachment is bothersome and you ask the OCTELA Board questions, I have no idea if you will receive an adequate answer. Transparency is sorely lacking in the new iteration of OCTELA. At this point, it seems as though they are doing what they want and how they want it, governing documents be damned.  In that respect, they must feel victorious—they got what they wanted—but it makes me so sad to think that Ohio’s teachers and students are not receiving the same level of professional development, discourse, and support that they deserve.

I am sorry that OCTELA has come to this and that so many of you have been negatively impacted.  I am sorry if the attached document, which contains the half-truths and manipulations leading up to August 2023, upsets you.  However, I felt a need to share this with you because you deserve the truth.  Maybe a “nicer” person would sugarcoat or withhold this information altogether. But my life’s goal isn’t to be seen as nice; I would rather be known for doing what is right.

If you have questions for me, please feel free to contact me.  If you have questions or comments for OCTELA or NCTE, you can contact them (octelaliasion@gmail.com or ekirkpatrick@ncte.org).

Feel free to share this information as you see fit.

Sincerely,

Karla Hieatt Hayslett

Date EventPage Number(s)
03/21/23 Disagreement about 2024 Conference—Karla pushed to ignore board handbook/job descriptions and “mandate changes”1-1
04/04/23 OCTELA President begins gathering and collecting information to make changes to board procedure11-12
04/18/23OCTELA President contacts NCTE asking for opinion on OCTELA procedures and practices. NOTE: The OCTELA President did not share the board adopted handbook which fleshes out job descriptions. Therefore, she did not have all of the information before
commenting.
13-14
04/14/23 NCTE’s thoughts about OCTELA’s policies and procedures. NOTE: The OCTELA President did not share the board adopted handbook which fleshes out job descriptions. Therefore, she did not have all of the information before
commenting.
15-18
04/20/23 Zoom meeting held: OCTELA President called me a
dictator. The follow-up email I sent to the Executive
Committee is attached.
19-20
04/20/23 OCTELA President contacts NCTE regarding Zoom meeting.21
04/21/23 OCTELA President shares board information (concerns over upcoming appointment) with non-board members.22-23
04/21/23 NCTE responds to OCTELA President. OCTELA President begins using language such as “Karla’s claim.”24
04/21/23OCTELA President reaches out to former board members, asking for letters of resignation. Offers to share more information via phone.25-29
04/22/23OCTELA President continues to gather letters of resignation.30-34
04/23/23OCTELA President requests NCTE attend the May 2023 OCTELA Executive Board Meeting. NOTE: NCTE knew that I had requested guidance from the Executive Committee even though they pretended not to at the May 2023 meeting.35-38
04/25/23OCTELA President states he is making a board appointment and works with the appointee to gather letters of support. NOTE: This appointment was considered possibly problematic. NOTE: The appointee (who had previously been on the board) implies that I have no integrity “Send it [the letter] to me so that I can forward it to Cameron (the current president) as he will be printing them to share at the board meeting. Not sure it would actually make it to the meeting if you sent it to Karla :)”39-41
04/28/23 NCTE knew that I had requested guidance from the Executive Committee even though they pretended not to at the May 2023 meeting.42-47
05/01/23 I contacted OCTELA Board, requesting next steps in regards to the behavior of the OCTELA President. OCTELA President only wants me to shut up; OCTELA President does not show reflection or willingness to change.48
05/07/23 OCTELA President sends information to NCTE following the May 2023 meeting. This information is his personal notes, not any of the board-approved minutes or notes. NOTE: Without board-approved minutes or notes, NCTE received one person’s point of view—not an unbiased account of events.49
05/07/23 OCTELA President contacts NCTE inquiring how to change
voting procedures and voting members.
50
07/14/23 OCTELA President requests database access for new registrar (who is not authorized to have access per board handbook), demands clarification of SittingSpot LLC’s (contracted and board approved) role with OCTELA.51-60
08/22/23OCTELA President shares the “Deb Nickles Letter” with the small group. NOTE: During the August 2023 evaluation, this letter was read by a new appointee. OCTELA President would not clarify how this letter came to the new appointee. 61-62
08/31/23OCTELA President and small group hold an “OCTELA Regroup” meeting. Key OCTELA Board members (past president, web administrator, president-elect, and vice president) were not invited.63-64
10/10/23Resignation from board members. NOTE: Cites a lack of transparency and an unwillingness to learn in order to do better.65-66
10/21/23Resignation from board members. NOTE: Cites a “narrative of misinformation and mischaracterization,” inaccurate information presented to the OCTELA lawyer, the OCTELA President not permitting other board members to communicate with the OCTELA lawyer, and “questions and doubts over the transparency and forthright nature that are necessary to move the organization forward.”67-68

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