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Grant v. Rochester City School District

United States District Court, Second Circuit

June 18, 2013

MARILYNN PATTERSON GRANT, Plaintiff,
v.
ROCHESTER CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT and SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, JEAN-CLAUDE BRIZARD, Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER

MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Marilynn Patterson Grant ("Plaintiff"), brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq.; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the "ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq.; 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("§ 1981"); 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983"); and the New York State Human Rights Law ("NYSHRL") against her former employer, the Rochester City School District ("RCSD") and Superintendent of Schools, Jean-Claude Brizard ("Brizard"), (collectively, "Defendants"). Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Rule 56"), contending that Plaintiff has not produced sufficient evidence of a denial of her Constitutional rights or unlawful discrimination or retaliation such that a reasonable jury could find in her favor. Plaintiff opposes the motion, contending that there are material issues of fact which preclude summary judgment. For the reasons discussed herein, the Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's causes of action.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the entire record, including the parties' submissions pursuant to Local Rule 56(a), and are not in dispute unless otherwise noted. (Docket Nos. 33-5, 36-1)

Plaintiff, an African American female, was born on October 26, 1952 and she was over 40 years of age at all relevant times. Superintendent Brizard was also over 40 years of age at all relevant times.

Prior to her termination in 2010, Plaintiff was employed by the RCSD for 35 years. She began her career with RCSD as a teacher at Franklin High School in 1975. Thereafter, Plaintiff worked in the administrative roles of House Coordinator, Principal, Social Studies Director, Chief of Small Schools and Chief Academic Officer. In June 2008, Superintendent Brizard offered Plaintiff the newly created position of Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning position. Brizard did not seek other candidates for the position, but offered the position directly to Plaintiff, who was 56 years old at the time of her appointment.

Plaintiff earned an annual salary of $160, 000 in the position of Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, which was a higher salary than every other employee except the Superintendent and the Deputy Superintendent for Operations. Plaintiff's new position was subject to the Rules and Regulations of the Board of Education Relating to the Superintendent's Employee Group.

Although she had many years of experience with RCSD, the Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning position came with greater responsibility than any other previously held position. As Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, Plaintiff was responsible for curriculum, instruction, and assessment for the entire pre-kindergarten through grade twelve programs district-wide, which included approximately 35, 000 students. She was second in command to the Superintendent, oversaw a budget of approximately sixty million dollars, and supervised approximately thirty direct reports in a department with approximately three hundred employees.

Plaintiff reported directly to Brizard, who determined the expectations for her role as Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning and was the sole evaluator of her performance while she held that position.

Throughout her employment in that position, Plaintiff and Brizard had conflicts and differences of opinion with respect to how work should be performed at the District. Deposition Transcript of Marilynn Patterson Grant(hereinafter "Patterson Grant Dep.") at 24-25, 36-39, 42-46, 50-51, 67-77, 80-84, 87-88. Although Plaintiff provides many reasons why she believed that Brizard incorrectly evaluated her work, Brizard nonetheless was dissatisfied with Plaintiff's performance as Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning and documented his critiques of Plaintiff's work in a negative mid-year evaluation on June 23, 2009. Exhibit E to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff provided a written response and rebuttal to Brizard's mid-year evaluation.

On December 8, 2009, Brizard gave another negative review of Plaintiff's performance in his end of year evaluation, which stated in the concluding paragraph, "Marilynn, during our August 2008 retreat with the Broad Superintendents it was clear that you could not move from the script created by and for you. It was then that I became gravely concerned about your readiness for this work. You seem to have had difficulty making the important connections between district reform and the work of a Teaching and Learning Division. It is with a bit of distress that I must say that you did not meet my expectations for the 2008-2009 school year." Exhibit G to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

On January 22, 2010, Superintendent Brizard met with Plaintiff and informed her of his decision to terminate her employment. He gave her a letter dated January 22, 2010 and orally explained to her that she had the options of resigning, retiring, or having her employment terminated without cause as defined in the Rules and Regulations of the Board of Education Relating to the Superintendent's Employee Group, which would have entitled her to receive six months' severance pay. Exhibit H to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

Plaintiff responded by letter dated January 25, 2010, and advised Superintendent Brizard that she chose neither to resign nor to retire, and requested that, "if you choose to discontinue my employment, I be [sic] provided all I am entitled to under Article 21 of the Rules and Regulations of the Board of Education Relating to the Superintendent's Employee Group (Abolition or Discontinuance of Service; Severance Benefits)." Exhibit I to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

Thereafter, by letter dated January 26, 2010, Brizard notified Plaintiff that, effective January 26, 2010, her service as Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and Learning and her employment with RCSD "shall be discontinued without cause, pursuant to Section 21 of the Rules and Regulations of the Board of Education relating to the Superintendent's Employees Group." Exhibit J to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

Brizard then offered to fill the vacancy in the position to Andrea Lewis, a female in her fifties, who ultimately declined the offer. Brizard then hired Elizabeth ...


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