The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM J. HIBBLER, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Predonna Roberts believed that the Naperville Community Unit
School District unfairly fired her from her position as the
principal of Madison Junior High School. Roberts sued the
District, alleging that it fired her because of her race and
gender in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, in retaliation for her
opposition to racial discrimination in violation of
42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and without giving her due process in violation of
42 U.S.C. § 1983. The District moves for summary judgment.
Both parties move to strike portions of the other's statement
of facts. And both parties throughout their statements of fact
frequently fail to direct the court to the appropriate portion of
the record or to the deposition testimony of a witness with
personal knowledge of the subject matter or the parties cite to
material that simply is not relevant, all of which are improper.
See Greer v. Board of Educ. of City of Chicago, Ill.,
267 F.3d 723, 727 (7th Cir. 2001); Eisenstadt v. Centel Corp.,
113 F.3d 738, 742 (7th Cir. 1997); Winskunas v. Birnbaum, 23 F.3d 1264,
1268 (7th Cir. 1994); Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp. v. Meyer,
781 F.2d 1260, 1267 (7th Cir. 1986). Defendants' facts are riddled with statements of fact that rely
upon matters outside the personal knowledge of the deponent or
that simply are not relevant. For example, Defendant attempts to
show that Roberts did not know the names of her staff members by
citing to the deposition testimony of Patrice Olinger and
Jacqueline Plourde. (Def. 56.1(a) Statement ¶¶ 64-65). Olinger
testified that "People talked about her not knowing their name."
Plourde testified that Roberts did not know Marie Higgins' name
because Higgins "told us" and that she "believe[d]" that Ellen
Rathunde also told her that Roberts did not know her name. None
of these statements is based on the witness' personal knowledge.
In another statement, Defendant points to facts suggesting that
Kathryn Houk, a teacher at Madison, felt that Roberts was not a
good principal. (Def. 56.1(a) Statement ¶¶ 78, 81, 85). But Houk
was not a decisionmaker, nor does Defendant point to any evidence
that Houk communicated her concern to Bryan, the primary
decisionmaker for the Defendant. Defendant does not suggest that
Houk, because of her teaching experience, is an expert competent
to testify on the characteristics of a good principal. Houk's
opinion is simply a naked opinion, lacking any relevance to the
issues at hand. To the extent that Defendant's statement of facts
relies upon irrelevant testimony or upon testimony that is not
based on the personal knowledge of the witness, those statements
will be disregarded.
Plaintiff's statement of facts, on the other hand, frequently
fails to point the Court to the specific part of the record where
the disputed fact can be found. For example, Paragraphs 55, 68,
70, 80, 87, 91, 98, 102, and 122 of Roberts' 56.1(b)(3)(b)
Statement and Paragraphs 133, 136, 138, and 161 of her
56.1(b)(3)(a) Statement fail to direct the Court to any specific
portion of the record to support the statement. These paragraphs
therefore are stricken. Roberts also repeatedly denies facts from
the Defendant, but points to evidence that in no way refutes the
contested fact. For example, Roberts consistently points to the fact that no
grievances were filed against her to dispute Defendant's
proffered facts regarding complaints about Roberts' performance.
But grievances are but one of many ways faculty may have
complained about Roberts. Paragraphs 51, 55, 61, 86, 87, 98, and
99 of Roberts' 56.1(b)(3)(A) Statement are also stricken (and the
corresponding paragraphs of Defendant's 56.1(a) Statement are
therefore admitted). Except as otherwise noted here, the
Plaintiff's and Defendant's motions to strike are denied.
Prior to the start of the 1999-2000 school year, the District
interviewed several candidates to assume the vacant principal
position at Madison Junior High School. (Bryan Dep. at 6-7). The
District put together an interview committee consisting of
parents, teachers, and administrators (including the outgoing
principal, Jerry Virgo, and the Assistant Superintendent for
Human Resources, Dr. Michael Kiser). (Bryan Dep. at 6-7). Dr.
Kiser and Russ Bryan, the Associate Superintendent responsible
for supervising Madison, eventually recommended to the School
Board that it hire Roberts for the position at Madison. (Def.
56.1(a) Statement ¶ 26). The Board accepted the recommendation
and the District hired Roberts, an African American female, as
the principal of Madison Junior High School for the 1999-2000
school year. (Def. 56.1(a) Statement ¶¶ 1, 7, 28).
In October 1999, Roberts held a meeting with Madison's school
counselors to discuss the school's approach to dealing with
at-risk students. (Roberts Dep. at 69-74). According to Roberts,
the counselors disagreed with her suggested plan and shortly
thereafter "started a campaign" against her. (Roberts Dep. at
71-74). Roberts suspected that Sally Pentecost, the assistant
principal and also an applicant for the principal position filled
by Roberts, was upset that she was not hired as principal and
encouraged the counselors loyal to her to sow the seeds of
dissension within the school. (Roberts Dep. at 68; Davenport Dep.
at 33; Olinger Dep. at 17-18). Shortly after the October meeting with the counselors, problems
began to surface at Madison. First, Madison teacher Carol
Vermaat*fn1 complained to Russ Bryan that Roberts had yelled
at her in a hallway and social worker Jennifer Madson complained
that Roberts had confronted her in the presence of other Madison
faculty. (Bryan Dep. at 22-24). Bryan felt these complaints were
unusual because never before had he received a complaint from a
teacher about an administrator (Def. 56.1(a) Statement ¶ 40).
Shortly after Vermaat and Madson complained to Bryan about
Roberts, Bryan received an anonymous letter complaining about
Roberts. (Def. 56.1(a) Statement ¶ 42). The anonymous author
complained that Roberts: 1) was not knowledgeable about the staff
or school procedures;*fn2 2) was not available to the staff;
3) blamed others when problems arose; 4) was in "control mode";
5) did not accept input from staff; and 6) yelled at employees.
(Def. 56.1(a) Statement ¶ 43). Bryan showed Roberts the letter and explained
that he did not "know where it was coming from" but that Roberts
"need[ed] to be aware that somebody has these feelings." (Bryan
Dep. at 35).
Because of the letter and the complaints that Bryan received,
he began to visit Madison in November 1999 to observe the
atmosphere at Madison. (Def. Ex. J at 142). Bryan also met with
the school social worker and guidance counselors, who reported
that there was a low level of trust between Roberts and the
staff. (Bryan Dep. at 41). At the same time, Roberts expressed to
Bryan that she believed that the counselors loyal to Pentecost
continued the campaign against her by keeping "issues" that they
had with her alive. (Bryan Dep. at 38-39). And although Bryan
talked with Roberts about the staff members' concerns and the
ways in which she could improve the climate at Madison and her
relationships with staff, he never investigated Roberts'
suspicion that staff members rebelled against her purposefully
and in support of Pentecost's unspoken "claim" to the principal's
position. (Bryan Dep. at 38-41; Def. 56.1(a) Statement ¶ 52).
Throughout December, Madison's union representatives (Vermaat and
Jacqueline Plourde who represented the 66 certified personnel at
Madison) continued to bring concerns to Bryan similar to those
voiced in the anonymous letter. (Def. Ex. J at 142). Bryan met
with Roberts four times in December 1999 to discuss ways in which
she could improve her relationships with her staff. (Def. 56.1(a)
Statement ¶ 52). Later in December, Bryan expressed concern to
the school board about Roberts' performance, noting her
interaction with the staff. (Def. 56.1(a) Statement ¶ 53).
On January 18, 2000, Bryan met with Roberts for her mid-year
review. (Def. 56.1(a) Statement ¶ 56). The day after the review,
Bryan sent Roberts a written memorandum discussing her
performance. (Def. Ex. J. at 145). That memorandum reads, in
full: At your mid-year conference on January 18, I reviewed
my concerns over the current issues of low staff
morale and the low level of trust that has developed
between you and the staff at Madison. I have
discussed the need for you to focus your attention on
using interpersonal skills, which are necessary to
establish positive working relationships with staff.
I believe that the trust and morale issues are a
direct result of not establishing a collaborative
relationship with staff. Your attention to this
matter will hopefully lead to a new level of trust,
respect, and staff confidence in your leadership
At this point in the year the issues are continuing
to increase in magnitude rather than improve. I
believe that many staff are withdrawing into their
classrooms as a method of coping with their perceived
inability to share information about the atmosphere
in the building. I have encouraged staff members to
meet with you to share their concerns. If this dialog
occurs, I believe it can be helpful in creating a
collaborative relationship with staff.
As discussed, I will continue to closely monitor
progress in the areas of staff morale, trust, respect
and positive working relationships. If significant
progress toward improvement in these areas has not
been made by March 1, 2000, I will not be able to
recommend you for continued employment as principal
at Madison Junior High School.
I appreciate your shared concern over the issues that
have developed over the first half of this year. I
truly believe you are committed to working to resolve
the problems. It is my sincere hope that you will be
able to establish the necessary staff relationships
to lead Madison in a positive direction.
Roberts responded to Bryan's memorandum a few weeks later,
expressing her concern that Bryan's memorandum focused only on
the negative areas of her performance and excluded any discussion
of areas in which Bryan praised her job performance. (Roberts
Aff., Ex. B). Roberts repeated to Bryan her feeling that certain
staff loyal to Pentecost launched a "smear campaign" against her
and pleaded for support from the District to help quell the
unrest. (Roberts Aff., Ex. B). At some point during her tenure as
principal, Roberts also asked the Board to provide a statement to
the staff in support of her leadership, but they did not.
(Roberts Dep. at 208). Neither the Board nor Bryan ever convened
a meeting to announce their support for Roberts as principal,
though Bryan continued to meet with Roberts on a weekly basis
through March 2000. (Def. Ex. J. at 80, 145). But Roberts' problems continued to grow. Bryan was frequently
called to the school to deal with complaints regarding Roberts.
(Bryan Dep. at 72). Vermaat and Plourde, Madison's union
representatives, both continued to complain to Bryan about
Roberts. (Bryan Dep. at 72). Patrice Olinger, a teacher at
Madison, wrote letters to the school board complaining about
Roberts, but failed to mention any specific events that formed
the basis of her complaints. (Olinger Dep. at 55-56, 59-60).
On March 10, 2000, Bryan composed a memorandum to Roberts
regarding her employment recommendation for the 2000-2001 school
year. (Def. Ex. J. at 79). Bryan informed Roberts that, although
she had made an effort to improve her relationships with school
personnel, he did not "feel satisfactory progress ha[d] been made
in order for me to recommend reemployment as the principal at
Madison Junior High School for the 2000-2001 school year." (Def.
Ex. J. at 79). Bryan informed Roberts that: 1) she had not
developed effective leadership strategies and that staff members
were uncomfortable approaching her to discuss problems; 2) staff
morale was low; and 3) staff members did not respect her as a
leader. (Def. Ex. J. at 79). Bryan further stated his belief that
the issues he had identified could not be improved to the level
necessary to lead the staff in the future and that he would
recommend to the board that she be dismissed as principal of
Madison. (Def. Ex. J. at 79). At this point, Bryan had met with
Roberts or Madison staff members 35 times in an effort to improve
the climate at Madison. (Def. Ex. J. at 143).
On March 16, 2000, Roberts met with school board member Osie
Davenport, Bryan, and Superintendent Donald Weber. (Def. 56.1(a)
Statement ¶ 100). At the meeting, Bryan discussed the concerns
about Roberts and her relationship with the staff at Madison.
(Def. 56.1(a) Statement ¶¶ 102, 107). Roberts expressed her
concern to Davenport, Bryan, and Weber that many of the criticisms that had been directed at her by the staff had been
done because she was African American. (Davenport Dep. at 51).
Roberts also suggested the District support some team-building
training and look into hiring a conflict resolution consultant.
(Roberts Dep. at 180-81). Roberts requested that Bryan and Weber
reconsider the decision not to renew her contract and give her an
additional year to resolve the problems at Madison. (Roberts Dep.
at 125). Davenport recognized that the Board had put Roberts in a
difficult position because of the faculty who were loyal to
Pentecost. (Davenport Dep. at 39-40, 102-103). At the end of the
meeting, Weber and Bryan agreed to withdraw the recommendation to
dismiss Roberts at the end of the current school year. (Def. Ex.
J. at 143).
Shortly after the Board met, Bryan asked Roberts to draft a
plan for the 2000-2001 school year that would address the areas
of improvement he noted in his March 10 memorandum. (Def. Ex. J.
at 143). Roberts drafted a plan identifying specific tasks for
herself, Bryan, and the District to improve her leadership
skills, the relationships between principal and staff, and staff
morale. (Roberts Dep. at Exs. D & E). And again, Roberts
requested that Bryan provide a written and verbal statement of
support to help quell the tensions at Madison. (Roberts Dep, Exs.
D & E). In addition to Roberts' plan, Bryan prepared a summary
report of the problems at Madison for the Board on April 3, 2000,
in which he noted that Roberts' problems "centered around
ineffective leadership strategies for establishing relationships"
and "ineffective communication." (Bryan Dep. at 27).
On June 6, 2000, Bryan submitted his final review of Roberts'
1999-2000 performance. (Def. 56.1(a) Statement ¶ 115). The review
contained 11 "accountability" areas in which Bryan assessed
Roberts' performance on a scale of 1-6 with 6 being the highest
rating. (Def. 56.1(a) Statement ¶ 116; Roberts Dep. at Ex. C). In
every area but "Accountability 7," Bryan assessed Roberts' performance at a 3. (Def. 56.1(a) Statement ¶ 119). But
in "Accountability 7," where Roberts was assessed based upon her
ability to "[d]evelop and maintain open lines of communication
with students, staff and other district personnel," Bryan gave
Roberts a score of 1 and wrote that:
Although [Roberts] was involved in a number of
activities designed to develop and maintain an open
line of communication with staff, I expressed concern
throughout the year about the need to improve working
relationships through effective communication. This
concern was noted in memos dated January 19, 2000 and
March 10, 2000. This accountability must be a focus
for the 2000-2001 school year and significant
improvement in [Roberts'] relationship ...