Plaintiffs: Paula Duckett, Carolyn Sessoms, and Connie Spriggs
Defendant: D.C. government, former schools Superintendent Clifford Janey, schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, DCPS Chief Financial Officer Pamela Graham
Damages Sought: Job reinstatement, back pay, back benefits, unspecified “general and special” damages, unspecified punitive damages, attorneys’ costs
Complaint: Duckett, Sessoms, and Spriggs were all teachers in the D.C. Public Schools who had been promoted to assistant principal jobs on a series of one-year contracts. And each, when her contract wasn’t renewed, was either fired or forced into retirement. After their terminations, they went to the District’s Office of Employee Appeals, which, in every case, ruled that DCPS had to give them their old teaching jobs back within 30 days. DCPS ignored the examiner’s rulings. In Duckett’s case, the school system argued that her certification had lapsed. Sessoms, DCPS claims, was mailed two job offers, but they were sent to an address she says she never lived at. And Spriggs, though she had more than 20 years of teaching experience, was also deemed uncertified by DCPS, which cited requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind Act in its decision. To date, and despite the appeal examiner’s rulings, none have gotten their jobs back.
Quality of Representation: Pretty good but get it right the first time. Attorney Omar Vincent Melehy filed a pair of amended complaints, the last to “include claims for punitive damages, to correct minor errors and to make non-substantive editorial changes.” Hire a proofer! And who forgets to ask for punitive damages?
Summary Judgment: Does DCPS need more lawyers? Hate to suggest further bloating the DCPS bureaucracy, but the teachers’ allegations seem to indicate that some extra legal help is needed down at 825 North Capitol. DCPS attorneys blew repeated deadlines and generally ignored a District hearing examiner. So if they want to pull the not-certified card to get rid of these folks, fine: You’re paying for their certification, DCPS.