Former Dupont teacher sues to get his job back
Saturday, January 26, 2013 3:59 AM
A former Dupont Elementary School teacher who was dismissed during a Reduction in Force in August 2012, has filed a suit against the Madison Consolidated School Board over his termination.
Joe Elliott - who spent 19 years at Dupont, most recently as a third-grade teacher - filed the suit Friday in Jefferson Superior Court seeking damages for lost wages and benefits. He also requests his job with the school corporation be reinstated.
Elliott received a letter from Dupont Principal Alvin Sonner on June 7, 2012, notifying him that his teaching contract would not be renewed for the following school year.
Elliott requested a hearing with Interim Superintendent Steve Gookins and the school board, which was held Aug. 2.
Between those two dates, Indiana law regarding contract cancellation changed. On June 30, the law changed to read that when a contract is canceled during a time of justifiable decreases, the reduction would have to be performance-based rather than seniority-based.
When Elliott received the letter, the law stated seniority would be the determining factor, meaning that people with shorter tenures at the school would be likely to be let go first. By the time Elliott had his hearing with the board, the law had changed.
Elliott's character and previous evaluations were used by the board as reasons for his selection as one of the teachers whose contract would not be renewed.
According to documents from Elliott's meeting with the schools board, previous evaluations said he needed to improve his compassion, nurturing abilities and efforts toward increasing teamwork in the classroom.
"Joe Elliott is sometimes too hard on students and is too rigid," according to the findings of fact from the hearing. "His classroom is sterile and his students do not speak unless spoken to. This creates a negative effect on education due to the children's fear of being ridiculed."
The findings of fact also describe Elliott as moody, sarcastic and disrespectful.
"At various times, Mr. Elliott made comments to at least three teachers which so upset the teachers that they came to the principal and cried," the findings of fact read.
This, according to the complaint filed by Elliott, would mean that the board decided not to renew his contract based on his performance at a time when the law did not allow that.
Attempts Friday to reach Mark Wynn, the school board attorney, were unsuccessful.
Elliott has requested a jury trial.