"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Imagine Facing Discrimination Lawsuit

So much for "Joy at Work" - if the allegations are true, the Imagine MASTer Academy created a hellish work environment for black employees and those daring to show their support for black employees.
From the News Sentinel:
Former Imagine administrator files lawsuit against school
of The News-Sentinel

A former Imagine MASTer Academy administrator is suing the school after she says she and a colleague were wrongly terminated more than a year ago.

Jennifer Murray, the former dean of students, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Allen Superior Court after being terminated from the school Nov. 7, 2008. Murray's termination came only one day after then-principal Bruce Greening had also been let go.

“I was upset, of course. I didn't think Bruce had been treated fairly,” Murray said Tuesday. “I didn't understand their rationale.”

On Nov. 6, the same day Greening was fired, Murray was called into the office of Guy Platter, regional director of Imagine Schools, and told she would be demoted to a teaching position. She accepted the new position, but also voiced her opinion that she felt Greening, who is black, was being discriminated against. She was fired the next day.

Platter did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment.

After both Murray's and Greening's firings, there was backlash, even preparation of a petition, from people in the school community who were confused about the terminations.

“Everybody wanted an answer,” Murray said. “Everybody wanted to know what happened.”

When Platter was interviewed by The News-Sentinel at the time, he said it is Imagine's policy not to disclose why a person is terminated.

Murray said she was told she was fired because she was not a “good fit,” according to court documents.

Greening was given the same reason for his termination, he said Tuesday.

“It's been very disappointing. … I'm very bitter over the situation,” he said.

Greening had also filed a discrimination complaint against Imagine, but has not filed a lawsuit because of a severance document he signed with the school.

Greening was hired at Imagine in February 2008 to help steer more minorities to the school.

But in taking over from Platter, who had been principal at the MASTer Academy, he felt he was being scrutinized at every turn, even to the point that Platter was opening his mail and monitoring him on walkie-talkies, he said.

“He was constantly on me,” Greening said.

Murray said the discrimination at Imagine went far beyond the treatment of Greening, though.

In the lawsuit, she claims black staff members were disciplined more severely than white staff members, and black staff members and students were “severely dealt with” if Platter felt they had “too good a rapport” with white females, according to court documents.

“I really think discrimination went on,” said Murray, who is white.

The lawsuit seeks compensation for past and future financial losses, damages and other “just and proper” relief, but Murray and Greening say it goes even further than that.

“We really had wanted for the remaining staff and faculty to (put in) some safeguards for themselves,” she said, citing that teachers had worked without contracts, job descriptions and evaluations during her time there.

“(We) definitely want to bring some attention to the minority community,” Greening added, “to kind of put a red flag there (about Imagine schools).”

Imagine schools in Fort Wayne recently came under fire when Ball State announced in November that it was investigating the MASTer Academy on Wells Street because the school board was not providing satisfactory oversight.

The board is now following a corrective-action plan, and the school could risk losing its charter if deadlines are not met.

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