A former Orland School District 135 secretary settled with district about two years after she was originally told to take a demotion or leave the district.
The D135 board voted in favor of approving the settlement with Melanie Walsh following a closed session during Monday night’s special meeting. Tina Zekich was the sole member to vote against the settlement.
Walsh will be getting some back pay, though not the equivalent of working the secretary position for about the last two years, according to Illinois Federation of Teachers field director Deneen Pajeau. She will be taking on a secretary position with the district with two additional years of seniority, Pajeau said.
"The new board is making a lot of strides to move this district forward," Pajeau said. "We felt it was fair to settle the matter."
Walsh worked as a paraprofessional with the school district until she was promoted to a secretary position within the student services department in June 2011. On Sept. 21, 2011, she was called into then-superintendent Paul Howell’s office where she was told the school board was unhappy with the hiring process. She was then given a choice to either return to her position as a parapro, or resign from the district entirely.
Walsh’s supporters filled the D135 board room voicing their disapproval of the move before the board voted, with a split vote, in favor of allowing her to return to her parapro job. She had the option of re-applying to the secretary position. Walsh wasn’t chosen for the job after new rounds of interviews. The union filed several grievances with the district, and estimated costs of litigation for Walsh’s case at about $100,000 at the time for D135.
“This was the last piece of pending litigation we had,” said board president Joe LaMargo after the settlement was approved Monday night. “It’s another wrong that was righted.”
Negotiations with Walsh and local Illinois Federation of Teachers representatives began about two months ago, according to D135 board member Mike Carroll. The talks went to arbitration and the first ruling was in favor of the school district, but aspects of Walsh’s case still wasn’t addressed by the ruling, Carroll said.
“It may have been legal but it wasn’t right,” Carroll said. “The initial arbitration didn’t address all the issues. There were other issues like the second round of interviews and hiring someone else. Those had to be adjudicated as well. This had to be made right.”
Return to Patch later for more information on Walsh’s settlement.
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