LORAIN — Several Lorain Schools administrators who were terminated this summer are pursuing legal action against the district after the district’s leader, CEO David Hardy, said they would have jobs for the upcoming school year.
At a school board meeting Monday night, member Tim Williams said a handful of administrators who were building principals and assistant principals last school year received letters terminating their employment June 30, giving them one-day notice.
“You want to release people with enough time for them to get jobs,” he said. “It’s bad when you have to release folks for whatever reason but when you release people and you wait until June 30 and they’re educators, it doesn’t give them a reasonable opportunity to seek employment other places. I think that’s kind of insensitive.”
School board president Tony Dimacchia said six building administrators — Sam Newsome, Maureen Millet, Christine Miller, Jay Keefer, Debbie Pustulka and Leila Flores — are potentially involved in the litigation.
“There are six administrators that this happened to and there would be more but some left and found other jobs,” he said. “Those administrators have a right to at least a teaching position.”
The administrators were out of a job after Hardy announced in April a revamping of the district’s building-level leadership organization.
Instead of traditional building principals and assistance principals, there now are turnaround principals and deans, aimed at taking managerial, instructional and cultural needs and delegating them to more than one person.
On April 6, the finalists for the turnaround principal positions were announced and the six administrators didn’t make the cut despite having applied for a spot on the leadership team.
Two other building principals were not selected to become turnaround principals — Michelle Spotts-Hayes, who has since retired, and Sean Wolanin, who is now an assistant principal at Sandusky Middle School.
At an April 12 town hall meeting, Hardy said building principals who were not turnaround principal finalists could have applied for these dean positions, Hardy said, or depending on the tenure they have, could go back to teaching in the classroom.
“We want to make sure we’re doing right by our people,” he said.
Hardy did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday, and district spokesman Eric Bonzar said he did not have any information regarding pending litigation.
Pustulka said because of the litigation, she didn’t want to speak about her termination, and Keefer confirmed the litigation but also didn’t want to speak.
“We feel this is not in our best interest right now due to retaliation,” he said in an email. “It is true. The lawyers are in discussions now and we would be happy to meet with you and our lawyers when this case is settled.”
In April, Keefer said he did apply to be a turnaround principal in the district, citing his more than 30 years of experience in education and years as a principal both in Lorain and elsewhere, but he was not selected.
He declined to comment further, and the other five principals were not available for comment.
At the Monday school board meeting, Williams said the district has dealt with terminations before and has tried to be sensitive to timing.
“It’s challenging and when you have people who have served the district for 20 or 25 years, that’s insensitive and I challenge if you’re going to release folks to do it in a way that’s respectful and dignified and gives a reasonable chance to protect their investments, their families and their homes,” he said. “It’s troubling.”
Williams said he doesn’t understand the decision to wait until June 30 to announce a decision “you probably knew about in April just for people to be hanging and dangling there.”
Dimacchia contends that by terminating the principals, the district’s leadership violated a section of the Ohio Revised Code that governs tenure.
“These people shouldn’t be running a hot dog cart on Broadway let alone running a school district if they don’t know the law,” he said. “Anyone that has ever done any kind of negotiation clearly should understand Ohio Revised Code. The folks of Lorain City Schools should be concerned with the lack of professional and legal decision making that is unqualified administration has displayed.
“We are in very bad hands and someone better stop this nonsense before we are so deep we will never recover.”
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