A veteran secretary with Metro Nashville Public Schools filed suit Monday in Chancery Court claiming she was passed over for a job given to a younger, less qualified candidate.
It just so happens that that younger, less qualified candidate was the daughter-in-law of the school system’s Director of Plant Operations and Maintenance Services, according to the suit filed by Service Employees International Union, Local 205.
Betty Russell, a 29-year employee with Metro Schools, was one of two candidates that interviewed for the position of senior secretary at Middle College High School, according to the complaint. The other candidate, who was ultimately hired, had three years experience at the time of the interviews in late 2008. She quit after only two months on the job.
Russell claims she followed the grievance process outlined in Metro Schools Support Staff Handbook, but the director of schools ignored the recommendations of an outside review.
The outside review found the position was filled “based on favoritism and/or other considerations” and that Russell was “overwhelmingly more qualified in regard to seniority, training and experience,” the suit says.
The suit claims the director of schools and the Board of Education failed to follow the recommendations of outside review which included placing Russell in a comparable position.
“After receiving instructions from the administrative law judge to compensate Ms. Russell or find her a comparable position, Director of Schools Jesse Register decided not to comply with the instructions he was given,” said Michelle Owens, an attorney for SEIU who filed the lawsuit.
“Also, the Metro School Board has stood silent and not exercised their role to make sure that the Director acts upon the recommendations of a court officer who they themselves hired.”
The suit requests a judicial review of the process. Once the union’s petition for review is filed, all evidence, testimony, and records in the case will be brought before the Chancellor for review.
“What we have here are favoritism, nepotism, and, maybe even age discrimination,” said Doug Collier, president of SEIU Local 205 — a labor union that represents MNPS employees. “It is [the school board’s] responsibility to make sure that hiring policies are followed by all staff and to properly oversee the Director of Schools and they haven’t done either.”
Although it has not seen the complaint, Metro Nashville Public Schools spokesperson Olivia Brown said the administration believes it has responded “appropriately and in good faith throughout this process.”
“Metro Schools, including the Board and administration, values our employees and their contributions to our students.” Brown said. “We follow the negotiated agreements for our support and certificated staff and always seek to resolve issues in a manner that is agreeable to all parties.”