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Published: Wednesday, 7/24/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Ex-administrator at TPS asks $3M in suit over firing

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Meeks- Speller Meeks- Speller
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A recently fired Toledo Public Schools assistant principal on Tuesday appealed her termination in Lucas County Common Pleas Court and asked a judge to award her about $3 million.

Sandra Meeks-Speller, who most recently was assistant principal at Spring Elementary, claimed the district fired her last month without “good and just cause.” She asks the court to reinstate her and award her damages from TPS for a variety of claims, including malicious breach of contract, defamation, and causing emotional stress and mental pain.

She also wants the charges against her and related records expunged from her file.

Toledo Public Schools administrators accused her of using inappropriate physical discipline with students, making threats, and using racially tinged language.

Much of Ms. Meeks-Speller’s complaint against the district references a state-appointed referee’s decision about her fate.

When TPS administrators recommended she be fired, Ms. Meeks-Speller requested a hearing before the board, which the board then apparently interpreted as a request for a hearing before a referee.

The referee recommended Ms. Meeks-Speller not be fired, but the board chose last month to terminate her. The president of the local chapter of the NAACP claims Lisa Sobecki, who was president of the board in 2012, reneged on a promise to follow the referee’s recommendation.

On June 25, the board voted to fire Ms. Meeks-Speller. The board was critical of the referee’s report, which it said missed important information and drew false conclusions.

Though Ms. Meeks-Speller doesn’t explicitly allege racial bias in her appeal, she does allude to it, referencing that she is African-American and was the only African-American administrator at DeVeaux Elementary, where formal criticism against her began.

Among her allegations are that district administrators used allegations against her that were not timely, based on the collective bargaining agreement between TPS and the administrators’ union.

She also says that union agreement was violated because documents about her employment were maintained by TPS without showing them to her. She also claims that the allegations made by the district against her were false, and thus defamed her.

“The Board’s false statements will forever taint Ms. Speller(’s) professional reputation and career. She will incorrectly be viewed as one who abuses students physically and emotionally,” the complaint reads.

Ms. Meeks-Speller had 30 days to appeal her termination to the court. Jerome Pecko, TPS superintendent, said the appeal was expected, but declined further comment.

“We’ll just wait to see how it plays out in the courts,” he said.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.



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