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Norwalk BoE settling suit for $65K

NORWALK, Conn. – A lawsuit against the Norwalk Board of Education is being settled for $65,000.

Dianne Davenport sued the board in May 2007, claiming that her 37-year career as a Norwalk teacher ended because of age discrimination, which caused her emotional and physical harm. A jury trial was set for June 23, but the BoE voted Tuesday to settle the case for $65,000. Board member Artie Kassimis voted against the settlement; Shirley Mosby abstained and Mike Lyons, Heidi Keyes, Sherelle Harris and Rosa Murray voted for it.

The settlement stipulates that the board denies the allegations.

Davenport began her Norwalk career in 1970 as a full-time teacher at McGrath School, according to Findacase.com. She received high performance evaluations until 2003 and was once nominated by a parent for the DisneyHand Teacher Award, the website states, quoting testimony from Davenport. She felt that school administrators had begun systematically bullying teachers into retirement, and that she was later subjected to unwarranted scrutiny and harassment, the website quotes her as saying.

She eventually filed two Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities complaints and transferred to another school, according to the website. In 2007 she was stripped her of her teaching responsibilities and reassigned to work at the Board of Education central offices. She elected to retire, dropped CHRO complaints and sued.

Comments

6 responses to “Norwalk BoE settling suit for $65K”

  1. Lifelong Teacher

    Disgusting that this individual is receiving a settlement. Absolutely disgusting.

  2. John Hamlin

    So our union-protected teachers can then circumvent the arbitration process and sue us — and our politicians will roll over and play dead? So the taxpayers have no protections whatsoever, it seems.

  3. Before critiquing the BOE for their decision, it might be worthwhile to review the 2012 decision in which the Board of Education’s lawyer lost in seeking summary judgment on the overwhelming majority of the teacher’s claims. It will also be of interest to some that the teacher raised concerns about her union representation. You can read it at; https://casetext.com/case/davenport-v-norwalk-bd-of-educ/#.U5HHUnIXuYo

    After losing a motion for summary judgment (meaning that the court believes that the plaintiff has a strong enough case to go to trial), a defendant must evaluate the costs of trial and the potential amount of damages that could be awarded against the costs of settlement. Although I was not involved in any part of those evaluations, I know from experience that the costs of going to trial can easily exceed the amount of the settlement that is reported.

    With a new highly skilled superintendent, change (for the better) in the direction of the Human Resources Department since 2007, and far better supervision of the actions of principals (which appear to be at the heart of the teacher’s claims), the likelihood of future cases such as this one (and the likelihood of difficult settlement decisions) should be minimized.

  4. One and Done.

    And thus the door is now open for anyone who feels like they were forced into an early retirement to collect another windfall from the taxpayers. Good thing there are only like 1200 teachers or so. How much could that possibly cost us?
    .
    Just raise taxes or quit paving roads altogether so we can give proper send off to our poor retirees. The collective abuse we gave them for so many 35 week 6 hour a day years takes its toll. Besides their fat pensions they should be able to stick it to us evil taxpayers some more.

  5. Lifelong Teacher

    Steve, I see your point. Evidently the board wanted to just cut its losses, and going to trial would have been expensive. Enough people in the district know the deal with this situation, and know just what kind of teacher she was.

    Good teachers are worth their weight in gold. Good teachers who come to work every day – and actually teach. No one would force any good teacher, no matter what their age. No one.

  6. Steve’s analysis is correct. Our evaluation of the case indicated that the cost of litigating it through trial would be $75,000 – $100,000. There would also be the possibility of losing the case after incurring those expenses, with potentially greater expenses. Had that happened, the defenders of the taxpayers would have condemned us for going forward to trial when we could have minimized our losses by accepting a less expensive settlement – which is exactly what we did.

    Steve is also correct that major improvements have taken place (and are taking place) that will make such cases less likely in the future (this case is almost a decade old). Between Superintendent Rivera and his many reforms, a revamping of HR, and a complete redo of our evaluation systems (with a new focus on principals), we are taking the steps needed to minimize this kind of litigation.

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