Orland School District 135 spent an estimated $87,000 on legal fees in the case of a secretary who was told she could either take a demotion or be fired from the district about two years ago.
The D135 school board voted in favor of a settlement agreement with Walsh at the Aug. 19 meeting, after about two months of negotiations. The settlement includes placing Walsh in a new position with the district, Student Records Clerk in the registration office, effective as of July 1, 2013. Walsh also receives $4,616.60 from D135 “in backpay (sic) for the difference in salary between the secretary position and paraprofessional position for the 2011-2012 school year,” according to the settlement agreement.
The following terms were also included in the settlement:
- Back pay from July 1, 2013 until her actual start date in the registration office
- Two years of seniority as full-time Student Records Clerk
- Twenty vacation days and four added sick days, with an option of cashing out up to 10 vacation days by Dec. 31, 2013
Along with the added vacation days, Walsh will also accrue her full vacation and sick days for the 2013-2014 school year.
Union officials initially estimated that the district could spend as much as $100,000 in legal fees on Walsh’s case.
Melanie Walsh had worked as a paraprofessional with D135 until June 2011. She had applied to a secretary position in the student services department and was granted the position. About three months later, she was called into then-superintendent Paul Howell’s office and was told the school board was unhappy with the hiring process, though her promotion was originally approved.
Walsh was then told she could either go back to working as a paraprofessional, or leave the district’s employment.
Supporters filled the D135 board meeting room in Oct. 2011 speaking against the forced decision for Walsh, before the school board voted, by a split vote, to allow her to return to the parapro job and reapply for the secretary position. Walsh wasn’t chosen for the job after new rounds of interviews, and the local union filed grievances against the district.
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