Complaints dropped against 2 school board members in Wareham principal’s discrimination trial

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WAREHAM – Complaints against two school board members in the discrimination lawsuit against school principal Kimberly Shaver-Hood have been dropped but remain in effect for a former third member and the city’s school board.

Motions to dismiss the complaints against Mary Morgan and Apryl Rossi at the behest of Shaver-Hood’s attorney were granted by Plymouth County Superior Court on November 3, leaving the city-school committee and the former member of the Michael Flaherty committee as defendants.

Shaver-Hood initially sued the city, the school committee and the three members individually for discrimination based on his sexual orientation, gender, age and protected activity.

Shaver-Hood is described in the lawsuit filed on December 24 as a 64-year-old lesbian.

Shaver-Hood has served as Wareham’s superintendent since 2013. She filed a complaint with the city on November 15, 2019 alleging discriminatory employment practices and harassment by the committee and its members.

It was the day after the board gave him his annual employee review.

The lawsuit says she had always received favorable reviews before November 14, 2019. Favorable reviews can trigger salary increases, as well as contract extensions.

According to the lawsuit, Flaherty and Rossi’s “need improvement” scores and Morgan’s “unsatisfactory” rating cost him a raise.

Their assessments were based on “untruths and inaccuracies” and “ignored objective facts,” according to the lawsuit.

Shaver-Hood was “shocked and humiliated” by the overall assessment which “resulted from the baseless negative assessments of the accused Flaherty, Morgan and Rossi”.

In December 2019, Shaver-Hood refuted the assessment. The assessment and rebuttal were made during public committee meetings. “I want to let people know that I appreciated some of the reviews,” she said, adding that she felt honest communication was important. Then she mentioned, without being precise, a critical evaluation among the notes she received. “But this assessment was petty and a brutal personal attack.”

Shaver-Hood was reassessed for 2020 last November and was awarded a one-year contract extension and a $ 2,000 merit bonus. She did not receive a raise, however, although her scores would have allowed for an increase. A proposed 2% increase was denied 3-2, with Flaherty, Rossi and Morgan voting against.

Shaver-Hood said at the time that she reserved the right to refute some of the member’s reviews at a later date.

The meeting continued and was about to end when Flaherty returned to the assessment.

He recommended a merit bonus of $ 2,000 to recognize Shaver-Hood’s efforts. It would be a one-time payment and would not be part of his approximately $ 165,000 salary. The committee accepted the bonus, 4-1, with Morgan voting against.

In the months leading up to the 2019 assessment which is the subject of the lawsuit, Flaherty, Rossi and Morgan “engaged in communications with Dr. Shaver-Hood, with each other and with members of the public who indicate a hostility towards Dr. Shaver-Hood. Shaver-Hood based on gender and / or age and / or sexual orientation, “according to the lawsuit.

He alleges that in September 2019, Rossi “had a text message exchange with an employee of the Wareham City Transportation Department in which the employee referred to Dr Shaver-Hood as” shaverbush “, and the text from Defendant Rossi’s response contained no effort to deter discriminatory slurs and Defendant Rossi’s textual response… to “shaverbush”, in fact, ended with “haha”.

Rossi has also been used to criticizing Shaver-Hood for his methods of communicating with parents since his election to the committee in 2019, and has “repeatedly shown contempt for Dr. Shaver-Hood’s age,” according to the reporters. complaints in the initial trial. The lawsuit added that Rossi is about 25 years younger.

Flaherty, according to the complaint, “regularly interacted with Dr. Shaver-Hood with an attitude of superiority” before and after the 2019 assessment.

“Based on Dr. Shaver-Hood’s observations, the accused Flaherty treated her differently from men. He regularly made demeaning requests to her. He asked her to be at his disposal, treating her as his personal “gopher” (sic) by regularly asking her for information and material as if her sole purpose was to meet her needs. Dr. Shaver-Hood never saw the accused Flaherty treat men in a humiliating way. On the contrary, she observed him treating men with respect, ”according to the lawsuit.

Shaver-Hood had filed a complaint with Mass. Commission Against Discrimination on June 22, 2020 “after many months without any results from the investigation into his discrimination complaint to the city”.

The law firm hired by the city to investigate the complaint reported on June 29, 2020 that “… there is not enough credible evidence to conclude that school committee members violated WPS discriminatory harassment police According to the lawsuit, which adds that the investigation was “limited in scope and depth, and the unsworn denials of defendants Flaherty, Morgan and Rossi were accepted without any investigation or apparent questioning of their veracity.”

The MCAD investigation was closed because Shaver-Hood withdrew the lawsuit to file in court, according to an MCAD official.

The complaint also alleges: “Outside of their official duties, the defendants Morgan and Rossi defamed Dr. Shaver-Hood in text messages, falsely accusing Dr. Shaver-Hood of lying (eg, ‘bullshit’,” her lies “,” it’s fishy, ​​”she’s hiding stuff”, “another lie”); accusing her of financial impropriety (eg, “Kathleen: Please keep checking outside. I’ve been saying since she arrived. Where’s the money going? A. Rossi: I’m wondering the same thing. ” ); and calling her a “control freak” and “psychopath”.

They also made false statements about Shaver-Hood in the line of duty knowing they were false or in reckless disregard of their falsity, with unnecessary publication or actual malice, so that the statements are not protected, according to the lawsuit.

The examples cited in the complaint are taken from their written assessments of Shaver-Hood.

Morgan’s were as follows: “I have serious concerns about the management of the Superintendent’s finances. “

“There were (sic) several questionable uses of funding as well. “

The superintendent also said the polls were coming home to parents who had decided to send their children elsewhere. Many parents said they never received the survey.

“Families continue to leave the neighborhood.

Rossi’s responses were: “Also in light of the fact that President Flaherty was the only catalyst to advance asbestos decontamination in colleges …”

“When it comes to parenting surveys on school choice, as evidenced by a survey I conducted on social media during my campaign, parents were never overwhelmingly asked about why they chose to choose the school. “

These statements “subject Dr Shaver-Hood to contempt, hatred, contempt or ridicule or tend to damage his reputation in the community, at least to discredit him in the minds of a considerable and respectable segment of the community ”, according to the lawsuit.

The six-count trial alleges discrimination based on sex, discrimination based on sexual orientation, discrimination based on age, retaliation, aiding and abetting discrimination and defamation.

Flaherty, Morgan and Rossi are said to have helped and abetted and the initial lawsuit states that Shaver-Hood is entitled to recover damages from them “in an official and individual capacity”.

Defamation had been alleged against Morgan and Rossi, and the original complaint stated that “Shaver-Hood is entitled to a public apology and substantial retractions and monetary damages from the defendants Morgan and Rossi individually.

The lawsuit also seeks “back pay, first installments, lost benefits, damages for emotional distress and mental anguish, other compensatory damages, punitive damages and consequential damages, damages. special interest, accrued interest, as well as attorney’s fees and expenses, and any other relief that this Court considers just and appropriate.

Shaver-Hood’s annual assessment for 2021 took place by the school committee last week. Morgan and Rossi are still members, but Flaherty has refused to stand for re-election.

School committee chairperson Joyce Bacchiocchi pointed out that this was her third participation in the assessment process and that no other employee is assessed in this way in public. She added that Shaver-Hood did not have the courtesy of seeing her assessment prior to the meeting, a practice she disagrees with but is state law.

The board talked about improving the process, she said, adding that she hopes members will do so in the future.

The other four committee members had the opportunity to prepare an assessment and Bacchiocchi put them together and prepared a compilation or summary, she said.

All rated the superintendent as “competent,” she said.

Bacchiocchi took anonymous, mostly free, excerpts from the reviews and read them. There is no rating increase this year as this issue was addressed in his contract, Bacchiocchi said.

Morgan said she wanted to explain why she hadn’t submitted an assessment this year.

She said there were two reasons, one being that the process used was against school committee policy where a form was filled out for assessment in the past.

She said the second was, “I think if I said something negative it would feel like retaliation.”

The committee voted to accept the 2021 assessment summary with Morgan and Rossi abstaining.


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