Central Falls Blocks School Principal from Working
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Legault has been on paid administrative leave for most of the school year—since October—while the district conducted an investigation into alleged misconduct. In May, the district concluded that investigation and issued her a reprimand letter. But Gallo still is not letting Legault return to her post as the co-principal of Calcutt Middle School.
Now the district is claiming that she never even had an approved contract to work there.
That contradicts the June 8, 2010 meeting minutes for the Board of Trustees, which explicitly states that the board did in fact approve Legault’s appointment. (Read the public minutes here or see below excerpt.)
Gallo did inform Legault that she would be working in the district for another year in an April 16, 2010 letter, but she said that letter did not "constitute a contract."
Attorneys for the school district did not return repeated requests for comment. Anna Cano Morales, chair of the Board of Trustees, also did not respond to a query.
Gallo: Reinstating principal would be ‘disruptive’
Gallo also claims that allowing Legault to return to her position at this late stage in the year would be “disruptive” to the school environment.
Gallo noted that she plans to ask the Board of Trustees to not hire Legault for the upcoming school years.
Jeff Sowa, attorney for Legault, said he cannot understand why the district is determined to keep Legault from returning. “I cannot fathom why the superintendent wouldn’t want her back in school particularly since she’s being paid,” Sowa said.
He added: “I would think taxpayers would be frustrated to have her be paid for seven months while wanting to work and not being able to work because of this purported investigation.”
Former administrator: Gallo felt ‘threatened’ by Gallo
Sowa said that up until Legault’s reprimand this year, she had a clean personnel file.
“Somebody who has been in the district for 16 years and has a stellar record is somebody you would not want to keep out of the district,” Sowa said. “To me there has to be an agenda.”
One former assistant principal and current state Senator who worked with Legault said Gallo was “threatened” by Legault. “I think she was in some ways threatened by the respect she wielded,” said Frank DeVall, D-East Providence, who left his position at the end of last year to become assistant principal at Cranston High School West.
“Liz really was the face of Central Falls education,” DeVall added.
“Liz Legault was one of the best things in the Central Falls School District,” added Connie Dube, head of the local union for the non-teaching staff. “I can’t tell you why Gallo wouldn’t want her back … the only thing I can think of is she didn’t agree with all of Dr. Gallo’s philosophy.”
Seven month investigation ends … in reprimand letter
Sowa is questioning the explanation the district has given for why it put Legault on leave in the first place. Back in October, Gallo issued a letter to Legault saying she had been put on leave pending an investigation into “charges of misfeasance or malfeasance.” That culminated in a May 5 reprimand letter that Sowa said raised “nitpicky” issues.
When Sowa filed a freedom of information request for evidence that there had been an investigation, he said the district refused to turn over any documents.
In the reprimand letter, Gallo concludes that Legault:
■ Failed to hold enough fire drills when she was principal at the high school last year
■ Discussed a student’s behavior with a police officer, breaking confidentiality rules
■ Helped an employee improperly use sick time
■ Reassigned a substitute teacher when she did not have the authority
“We contest the legality of the allegations,” Sowa said. “They’re small things and they’re not true.”
Once that reprimand letter was issued, Sowa said the district no longer had a reason to keep Legault away from her job. After the district failed to provide him with a reason, he filed an injunction in Providence County Superior Court compelling the district to allow her to return to work.
That case, which was scheduled to be heard yesterday, has now been continued to next week.
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I. Excerpt of Gallo's Affidavit
II. Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes - June 8, 2010
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