School board, superintendent respond to lawsuit

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Employee filed a complaint arguing she should have received a certified contract

By Stephen Lega

Superintendent Donald Smith and the Marion County Board of Education are seeking a dismissal of a lawsuit filed by employee Martha Spalding.

Spalding was offered a contract as a classified employee for the 2009-10 school year, but she argued in her complaint that she should have been offered a certified contract. (A previous news item about the lawsuit incorrectly stated that Spalding was no longer an employee.)

Spalding's complaint was filed by attorney Jeffrey S. Walther of Lexington. Attorney Bob Chenoweth of Frankfort filed the answer on behalf of Smith and the board of education.

According to the complaint, Spalding started working for Marion County schools in 2000 as a family literacy instructor. The complaint reads that she was "duly certified" by the Education Professional Standards Board while employed by the school board.

The complaint continues to read that she achieved tenure on the first day of the 2005-06 school year, and that through the 2008-09 academic year, she was compensated according to the district's certified salary schedule.

As a tenured and certified employee, Spalding argued that she was entitled to due process under the Kentucky Constitution and Chapter 161.790 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes.

She received a letter April 6, 2009, from then-superintendent Roger Marcum stating her contract would not be renewed pursuant to Chapter 161.011 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes.

Chapter 161.011 pertains to classified employees. Chapter 161.790 pertains to certified employees.

Spalding argues in her complaint that the superintendent was required by law to enter into a written contract with her and that she is entitled to a continuing contract with Marion County schools. By treating her as a classified employee, Spalding also argues that the defendants committed statutory and constitutional violations, and therefore, she is entitled to injunctive relief granting her a contract and due process.

She further argued that the school board violated its own policies related to discipline, termination and non-renewal of employees.

Spalding is seeking injunctive relief, costs and fees that resulted from her complaint, compensatory damages resulting from the defendants' actions, a trial by jury and any other relief to which she may be entitled.

Chenoweth argues in the answer that Smith and the members of the board of education are entitled to governmental immunity and that the board of education does not have the statutory authority to take any personnel action regarding Spalding nor did it take any such action. The answer further reads that Smith and the board acted in accord with the U.S. and Kentucky Constitutions.

Chenoweth added that Spalding was not subjected to any adverse personnel action because she remains an employee of Marion County schools. He further wrote that her claims are barred, in part, because she did not exhaust the administrative procedures available to her.

Chenoweth concludes the answer by arguing that Spalding is not entitled to any relief, requesting a dismissal of her complaint and that Smith and the board of education should recover their costs.