By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
The Phoenix chapter of the Junior League, founded in 1935, was once thought to be an organization of rich, white women who wore hats and gloves and sipped tea. Despite its long and impressive record of public service, it's still thought of that way. Membership has been "wide open" since the mid-Eighties, but a patina of exclusivity lingers.
Berry never had the desire to join, she says. "It doesn't speak to me. It doesn't speak to the real world. . . . My heart speaks to me of people who don't have voices," Berry says.
She believes some Junior Leaguers want to exclude her from school politics. Names of Leaguers pop up again and again on petitions and in conversations about the anti-Berry movement. Aeed, whom Berry bested in the 1990 school-board race, begins her term as president of the Junior League of Phoenix in May; League member Rita Dickinson is widely acknowledged to have passed on a school-board reelection bid in 1992 because of differences with Berry.
Coincidence, Aeed scoffs. Junior League members tend to get involved in their children's schools, so they've had the chance to see Berry operate. "Certainly," she says, "there are people involved in the parent groups that aren't in the Junior League, but there aren't very many of them. Because that's the way Junior League members are. We see a need and we fill it."
Aeed's youngest child is a high school senior; she says she hasn't been privy to the day-to-day activities of the Madison district for years. She has, however, followed Berry's career.
"Carolyne Berry is one of the brightest, most intelligent people I know, and has the ability to do--and has done--some tremendously positive things for the district," Aeed says. "But she's just a very hating person."
Aeed says she called Berry to congratulate her on her election victory in 1990, and "she basically told me to eat shit and die."
Berry says she was angry because she believed Aeed did not follow the rules of decorum at a candidates' forum, and packed the audience with her Junior League friends.
Aeed and Dickinson aided the defense of state Superintendent of Public Instruction C. Diane Bishop after Bishop was sued by a woman who claimed she was fired because she wouldn't perform campaign tasks for Bishop on state time. Berry, who worked for Bishop during that time, testified that she had received similar treatment from the superintendent. Dickinson also testified, calling Berry's credibility into question during testimony. Aeed pulls a news clipping about the trial from a file. The article recounts Bishop's testimony, in which she called Berry "abrasive, intrusive, manipulative, untruthful, uncooperative, rude and demeaning of others."
The attorney for the fired employee subpoenaed all of Aeed's Junior League directories from 1988 to the present. He refused to comment on the reasoning behind the subpoena. Aeed had the subpoena quashed, and never testified in the case. @rule:
@body:In her legal pleadings against the Madison board, Carolyne Berry repeatedly accuses Chaunci Aeed of organizing the 37 people who would sign petitions and letters seeking a probe of Berry's conduct. But it wasn't Aeed; it was another Junior Leaguer and Madison parent, Joyce Buekers, a seminary student who says the whole episode was so disturbing that she eventually turned the matter over to God and has tried to go on with her life.
In the fall of 1992, Buekers was shocked to learn that there were just three candidates running for the three open seats on the Madison board. So she quizzed parents, teachers and administrators to find out why. Buekers says she found the district paralyzed by fear of Berry.
Buekers says parents told her Berry wrote to them on her husband's legal stationery, threatening to sue; district personnel told her Berry had threatened their jobs; teachers told her Berry barged into their classrooms, disturbing their lessons.
One of Buekers' recruits was Chaunci Aeed, who says she agreed to help because "Joyce wanted to make the Madison School District a happy place to be."
So Buekers formed the Madison District Support Group--designed, she says, to encourage parent participation at board meetings and to create a more positive attitude. She created "communication logs," asking parents to document inappropriate board-member activities. (It should be noted that many of the people on the support group's membership list did not sign petitions calling for an investigation of Berry.)
Later that fall, Buekers presented the school board with a document broadly outlining her concerns, but not naming names. By spring 1993, Buekers says, she and Berry had clashed--loudly--at a school basketball game. Buekers chided Berry by name at a school-board meeting. Berry wrote to Buekers on her husband's legal stationery. And that was just the beginning.
Berry, meanwhile, says she was clueless. She barely knew Buekers; their children attended the same school and had, in earlier years, played together.
"No one ever called me," Berry says. "If I'm such a hindrance, my name's in the book."
As Buekers sits in her home and sifts through the box of Berry-related documents she has amassed, her preteen daughter turns up the soundtrack to The Sound of Music. Mom hums along as she sips cinnamon-apple tea and flips through piles of pages filling a cardboard box perched on a coffee table. She offers to give away original copies of letters and lists of names. Keep the originals, she says; she'd rather not be reminded of the ordeal ever again. In fact, she now says, she's convinced Berry will sue her. "I'm not normally a paranoid person," she says, choking up. But "this woman terrifies me." And the hills are alive with the sound of music.