A state-appointed referee has ruled that a suspended Toledo Public Schools assistant principal should not be fired.
Sandra Meeks-Speller had been accused by district administrators of using inappropriate physical discipline with students, making threats, and using racially tinged language. She was placed on paid administrative suspension Aug. 8 pending possible termination.
District administrators have recommended she be fired, but the Toledo Board of Education makes final decisions on contract terminations. In cases of possible terminations, school employees can demand first to have a hearing before either the board or a state referee, and Ms. Meeks-Speller requested that hearing. The referee's recommendation isn't binding.
In his ruling, referee Anthony Gretick rejected nearly all of the district's accusations against Ms. Meeks-Speller, either because of lack of evidence, unconvincing testimony, biased witnesses, or because the allegations did not rise to the grounds of discipline.
Ms. Meeks-Speller had been a teacher an administrator at Scott High School from 1998 to 2007, and then moved to DeVeaux Junior High School. Chad Henderly became principal at DeVeaux in 2009, and Ms. Meeks-Speller began getting poor remarks on her evaluations.
She transferred to Spring Elementary in 2011, and worked under principal Victoria Dipman. Mr. Gretick said Ms. Dipman almost immediately began keeping a log on Ms. Meeks-Speller. Mr. Gretick argued that Mr. Henderly "poisoned the well" against Ms. Meeks-Speller at Spring by communicating with Ms. Dipman before the school year, though Mr. Henderly denied that.
"The phrase "toxic work environment" springs to mind when describing Ms. Speller's later tenure at DeVeaux and her tenure at Spring," Mr. Gretick said.
Beyond rejecting most of the district's assertions, Mr. Gretick also used his ruling to make far reaching claims about some TPS building administrators, arguing that the nearly all white administration at DeVeaux and Spring did not accept Ms. Meeks-Speller.
"At DeVeaux, she was the only female administrator and the only African-American administrator. As such, to a great extent she served as an important link to the
majority African-American community which is served by DeVeaux, which her early evaluations indicated," he wrote. "Ms. Speller was probably not accepted into the all-white male administrative hierarchy at DeVeaux which she described as an "old boys' network."