A principal who was demoted this summer sued RCS Superintendent Bill Spurlock and the Board of Education on Oct. 2 for alleged “unlawful transfer,” and two school board members said the lawsuit is news to them.
Angie Baker-Templeton, former principal of Christiana Elementary, filed the lawsuit Oct.2 in Rutherford County Chancery Court. The Murfreesboro Post left a message for her attorney, Kerry Knox, who has not responded as of this time.
RCS in June announced that Baker-Templeton and another principal had been demoted to teachers, citing employee turnover and performance on state measures.
“Both principals had been placed on a Plan of Assistance for the 2019-2020 school year because of poor academic performance at their schools,” the June statement said. “During the year, many resources were provided by the district to assist in improving the performance. However, after thorough evaluations of both schools’ direction, the decision was made to begin a fresh start with new leadership.”
“Both schools are currently rated as a Level 1 out of 5 for growth on the most recent Tennessee Department of Education Report Card,” RCS said in June. “In contrast, Rutherford County Schools is rated Level 5 for student growth as a district.”
The Post asked Spurlock, RCS staff attorney Sara Page, outside school board counsel Jeff Reed and RCS communications director James Evans for a comment.
Evans said, “Although we can’t comment on a case in litigation, we plan to strongly contest the claims via the judicial process.”
The Post contacted board members Claire Maxwell and Tammy Sharp, who expressed surprise about the lawsuit.
Maxwell said, “This is news to me.”
Sharp said, “I've heard nothing from our school board attorney. When was the suit filled and served and who is the plaintiff?”
Baker-Templeton, in the lawsuit, said she was demoted in early June. As a result, her salary dropped by $30,442.86 annually.
The closing of schools meant that annual standardized student tests were not given, which meant there were no student achievement and growth data, required parts of her 2019-20 evaluation, the lawsuit says.
Another tool is the Teacher Educator Acceleration Model (TEAM), which is used to evaluate educators. Spurlock allegedly failed to follow the model since he did not complete any required observations of the plaintiff, the lawsuit says. Baker-Templeton said she did not receive full feedback and scoring, leading her to believe she was in good standing and was following the Plan of Assistance. RCS did not complete a TEAM evaluation, and a search for the record on the Tennessee Department of Education website lists, “Covid,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit says that since Spurlock did not fully evaluate the principal, he was not allowed to use evaluation data to demote or transfer her under Tennessee Code Annotated 49-1-302(d)(2) and State Bord of Education Policy 5.201.
Templeton-Baker’s lawsuit says the demotion of a principal to teacher is covered by TCA 49-5-510, which “prohibits transfers that are arbitrary, capricious or improperly motivated.” She cited other regulations as well.
She asks that the court rule: that Spurlock’s alleged failure to evaluate her be declared a “deprivation of the Plaintiff’s rights;” declare her transfer or demotion as “unlawful, arbitrary and capricious;” order the defendants to reinstate her as principal of Christiana Elementary; order the Board of Education to pay her back pay together with pre-judgment interest; and she receive “further and general relief.”