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Monday, April 30, 2007

Former Westport Teacher Files Federal Suit

By Jennifer Connic

A former Westport teacher has filed a federal suit against the school district stating she was not allowed to transfer to a different position because she had attempted “to protect the rights of the students with disabilities,” according to court documents that were filed at Town Hall today.

Karen Pierce, of Sandy Hook, who was a teacher from September 1989 through June 2005 is seeking lost wages, a letter “used against her” at an August 2005 meeting with Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon and other compensatory and punitive damages the court may find in her favor.

She most recently taught fourth and fifth grade at Coleytown Elementary from 1999 through 2005.

Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon could not be reached for comment today.

The court papers state Pierce experssed concerns during the 2004-05 school year “that special education students and their families were being treated poorly by administrators on Planning and Placement Teams” (PPT) at Coleytown Elementary and Coleytown Middle schools.

She believed parents who were represented by an attorney in the PPT meetings were given preferential treatment and better services than those who did not have an attorney, the documents state.

She was told by Cynthia Gilcrist, director of pupil services, that “during PPT meetings she should stick to the academics and should not discuss the student’s Individualized Education Program,” according to the document.

Additionally, from 2002 through 2005, Pierce told Westport Education Association representatives, the principal and assistant principal at Coleytown Elementary that “teachers in teh school and throughout the school district were being treated poorly” by the district, the documents state.

During the 2004-05 school year, Pierce also opposed a student being placed in the gifted and talented program and the implementation of software called Blue Ribbon Testing to prepare students for the Connecticut Mastery Test, the documents state.

She was invited to apply for a sixth-grade science teaching position at Coleytown Middle School in May 2005, and interviewed on May 19, 2005, according to the document.

On June 1, 2005, Pierce was informed she did not get the position “but was not told why she did not get the position,” according to the court document.

The WEA filed a grievance on Pierce’s behalf in June, according to the documents, related to Pierce not receiving the position and not giving a reason why as required by the union contract.

In August 2005, there was a meeting with the superintendent as required by the grievance process, according to the documents, and Landon “repeatedly referred to a letter inside a green folder” during the meeting.

Landon stated during the meeting that two administrators said she had received the letter, according to the document, and he refused to turn over the letter when union representatives asked for it.

Landon also did not respond to a request from the Connecticut Education Association for the letter, according to the court document, and after a second request he “claimed that there was no such document.”

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Posted 04/30/07 at 09:54 PM  Permalink



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