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JAMIESON v. POUGHKEEPSIE CITY SCHOOL DIST.
March 20, 2002
LOIS JAMIESON, PLAINTIFF,
POUGHKEEPSIE CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT, THOMAS F. HALLEY, GERALDINE F. SAMSELSKI, PAUL MONACO, SUED INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR RESPECTIVE CAPACITIES AS MEMBERS OF THE POUGHKEEPSIE CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: McMAHON, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN
PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Defendants have moved separately for summary judgment pursuant
to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn1 The
District has also moved to dismiss plaintiffs claims against it
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
FACTS PERTINENT TO THE MOTION
On a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the facts
most favorably to the non-moving party — in this case, the
plaintiff — and draws all inferences in the plaintiffs favor.
See Cifarelli v. Village of Babylon, 93 F.3d 47, 51 (2d Cir.
By 1997, plaintiff had worked over 32 years in the Yonkers
School District. She served as a teacher and then principal for
several years, and then moved into a series of leadership
positions within that School District's central administration.
During her last three years in the Yonkers School District,
plaintiff was Assistant Superintendent in charge of Pupil
Support Services. She received her PhD in Education
Administration from Columbia in 1994. Plaintiffs evaluations as
a school administrator in Yonkers were uniformly positive.
Jamieson Dep. 12-51.
Defendant Geraldine Samselski was elected to the School Board
in May 1997. In May of 1998, Samselski was elected to serve a
one year term as President of the Board. She remained on the
Board until June 2000. Defendant Thomas Halley was elected to
the Board in 1997. Halley served on the Board during the
1997-1998 academic school year, as vice-president of the Board
during the 1998-1999 school year, and as president of the Board
during the 1999-2000 school year. Halley 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 2.
Defendant Paul Monaco was elected to the School Board in 1998,
and has remained a Board member to this day. Monaco and District
56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 3-4.
In June 1997, the Poughkeepsie School Board voted unanimously
to hire plaintiff as Superintendent. Jamieson Sep. 66-92;
Samselski Dep. 15. Although present at plaintiffs Board
interview, neither Samselski nor Halley could vote regarding her
hiring because plaintiff was selected before they became voting
Board members. Samselski Dep. 9-11; Jamieson Dep. 72-73; Halley
Dep. 13. Monaco was not yet a Board member.
2. The 1997-1998 School Year
During her first year as Superintendent, plaintiff claims that
most, if not all of her proposals to improve the District's
performance were passed by the Board, Jamieson Dep. 138-139, but
Samselski and Halley often voted against plaintiffs proposals.
Jamieson Dep. 139, 146; Watkins Aff. ¶ 3, Ex. 2.
Plaintiff further alleges that during this first year,
Samselski made comments to plaintiff suggesting that she
harbored a racial bias against plaintiff. Examples of these
alleged comments and actions are as follows:
• Plaintiff was late to a board meeting and
Samselski confronted her in the parking lot and
said, "You are going to be late all the time. I know
your kind." Jamieson Dep. 139-140.
• After a Session of the Board, Samselski said to
plaintiff, "I did my homework on you in Yonkers. I
know you only hire blacks." Jamieson Dep. 233,
• Samselski refused to address plaintiff as Dr.
Jamieson, even though plaintiff requested the Board
to address her as such. Jamieson alleges that
Samselski addressed her as "Lois," and on one
occasion addressed her as "Doc." Jamieson Aff. ¶ 4;
Jamieson Dep. 467.
• Samselski referred to plaintiff by often using the
term "you people." Jamieson Dep. 148-149.
Plaintiff does not allege that defendant Halley made overtly
biased comments in plaintiffs presence during her first year,
but does allege that he publicly embarrassed plaintiff "in a
manner that suggested a lack of respect for her." Plaintiff
claims that Halley publicly lambasted her in a newspaper article
for proposing to volunteer her husband's services as an
education consultant in the District. Referring to plaintiffs
failure to publicly disclose that the person she proposed to the
Board was her husband, Halley was quoted as saying, "I believe
it's a very clear conflict of interest. . . . It doesn't set a
good example for students in the District as to how a public
official should conduct himself or herself." Watkins Aff. ¶ 4,
Ex. 3; Jamieson Dep. 323-324.
Plaintiff also alleges that Halley, while opposing a proposed
school program, displayed racial animus toward her at a Board
meeting. Plaintiff called on a group of Latino people to make a
presentation for the program before the Board. Plaintiff alleges
that Halley said that the presenters weren't reputable and that
plaintiff was responsible for bringing them into the District.
Jamieson Dep., 374-375. Plaintiff interpreted this comment as
racially discriminatory. Id. Halley states that this comment
could not be interpreted as racially motivated because he did
not even know that the presenters were Latino; he thought that
they were Caucasian. Halley 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 18 & 20. He argues that
he was only remarking on the presenters' credibility.
Plaintiff further alleges that Halley acted in a
discriminatory manner toward her in his opposition to the
plaintiffs practices and policies concerning student discipline.
She claims that he criticized her for being too lenient in her
discipline of African-American students. Jamieson Dep. 357-358.
Halley claims that his opposition to plaintiffs discipline
practices and policies was not racially motivated because he did
not even know the race of the children being disciplined. Halley
56.1 Stmt. ¶ 25. He felt that plaintiff was too lenient overall.
In her first year, plaintiff received very high marks from 3
of 5 of the Board Members. Samselski and Halley gave her much
lower marks. Watkins Aff. ¶ 5, Ex. 4. They gave no explanation
for their evaluations. Jamieson Dep. 187-190; 194-195.
3. The 1998-1999 School Year
Defendant Monaco was elected to the Board, and Samselski was
elected Board President, effective July 1998. Monaco Dep. 47-48.
In July 1998, plaintiff alleges that Samselski accused her of
conspiring with an African American elementary school principal
in filing a complaint against Samselski with the Dutchess County
Human Rights Commission. Samselski threatened to bring plaintiff
up on disciplinary charges. Jamieson Aff. ¶ 5; Jamieson Dep.
506-511. Plaintiff claims that this accusation was untrue and
unsubstantiated. After this threat, plaintiff retained legal
counsel. Watkins Aff. ¶¶ 6-7, Exs. 5 &
6. Jamieson's attorney, Michael Sussman, wrote to Samselski
regarding the baseless charge. Watkins Aff. ¶ 6, Ex. 5.
In August 1998, Samselski allegedly told plaintiff "I don't
believe that the School District needs a Black Superintendent.
You are not going to be here. Either you accept the offer for a
buy-out [of your contract] or I'll make it impossible for you to
work here. I've got the votes." Jamieson Dep. 338-339; see
also Monaco Dep. 53-55 (confirming that Samselski proposed a
buy-out of Jamieson's contract to the board, and mentioned
having had a conversation with Jamieson).
Plaintiff rejected the buy-out offer, and alleges that
Samselski, with the support of Halley and Monaco, endeavored to
make her job "impossible." Watkins Aff. ¶ 7, Ex. 6. In a letter
to David Shaw, Esq., counsel for the School Board, plaintiffs
attorney expressed her rejection of the proposed buy-out, her
refusal to make a counter-proposal. Mr. Sussman expressed
plaintiffs concerns that Samselski and "another board member"
"engaged in acts to undermine her Superintendency." These acts
included, but were not limited to:
publicly embarrassing the Superintendent and her
husband, Donald Duncan, last January when he
volunteered to conduct needed human relations
training at the middle school; inviting the president
of the teachers' union to address an executive
session of the School Board and then not providing
Dr. Jamieson an opportunity to respond to her
baseless claims and charges; interfering with the
implementation of an improved security program at the
middle school; spearheading a ludicrous investigation
into claims that another African-American principal
"mimicked" the school board president; repetitively
and again baselessly questioning Dr. Jamieson's
residency and the status of her out-of-district home
despite clear evidence that Dr. Jamieson resides at
181 Academy Street in Poughkeepsie; associating the
Superintendent, solely on account of her race, with
"hatred" the Board President claims was expressed at
a recent school board meeting by "your black
community," e.g., parents aggrieved by what they
perceive to be school board interference with the Pop
Warner program. Id.
Mr. Sussman further informed Mr. Shaw that "there is a
scurrilous and racially polarizing campaign being waged against
Dr. Jamieson," and it "must stop and stop now." Id.
Plaintiff alleges that Samselski, Halley and Monaco
consistently blocked plaintiff's proposals to improve the
District's performance, and publicly and privately denigrated
her. Jamieson Aff. ¶ 20; Jamieson Dep. 192, 234-235, 245-246,
323-329, 374-375. As an example, plaintiff alleges that
Samselski told plaintiff that she did not know how to write and
was "illiterate." Jamieson Dep. 127-128. Furthermore, after one
Board meeting when members of the community expressed concern
over the Board's direction, Samselski accused plaintiff of
bringing "your Black community" to the meeting. Jamieson Dep.
In or about May/June 1999, plaintiff was supposed to receive
her performance evaluation for the 1998-99 year. Before
plaintiff received her evaluation, Samselski leaked to the press
that plaintiffs contract would not be renewed because of an
unsatisfactory performance evaluation. Jamieson Dep. 245-246;
In June 1999, the Board voted 3-2 not to renew plaintiffs
contract. Samselski, Halley and Monaco voted against the
renewal. Plaintiff alleges that defendants did so despite the
Poughkeepsie Journal's endorsement of plaintiff and other
outspoken support from the community, and that their votes were
motivated by racial animus to her. Watkins Aff. ¶ 12, Ex. 11;
Jamieson Dep. 241-242. Jamieson's contract terminated on July
4. The 1999-2000 School Year
Halley replaced Samselski as Board president in July 1999.
Jamieson Dep. 196. This occurred after plaintiffs ...