Court overturns Westside employment case
JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) – The Craighead County Circuit Court will now have to look further into an employment dispute at the Westside Consolidated School District.
Back in 2020, Circuit Judge Melissa Richardson granted a summary judgment in the school district’s favor in regard to its compliance with the Arkansas Teacher Fair Dismissal Act.
According to court documents, a former assistant principal for Westside Middle School, Ulanda Digby-Branch, was told her contract would not be renewed, citing financial concerns.
In a complaint filed by Digby-Branch in July 2020, she alleged there were issues of racial and sexual discrimination and harassment within the district.
However, on Wednesday, March 15, appellate judge Mike Murphy said there were more questions than answers regarding the original decision and the actions of Superintendent Scott Gauntt.
“Concerning the RIF policy, the court stated in an incorporated letter opinion that it disagreed with Digby-Branch’s argument because “Gauntt’s decision to consider RIF policies did not convert the rationale underpinning the recommendation to exclusively RIF criteria. The school board has the obligation to substantially comply with its policies and procedures and address the budget shortfall in an objective manner.” Essentially, the court found that by referring to the RIF policy language for guidance, it did not convert this general ATFDA nonrenewal to a RIF-specific ATFDA nonrenewal,” the judge said.
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