SALEM Ex-teacher sues school district, asks court to have her reinstated
The district superintendent denies the suit's allegations.
By NORMAN LEIGH
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
SALEM -- A former teacher is suing the city school district in federal court, alleging her contract wasn't renewed because of her age and in retaliation for her opposition to racial discrimination she says was occurring in the district.
Judith Herbick, of Orchard Bend Drive, filed the lawsuit earlier this month in Youngstown.
Herbick, 62, is asking the court to order her to be reinstated and to award her an unspecified amount of back pay, $250,000 in compensatory damages and an unspecified amount of punitive damages.
"I'm not sure why she's suing us," Schools Superintendent Dr. David Brobeck said this morning.
Brobeck said Herbick's contract to teach gifted and challenged pupils wasn't renewed because the district was trying to save money.
As for her allegation of racial discrimination in the school district, Brobeck said he is uncertain what she is speaking of.
Contacted today, Herbick would not elaborate on her racial discrimination allegation.
About the suit
The lawsuit alleges that on July 1, 2002, the district told her that her contract, which paid $32.15 an hour, would be renewed.
But on Aug. 21, 2002, the district notified her that it would not renew her contract, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit says she was replaced by a younger and less-qualified person.
Brobeck said Herbick's job involved teaching part time at St. Paul's parochial school in Salem. The post is state funded and is administered by the city school district.
The school board decided not to rehire Herbick and to use full-time city school district teachers to handle the part-time job at St. Paul's. That would enable the district to pay part of the full-time teachers' salary with the state money provided, Brobeck explained.
He added that Herbick, who worked for the school district for about five years, never contested the district's decision to not renew her contract.
The federal lawsuit comes amid a continuing criminal investigation into the school district's treasurer's office and just weeks before the Nov. 4 general election, in which the district is seeking passage of a new 7.85-mill emergency levy. Officials say the levy is needed to keep the district from plunging into the red.
The Columbiana County prosecutor's office also is probing the actions of former schools treasurer Ted Cougras.
Cougras resigned in December 2002 just as the prosecutor's office launched an investigation into his activities at the district, including the purchase of office equipment delivered to his Poland home.
The lawsuit also comes after news in August that the district's former high school principal, Charles McShane, pleaded guilty to theft in office.
The theft charge originates from McShane's stealing more than $4,000 from the school district between fall 2000 and early this year, when he was no longer principal but served as ticket manager for a basketball tournament at Salem High.
There's no way of telling how the events will affect the district as it seeks the levy passage, Brobeck said.
"Obviously, people will wonder what's going on," he said.
But the district is working hard to correct any faults, he added.