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Assistant Principal Files Racial Discrimination Suit

August 18, 2005
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer

A year after she was passed over for the job of principal at Hartford's Simpson-Waverly Classical Magnet School, Jane Pertillar has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging racial discrimination.

In her lawsuit against the school district, Pertillar, assistant principal at Pathways to Technology Magnet School, called the selection process a "sham and a fraud," and demanded to be installed as principal at Simpson-Waverly.

Pertillar is black. The woman selected over Pertillar for the job, Delores Cole, is white.

The action comes just as it appeared that racial tensions at Simpson-Waverly would ease with the naming of a new black principal, Sheila Way, and the transfer of five teachers who were accused of making racist comments or stoking racial tension.

After a stormy year in the job, Cole was transferred to the post of principal of Noah Webster Microsociety Magnet School.

In her suit, Pertillar asserts that Superintendent of Schools Robert Henry, who is black and Hispanic, and Executive Director of Human Resources Gail Johnson, who is white, "conspired to promote an unqualified white woman in place of [her], a qualified black woman" a year ago.

She further asserts that "Henry and Johnson were motivated by considerations of race." She is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees, costs and an order to promote her to principal.

Neither Pertillar nor her attorney, Francis A. Miniter, could be reached for comment Wednesday.

School officials declined to comment on the allegations in the suit, saying they had not seen the complaint and would not discuss a personnel issue or pending litigation if they had seen it.

District spokesman Terry D'Italia did say Pertillar appealed to the court after filing a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

CHRO dismissed the complaint, he said.

In a 12-page complaint filed Aug. 10 in New Haven, Pertillar laid out her credentials: She began working as a teacher in the city in 1972 and became an administrator in 1993.

She contends that all of her performance ratings have been "very good or outstanding," and that her most recent rating at the time she applied for the Simpson-Waverly job, in June 2004, was "exemplary."

For 10 years, beginning in 1982, Pertillar taught math in the Classical Academy cluster at Quirk Middle School and helped write the curriculum for the academy. Last year, Simpson-Waverly became a magnet school with a theme similar to the one that has long been in place at Quirk.

Pertillar contends Cole is less qualified than she is because the district had to initially apply for a temporary administrators' certification for Cole.

Cole was soon upgraded to the lowest of three levels of certification for administrators; Pertillar holds the highest level of certification.

The suit also alleges that the district violated the No Child Left Behind Act by appointing Cole, since she did not earn the certification to rate her as highly qualified.

But Nancy Pugliese, bureau chief for the bureau of educator preparation, certification, support and assessment for the state, said the act pertains only to classroom teachers of core subjects and is silent on the certification level of administrators.

Pugliese said Cole's certification makes her highly qualified in the eyes of the state.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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