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Rosemary v. Pioneer Central School District

December 30, 2011

ROSEMARY DANIELS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PIONEER CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny Chief Judge United States District Court

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Rosemary Daniels brings this action alleging that her former employer, Defendant Pioneer Central School District ("Pioneer") violated her rights under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq. ("ADEA"). Presently before this Court is Pioneer's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Docket No. 21.) For the following reasons, Pioneer's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Daniels, a former reading teacher for Pioneer who started in that position in the 1976-1977 school year, was released in 2006. (Defendants' Statement of Facts ("Def's State." ¶ 1, 30; Docket No. 26.)*fn1 Her claim arises out of that termination and Pioneer's subsequent decisions declining to re-hire her.

As one of two senior reading teachers at Pioneer's Delevan Elementary School, Daniels worked under the auspices of the Academic Intervention Services ("AIS") program.

In the spring of 2006, Pioneer restructured the manner in which it provides AIS to students. (Id. ¶ 10.) As part of the restructuring, Pioneer moved the reading instruction program to the classroom, where it was to be managed by the classroom teacher with help from teaching assistants. (Id. ¶ 11.) Consequently, Daniels' position as reading teacher was eliminated. (Id. ¶ 12.) Pioneer claims that it made this decision to save money and provide more effective reading instruction to the students. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12.) Daniels claims that Pioneer's true motive was discriminatory. In support of this charge she points to the following facts.

Since 1979, four teachers,*fn2 including Daniels, have been granted tenure in Reading, as defined by New York State's Codes, Rules, and Regulations. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) One teacher, Sheila Potter was discharged at the same time as Daniels, but because of the following change, it appears that the other two younger teachers, Jacqueline McLean and Carol Bojanowski were not.*fn3 (Id.) According to Pioneer, sometime in 2004, the Pioneer Faculty Association ("Teachers' Union") questioned whether McLean and Bowjanowski, in addition to inclusion on the Reading tenure list, should also be included on the tenure list for Elementary Education. Pursuant to this request, Pioneer reviewed McLean's and Bowjanowski's file and determined that the Teachers' Union was correct and placed them on the Elementary Education tenure list, while maintaining their status on the Reading list. (Id. ¶ 6.) Consequently, when the reading program was eliminated, McLean and Bowjanowski were retained as elementary teachers, while Daniels was released.

Daniels, however, claims that McLean and Bowjanowski were placed on a different tenure list because they were younger and to preserve their jobs at the expense of Daniel's position. (Plaintiff's Statement of Facts ("Pl.'s State." ¶ 7; Docket No. 38.)

Further, sometime in late 2005 or early 2006, the Principal of Delevan Elementary, Jeannine Wagner, conducted a staff meeting where she stated, "If teachers at or near retirement would retire, let us know as soon as possible. It would make room for the bright, young talent coming in at the other end." (Id. ¶ 8.) In the fall of 2005, Wagner conducted another meeting where she stated, "Those of you who are old enough to retire need to think about it now so that we can make room for the new thinking and younger staff." (Christine Parker Affidavit ¶ 5; Docket No. 35-12.) Then, in the spring of 2006, she made a series of comments to Daniels:

--"Well, aren't you tier one or two?"*fn4 --"Can't you just retire?" --"Haven't you been with the school for years?" --"Aren't you a thirty-year teacher?" --"Can't you just retire?" --"You're about ready." (Pl.'s State. ¶ 8.)

Principal Wagner had similar discussions with Sheila Potter and at least two other senior teachers, Christine Parker and Eileen Kalinowski. (Sheila Potter Affidavit ¶ 6; Docket No. 35-6; Christine Parker Affidavit ¶ 7; Eileen Kalinowski Affidavit ¶ 5; Docket No. 35-14.)

Subsequently, after Daniels was released, she applied for a pre-Kindergarten and Student Intervention Coordinator position with Pioneer. (Def's State. ¶ 43.) In both cases, much younger candidates were hired instead. (Pl.'s State. ¶¶ 12-13.) Further, although Daniels did not apply for it, she claims that a position entitled "Response to Intervention Specialist" ("RTI"), for which Kristen Meir was hired in 2009, encompasses duties similar to those which Daniels ...


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