Teacher alleges Scappoose School District board of directors did not follow proper protocol to dismiss her

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - A former Scappoose School District teacher has filed a lawsuit against the board of directors for the district. A hearing is scheduled for the end of October. A former fourth-grade teacher at Otto Petersen Elementary School has filed a lawsuit against the Scappoose School District board of directors, alleging the board did not follow proper procedure to terminate her contract as a probationary teacher earlier this year.

Erika Reardon is taking the board of directors to court in hopes of being retained as an employee in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 schoolyears, after she alleged the school board and the district did not follow proper protocol when voting not to renew her teaching contract at the end of the schoolyear.

Reardon, a fourth-grade teacher at Otto Petersen Elementary School, was hired to work for the district in 2014 as a probationary teacher.

Reardon's case against the directors alleges the school board took action Feb. 13 to terminate her contract, though she was not notified prior to the meeting that contract non-renewals would be discussed at the board meeting.

Elizabeth Joffee, a Portland lawyer representing Reardon, said the board's action violated protocol and Reardon should have been given advance notice the board would be voting on whether or not to renew her contract.

Furthermore, Joffee said Reardon's name was attached to a list of temporary teachers who would not be retained by the district, although she was not a temporary hire. During the meeting, the board voted to terminate a list of temporary teachers, but did not include any notice about the intent to non-renew other teaching contracts, like Reardon's.

According to meeting minutes, a board member asked for clarification on the matter, but then-Superintendent Stephen Jupe misspoke and said all names on the list were temporary teachers.

Several months later, in June, Reardon requested a hearing in front of the school board to protest the non-renewal of her contract.

The district is required by state law to notify teachers who will not have their teaching contracts renewed by March 15.

Last week, legal counsel for the board of directors filed a motion to dismiss Reardon's initial complaint stating that the district fulfilled its obligations to provide Reardon with written notice of her non-renewal and had given her the opportunity for a hearing after the initial decision. The board also argued it has full legal authority to terminate any employee "for any cause it may deem in good faith sufficient," citing Oregon Revised Statutes, and stated that only the Fair Dismissal Appeals Board could grant Reardon a teaching contract as the result of such a lawsuit.

Additionally, the board of directors argued filing of the case took place more than 60 days after the board decision in February, making it untimely.

Joffee said the goal of the case is to get Reardon back in the classroom.

"The other thing that we hopefully get out of this case is that the district understands the process better," Joffee said. "Erika doesn't want other people to be treated like she was treated."

Scappoose School District officials declined comment on this story, calling it a personnel matter.

A hearing is scheduled for the end of October.

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