Summit County Sheriff’s Office determines there was not an attack on Park City superintendent’s home
Contradicting claims made by Park City School District officials, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office concluded Friday evening a window in the superintendent’s home was likely broken due to temperature fluctuation and not because a rock had been thrown at it.
District officials had claimed throughout the week that a person threw a rock through a kitchen window of the home in an alleged attack that a district spokesperson described as “absolutely targeted” at the superintendent amid increasing tensions — both on social media and in person — regarding taxpayer-funded improvements to the home.
Sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Wright said the superintendent, Jill Gildea, and a member of her family heard the window break the morning of Nov. 1.
The Sheriff’s Office investigation lasted a matter of hours, Wright said. The investigating sergeant confirmed the cause of the broken window with a local glass company before closing the case.
Upon entering the residence and seeing the window, the sergeant noted that the inside pane of glass had cracked and found the outside pane and a screen to be intact, Wright said. There was no other damage to the home.
In a prepared statement Friday evening in response to a Park Record inquiry, district spokesperson Melinda Colton thanked the Sheriff’s Office for immediately investigating the superintendent’s concerns.
“District leadership and Superintendent Gildea are understandably relieved that the negative social media comments did not escalate to negative actions toward the district owned property. The Superintendent has appreciated the kindness (and) thoughtful gestures this week from students, staff, and community members,” the statement said.
The Park Record initially reported Nov. 5 that an attack had taken place. That report was based on multiple conversations with district officials. The Park City Board of Education wrote in an opinion piece published in The Park Record Nov. 6 and signed by all five members of the board that “a rock was thrown through one of the windows (of the home) in response to the vitriol that certain ‘neighbors’ have been posting on social media.”
Tensions have been high in the school community amid aggressive online comments about improvements being made to the district-owned home and a separate controversy that has been simmering since September involving a teacher training program at Trailside Elementary School.
District officials have said the criticism has escalated into harassment, both online and in person.
Gildea, through Colton, told The Park Record early in the week that the broken window left her feeling “disbelief, hurt, sadness and anger” and made her family feel unsafe.
The Sheriff’s Office said it could not investigate the incident until the official complaint was filed. Gildea did not report the since-debunked attack to the Sheriff’s Office until Friday, according to Wright.
District officials have said the superintendent did not initially report the broken window “because she isn’t worried about getting it fixed, and she had already alerted the Sheriff about her worries on Oct. 31.” It was unclear what prompted Gildea to contact the authorities a week after the window broke. Gildea had been attending a conference out of state for most of the intervening week, Colton said.
On Oct. 31, the superintendent asked the Sheriff’s Office for increased patrols because a Salt Lake City television news crew was parked outside the home, Wright has said. That news outlet published a story that day that included pictures of the home and focused on the taxpayer-funded improvements that were being done to it.
The district purchased the home in 2018 for $870,000 with knowledge that it needed repairs, Todd Hauber, the district’s business administrator, has said. It budgeted $200,000 for that work and has paid $99,000 to date.
Commenters on the social media platform Nextdoor published the home’s address, facts about a recent tax increase and the cost of the repairs. Board of Education President Andrew Caplan has said commenters also invited neighbors to visit the home and take a tour. The Park Record is not publishing the address of the home in light of safety concerns.
Colton has previously said people recently walked through the property and took pictures of the home.
In addition to complaints about the home improvements, there has been controversy in recent months over a teacher training program at Trailside Elementary designed to promote inclusivity. Anonymous opponents have criticized the program as LGBTQ indoctrination.
In a prepared statement released Monday evening, the district said that it remains concerned about animosity and divisiveness in the community, especially on social media.
“Overall, the civil discourse and toxic nature of the past couple of weeks have led the (superintendent’s) family to feel unsafe. The fact that any family in our community has experienced fear within their neighborhood, and regardless of the cause of damage, is of concern. District leaders and board members have felt threatened by comments made to them personally or posted on social media. … We teach our students that there is a fine line between appropriately sharing a frustration regarding a situation and using that situation to bully someone.”
The statement goes on to ask that those in the community with concerns reach out directly to district officials.
Gildea was hired in May 2018, and relocated from Greenwich, Connecticut. District officials have said it purchased the home based on community feedback that indicated residents wanted the superintendent to live in the community. Hauber said the district chose to purchase a home rather than pay a housing stipend to secure an asset that will appreciate in value rather than incur an ongoing cost
The district previously owned a home in the 1980s and 1990s for the same reason.
The $200,000 budgeted for improvements to the home is intended to be used to regrade significant portions of the property to stop water running directly toward the home and to shore up retaining walls that were failing, the district has said. Components of a driveway heating system were installed while the driveway was torn up, but the system is not operational. That would be the school board’s decision to make and the superintendent would be responsible for paying utility costs, according to the district.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.
The arsenic-and-lead-containing soil has been a contentious issue for the district, which piled it onto the junior high campus in actions that were later discovered to be in violation of a covenant with the Environmental Protection Agency.
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