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Green v. Board of Education of Community Unit School Dist. No. 201

December 16, 2008

DONALD A. GREEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 201, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles P. Kocoras, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the court on the motion of Defendant Board of Education ("Board") of Community Unit School District No. 201 ("District") for summary judgment on the complaint of Plaintiff Donald Green. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

Green is an African-American man who was employed as a math teacher at Westmont High School during the 2006-2007 school year.*fn1 Westmont is located within the District. Before going to Westmont, Green had taught at the high school level for four years. He was the only African-American among approximately 40 teachers employed at the school that year. The District's superintendent was Steven Baule, who was responsible for recruiting teachers and making recommendations to the Board regarding the renewal of teachers' contracts. Steve Carr was Westmont's principal; Nancy Bartosz-Thompson served as the assistant principal. Carr's duties included assessing school staffing needs and recruiting, interviewing, supervising, and evaluating staff. Carr was responsible for supervising and evaluating Green.

Carr conducted both of Green's evaluations. In the fall, Green's work was given a rating of "Excellent," the product of twelve "Excellent" and twelve "Satisfactory" ratings in the 24 evaluative criteria. Green's spring evaluation stated that his performance was "Satisfactory" in 16 criteria and "Excellent" in the other eight, for an overall rating of "Satisfactory."

Full-time teachers at Westmont are on probationary status for four years before they become eligible for tenure, pursuant to Illinois law. 105 ILCS 5/24-11. During the four-year probationary period, teachers are evaluated in writing once per semester by an observing administrator who gives each teacher a summative rating of unsatisfactory, satisfactory, or excellent. However, the Board has the sole authority to renew or not renew a probationary teacher's contract, a decision made in the spring. Prior to the Board's consideration, Carr would make recommendations about individual teachers to Baule, who would in turn make recommendations to the Board.

When the time came for consideration of Green's retention at the school for 2007-2008, Carr recommended Green for renewal, and Baule submitted Green's name on the list of the probationary teachers he recommended for renewal at the Board's March 13, 2007, meeting. At a closed session of that meeting, the Board discussed each teacher on Baule's list. The meeting was not recorded, but attendees reported on the topics of discussion involving Green. Concerns about Green's performance as a math teacher were raised and discussed, and included the following: 1) the seemingly large number of students who had transferred out of Green's classes; 2) Green's method of disciplining students by isolating them from the rest of the class by the use of a file cabinet; 3) Green's inability to reach average to below average students in class; and 4) Green's lack of availability to meet with parents and students before and after class. The Board directed Baule to investigate the number of students who requested to transfer out of Green's class and report back at a meeting the following week. At that meeting, Baule reported that 18 students had requested transfers out of Green's classes.

Baule informed the Board that he was no longer recommending renewal, and the Board voted not to allow Green to return to Westmont the following year. Thirteen other teachers' contracts were not renewed. The number had originally been 14, but one teacher, Sarah Jakalski, resigned prior to the meeting after having been told that her contract would not be renewed. The decision not to renew her contract was made in advance of the March 20 meeting, and her resignation preceded it as well. Jakalski is white. Green's classes were taken over by Dale Koepnick, who is also white.

On September 11, 2007, Green filed suit against the Board for violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983. The Board now moves for summary judgment on both counts of the complaint.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could find for the non-movant. Buscaglia v. United States, 25 F.3d 530, 534 (7th Cir. 1994). The movant in a motion for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact by specific citation to the record; if the party succeeds in doing so, the burden shifts to the non-movant to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial. Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2554 (1986). In considering motions for summary judgment, a court construes all facts and draws all inferences from the record in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2513 (1986).

With these principles in mind, we turn to the Board's motion.

DISCUSSION

As stated earlier, Green's complaint contains two counts: one under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and one under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The assertions of the § 1983 count indicate that Green's theory of liability is grounded in an equal protection claim for the same treatment at issue in his § 1981 claim, and he does not provide any argument in support of § 1983 liability separate ...


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