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Fennerty v. Board of Education of City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

June 10, 2013

JANET FENNERTY, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants

For Janet Fennerty, Plaintiff: Michael Paul Persoon, Thomas Howard Geoghegan, Despres Schwartz & Geoghegan, Chicago, IL.

For Board of Education of the City of Chicago, Defendant: Cheryl J. Colston, Board of Education of the City of Chicago, Department of Law, Chicago, IL; Sunil Kumar, Board of Education of the City of Chicago, Chicago, IL; Susan Margaret O'Keefe, Chicago Board of Education, Chicago, IL.

For Jean-Claude Brizard, in his official capacity, Rod Sierra, in his official capacity, Henry Bienen, in his official capacity, Andrea Zopp, in her official capacity, David Vitale, Penny Pritzker, in her official capacity, Mahalia Hines, in her official capacity, Jesse Ruiz, in his official capacity, Defendants: Patrick J. Rocks, Jr., Susan Margaret O'Keefe, Chicago Board of Education, Chicago, IL.

OPINION

Page 827

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

John J. Tharp, Jr., United States District Judge.

The defendants--the Chicago Board of Education, all of its members,

Page 828

and Jean-Claude Brizard, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools during the relevant time period[1]--move to dismiss the Amended Complaint of Janet Fennerty, a former high school teacher who alleges that she was improperly discharged in the course of a layoff of over 1300 teachers. Fennerty, who had tenure, claims that before laying her off, the Board was required to give her an opportunity to demonstrate her ability to fill any vacant positions and to prefer her over new teachers in filling any such vacancies. Her argument, however, runs headlong into controlling precedent establishing that Chicago teachers do not have a due process right to a hearing in connection with layoff terminations. Accordingly, the Court grants the defendants' motion to dismiss.

FACTS

In reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court must take the plaintiff's factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in her favor. See Virnich v. Vorwald, 664 F.3d 206, 212 (7th Cir. 2011). The facts are recited with this standard in mind. Fennerty was a tenured Chicago Public Schools teacher who was notified in the summer of 2010 that due to " financial exigency" she would be among 1300 teachers " honorably dismissed" by the Board of Education. For the next school year, Fennerty was placed in in the " Reassigned Teachers Pool." According to publicly available documents, the Reassigned Teachers Pool is a product of the Teachers Union's collective bargaining agreement with Chicago Public Schools and is where regularly appointed tenured teachers are placed when they are released from their assignments due to the closure, phasing-out, reconstituting, or turnaround of their school; or a drop in enrollment or change in educational focus of the school. They are paid for several months with full benefits while acting as substitutes. At the end of the reassignment period, if the teacher has not procured a new position, he or she is laid off with an " honorable termination."

Fennerty worked throughout the 2010-2011 school year, continuing her employment and tenure, although she was removed from her classroom at Roald Amundsen High School and instead acted " primarily as a long term substitute." She did not obtain another permanent teaching position during the reassignment period. On June 22, 2011, the Board of Education voted unanimously on a resolution pursuant to which Fennerty and about 150 other reassigned teachers were " honorably terminated," effective June 24, 2011. Before her termination, Fennerty was not afforded an opportunity to show that she could perform the job duties of vacant positions, other than by applying for an opening in the same manner as any other candidate without tenure. Fennerty maintains that she was qualified for positions that were open or vacant immediately before or after her layoff, but the Board hired new probationary teachers for those positions instead.

While she taught at Roald Amundsen High School, Fennerty was a teacher representative on the Local Schools Council

Page 829

(" LSC" ), a statutorily created body with responsibilities that include approving how school funds and resources are allocated, approving and monitoring the implementation of the annual school improvement plan, and hiring and evaluating the school's contract principal. Her principal, Carlos Munoz, did not appreciate her work on the LSC, particularly the manner in which she performed her oversight role with respect to his job. It was Munoz who ...


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