Sandra Meeks Speller files $2.8 million lawsuit against Toledo Board of Education

July 31, 2013 in Local News, News, Top Stories

BY DARRYL Q. TUCKER
Journal Managing Editor

As expected, Sandra Meeks Speller, a former assistant principal at Spring Elementary School, whom Toledo School Board members fired last month, has filed a $2.8 million lawsuit in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
Meeks Speller and her attorney, Dennis D. Grant, filed the paperwork Tuesday, July 23. She’s also seeking $250,000 in attorney fees.
Court officials have not set a trial date.
District administrators accused Meeks-Speller of using inappropriate physical discipline with students, making threats and using racially tinged language.
During three June 2012 hearings, the Board alleged that Meeks Speller exercised poor job performance, repeated and consistently failed to perform jobs duties, unprofessional behavior, insubordination and created to an offensive work environment at Spring Elementary.
The district said Meeks Speller did not treat students with respect, improperly criticized staff for failing to report a case of suspected child abuse to Lucas County Children Services and having improper contact with a student.
The district placed her on paid administrative suspension Aug. 8, 2012.
The five count suit alleges the Board breached Meeks Speller employment contract by terminating her before the July 31, 2015, expiration; the Board reduced her $61,248 annual salary and compensation to zero and it was not part of a uniform plan affecting the entire district; that the Board breached her contract in an outrageous manner that could cause harm to her professional career; the Board’s false statements that she abuses students physically and emotionally has and will continue to damage her ability to earn income; and the Board wrongly inflicted emotional distress and mental pain and suffering causing her personal injury.
Earlier this month, Meeks Speller gave The Journal an exclusive interview to set the record straight about her dismissal.
In June, Board members voted 4-1 to fire Meeks Speller, effective immediately.
Board members who supported the termination were: Brenda Hill, president; Dr. Cecelia Adams, vice president; and Lisa Sobecki and Bob Vasquez. Member Larry Sykes voted not to fire Meeks Speller.
Meeks Speller, who was with Toledo Public Schools for 16 years, was first a math teacher at Scott High School and then an assistant principal at DeVeaux Middle School, and more recently at Spring Elementary.
Meeks Speller, who is close to earning a doctorate degree in education with specialties in curriculum and instruction, and the Board agreed to a mediator.
Referee Anthony L. Gretick of Bryan, Ohio, heard the case.
In his 15-page report released May 6, he rejected most of the district’s charges against Meeks Speller for lack of evidence, unconvincing testimony, biased witnesses and that the allegations did not warrant termination.
“It is the finding and conclusion of the Referee that the Administration has failed to carry the burden that the conduct by Meeks Speller of which she has been accused which has been proven by competent evidence is good and just cause for the termination,” Gretick wrote.
“Sandra Meeks Speller has brought superior academic credentials to her 16-year career with Toledo Public Schools,” Gretick continued.
In her evaluations while in the District, she received laudatory marks, including her first one at DeVeaux, he wrote.
Meeks Speller’s former superiors poisoned the well with her new bosses when she transferred to Spring from DeVeaux, Gretick wrote.