Schalmont Central School District officials have reached a settlement with a special education teacher they were trying to discipline, agreeing to a 10-day suspension instead of a state hearing.
The district’s Board of Education last month approved the agreement with tenured teacher Patricia Green-Dehn, who has been with the district since 1994 and is listed on Schalmont’s website as a special education teacher at Jefferson Elementary School. The district began a disciplinary action against her Oct. 9 for unspecified allegations, according to the agreement obtained by The Daily Gazette through a Freedom of Information Law request. Green-Dehn denied the allegations against her and requested a hearing.
Under Article 3020-a of state Education Law, teachers are entitled to a hearing before an impartial hearing officer. The state Education Department is facing a backlog of teacher review hearings, as it has had difficulty reimbursing hearing officers in a timely fashion. In recent years, the delay has stretched to around two years.
However, both parties reached a settlement under which the district agreed to withdraw the charges against Green-Dehn. She will receive about $75,708 in salary for the 2012-13 school year. She was due to receive $79,693, but will be suspended 10 days without pay and lose $3,985. About $285 will be deducted from each of the 14 paychecks she was due to receive through June 21, under the agreement.
In addition, Green-Dehn will keep her district-provided health insurance but is still obligated to pay her share of employee premiums. She is using sick leave through Feb. 1 and has been approved to use the staff sick leave pool so she may remain on medical leave through June 30.
The contract says teachers may give up two of their sick days to the sick leave pool. People can use the pool for a serious personal or family illness or accident after they have used up their own six sick days, upon receiving approval from the superintendent and president of the teacher’s union.
Green-Dehn also signed a waiver that she will not bring any grievance against the district under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects employees ages 40 and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, firing or other terms of employment, according to the U.S. Department of Labor website.
The matter will be placed in a separate personnel file but could be used against her if a similar allegation arises in the future, according to the agreement.
Also, the parties agreed not to disclose the nature of the settlement, which was signed by Green-Dehn, Board of Education President Sandra Beloncik and former Superintendent Valerie Kelsey.
“The parties agree that their actions into this agreement are the result of a good faith compromise, as well as a desire to resolve this matter without any litigation, administrative proceedings or grievances. Therefore, this settlement will not be deemed or portrayed as an admission of guilt or wrongdoing on the part of any party to this agreement,” the settlement stated.
Reached by telephone, Beloncik said it was a personnel matter and referred all questions to Superintendent Carol Pallas.
The district issued a statement, saying: “It’s important for our community to know that the Board of Education did not enter into this settlement lightly. In fact, they did so because they believed this option was in the best interest of the district and allows us to move forward with the important work we do for our students and our school community.”
Pallas, who was not with the district when the settlement was reached, could not comment further on the matter but said it is expected that Green-Dehn will return to her position in the next school year.
A working telephone number could not be found for Green-Dehn and Mary Beth Flatley, president of the Schalmont Teachers Association, did not immediately respond to an email message.