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McGoldrick-Stewart v. Board of Education of The Red Clay Consolidated School District

Superior Court of Delaware, New Castle

September 25, 2013

JULIE MCGOLDRICK-STEWART, Appellant,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE RED CLAY CONSOLIDATED SCHOOL DISTRICT, Appellee

Submitted: July 19, 2013.

On Appeal from Decision of the Board of Education of the Red Clay Consolidated School District.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROCANELLI, J.

This is an appeal by Julie McGoldrick-Stewart ("Claimant") from the March 20, 2013 decision ("Decision") of the Board of Education of the Red Clay Consolidated School District ("Board"). Claimant had been employed by the Red Clay Consolidated School District ("Red Clay") as a school psychiatrist. Red Clay sought to terminate Claimant's employment on the grounds of (i) immorality and (ii) willful and persistent insubordination. A hearing was held on February 25, 2013 ("February 25 Hearing") and the hearing officer issued a report and recommendation on March 18, 2013 ("Report and Recommendation"). On March 20, the Board met in Executive Session to review the record of proceedings before the hearing officer, including the Report and Recommendation. Following its review, the Board voted to terminate Claimant's employment on the grounds of immorality and willful and persistent insubordination. In its Decision, the Board agreed with and accepted the hearing officer's recommendation that Claimant should be terminated on the grounds of immorality. The Board rejected the hearing officer's conclusion that termination was not the proper remedy for willful and persistent insubordination.

On March 27, 2012, Claimant appealed the Board's decision to terminate her employment. According to Claimant, the record lacked substantial evidence to support the Board's decision. For the reasons set forth below, the Board's decision is affirmed.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. FACTS AND RED CLAY'S INVESTIGATION

Claimant worked for Red Clay as a school psychologist from 2008 until her termination in 2013. During the 2012-2013 school year, Claimant was assigned to A.I. DuPont Middle School ("AI DuPont"). As a school psychologist, Claimant was responsible for a variety of student-counseling responsibilities, including drug and alcohol counseling. Claimant remained on the Red Clay's payroll until February 22, 2013.

On or about December 20, 2012, it was brought to the attention of the administration of AI DuPont that Claimant had approached a school custodian ("Custodian") about purchasing marijuana. When AI DuPont Principal Theodore Boyer ("Principal") was made aware of the allegations, he contacted the District's Human Resource Manager Christine Smith ("HR Manager") who investigated the matter. On December 21, 2012, after determining that the Custodian's statements regarding his interactions with Claimant were credible, HR Manager and Principal requested a meeting with Claimant. After informing Claimant of the allegations against her, Claimant requested the presence of her union representative. The union representative could not be located. HR Manager told Claimant that the HR Manager did not know the next step but, based on the nature of the allegations, HR Manager placed Claimant on administrative leave by handing her a letter that read:

I cannot reach [union] representative Laura Rowe until January 3, 2012. I will contact you once I have discussed this with Laura. While on leave, you must make yourself available during work hours for communications to include phone calls and/or meetings.

When Claimant left the school on December 21, the HR Manager told Claimant to be prepared to take a drug test that day and to be available by phone during school hours. Claimant left the school at approximately 10:30 AM after being placed on administrative leave. Claimant testified that she had unintentionally left her cell phone in her car when she arrived at home and did not notice until 5:00 that evening that she did not have her cell phone. Meanwhile, the HR Manager had called Claimant on Claimant's cell phone and left a voicemail directing Claimant to appear at a drug testing facility that closed at 4:00 that day for a drug test. On the voice mail message, the HR Manager provided her office and cell phone numbers and requested that Claimant call the HR Manager to confirm receiving the voicemail.

At approximately 12:30 PM that day, the HR Manager sent Claimant the following email:

I instructed you this morning to keep your phone handy as I would be calling you for a follow-up today. I also told you it was possible you would be sent for a drug test today. You told me you would agree to a test. I called your call at 10:30 am to direct you to a drug testing facility. You did not answer and I left you a voice mail with instructions, directions and to call me back to confirm…I called an hour later and you did not answer again…Your failure to answer my phone calls and/or report for testing will be view as insubordination and appropriate disciplinary action, with potential termination, will be taken.

Later that afternoon, the HR Manager sent an e-mail to the Principal and to Claimant's union representative, stating that the HR ...


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