Former principal files wrongful termination lawsuit
By Cristina Kumka
WEST RUTLAND — The town school’s former principal alleges she was fired wrongfully, her name and reputation defamed and the School Board skirted the state’s public meeting law while doing it, among four other counts alleged in a recent lawsuit filed by Juanita Burch-Clay.
Burch-Clay is seeking monetary relief for all the charges contained in the suit, including part of her more than $85,000 salary, and she wants her job back.
While court documents described detailed arguments from attorneys representing both the principal and the School Board, they also revealed consequences for kids.
Documents from a termination hearing conducted by the School Board allege Burch-Clay didn’t do teacher evaluations this year, didn’t inform parents of a new teacher, submitted budget reports late and failed to comply with federal law that mandates student achievement.
Instead, according to court documents, Burch-Clay resisted authority and decided to pursue her own plan for the school.
Another telling revelation came from one board member who claimed other members of the board never wanted Burch-Clay at the school to succeed.
In Burch-Clay’s defense, that member — Lisa Garcia — explained why she voted “no” to Burch-Clay’s firing Aug. 12 in a five-page opinion contained in the lawsuit.
Garcia claims there was no “just” cause for the termination but rather an insensitive administrator, malicious School Board members and an outraged public, among other factors, that led to the removal of Burch-Clay.
“Mr. (David) O’Rourke and Mr. (Mike) Moser have approached Burch-Clay with suspicion, lack of cooperation, and on occasion, with outright hostility,” Garcia wrote about the chairman of the board and the vice-chairman.
“Further, I believe that Mr. O’Rourke and Mr. Moser have made their conclusions as early as fall 2011 that they did not want Burch-
Clay as our principal. Finally, I believe that they have abused their authority as Board chair and vice-chair to make their conclusion the reality in this case,” Garcia wrote.
Testimony from a parent contained in the suit also revealed O’Rourke told that parent that Burch-Clay would likely be fired for changing things at the school too quickly and she “stepped on people’s toes.”
For the complete story, see Wednesday's Rutland Herald.