A former Northfield school teacher has received a $437,500 settlement from the city’s school board to settle her claims that she was demoted in retaliation for an ethics complaint she filed against three board members and the superintendent.
According to a copy of the settlement, Carol Ferguson will also receive a neutral letter of recommendation, which states she resigned in good standing. She will receive a total of $317,125 after attorney fees are paid. Ferguson will receive $208,375 by the end of this month, with the balance to be paid in January 2014.
A social studies teacher at the middle school, Ferguson filed an ethics complaint in April 2010 against Superintendent Janice Fipp and three board members involved in the search that led to Fipp’s selection.
Ferguson, who had also sought the job of superintendent, claimed that Fipp, who was elementary school principal at Northfield Community School at the time, sent out an automated phone call to Northfield residents and passed out hundreds of fliers door to door supporting those three candidates before they were elected to the nine-member board.
After filing the ethics complaint, Ferguson claimed she was demoted from her supervisor position to a tenured teacher. The demotion was a $18,000 reduction from a $99,000 salary, according to information in the settlement.
The board claimed it had lost $634,000 of state aid in the 2010-11 school year and that her demotion was a result of the district’s financial issues, according to documents filed in the case.
According to the settlement, Ferguson, who resigned as of Jan. 25, will be paid for 85 unused personal and sick days, Business Administrator Linda Albright said.
The payments from the school board will come from an administrative account that the state Department of Education instructs schools to use. However, before that can happen, the district will need to transfer funds from various other budget line items, including health benefits, Albright said.
In an email response to The Press of Atlantic City, Ferguson made the following statement:
“I am deeply saddened by the fact that I was not allowed to say goodbye to my students. They are an amazing group of young men and women and I will miss them,” she wrote.
Fipp said the Jan. 28 settlement will not impact the students’ educational program and that funds were available within the budget.
The case had gone to trial Jan. 14 in Atlantic County Superior Court when a settlement was reached, Ferguson said.
Staff Writer Joel Landau contributed to this report.
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