Parrish High School teacher Maurice Thomas and his attorney, John Saxon, disputed the transfer during the board’s last meeting held Thursday evening. After hours of discussion, the board decided Thursday to vote on the matter Tuesday.
Saxon said he and his client were pleased by the vote.
“We think they made the right decision based on the evidence,” he said.
Saxon and Thomas disputed the transfer, saying the board failed to meet both state and local guidelines.
Saxon said the board’s notification letter to Thomas did not list all of the reasons for his transfer and did not provide the time and place of the hearing. State law requires both, Saxon said.
Saxon added the county school board did not follow its own policies regarding involuntary transfers of teachers. The board’s policy requires a decrease in the school’s enrollment and the exhaustion of all volunteer resources before an involuntary transfer can take place. Saxon said the transfer met neither of those criteria.
The board’s policy also states that, with all other factors considered, transfers will be decided by seniority. Saxon said Parrish High has two physical education teachers who are less senior than Thomas.
Russ Robertson, attorney for the school board, said the board was following state laws with the transfer. If school districts do not have enough reserve funds, they are required to cut costs through reductions in personnel, he said.
Robertson said the state law and the board’s policies do conflict, but the state law takes ultimate priority. He added the two teachers Saxon referred to were not hired as PE teachers, but only have certifications as PE teachers.
Robertson said the transfer came about because Parrish High has too many PE teachers. Administrators at Parrish High have tried to hire teachers that also coach sports, he said. Thomas has coached several sports in the past. However, Robertson said Thomas would not coach due to a pending discrimination complaint Thomas has against the Board of Education.
Thomas filed a claim of age discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2008 after he applied for a head coaching position at Oakman High School. The board awarded Thomas the job. However, the Oakman High School Board of Trustees refused to accept his appointment. In his complaint, Thomas cited the Board of Trustees’ rejection letter, which stated, “We have found a young, energetic coach to start this revival (of the basketball team).”
The EEOC found that Thomas was discriminated against. Saxon said he and Thomas will move forward with a lawsuit against both the Board of Education and the Oakman High School Board of Trustees.
When asked if the Thomas’ discrimination complaint was a factor in his transfer, Robertson said no one has shown evidence that the board acted in retaliation.