Fired Teacher Sues C.m. Wright Principal

August 14, 2009|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

A Harford County teacher who was fired in June has filed a $2 million lawsuit against the principal of C. Milton Wright High School in Bel Air alleging negligence, interference with contract, emotional distress and defamation related to his dismissal.

John Anker, 37, who joined the school faculty in November 2006, is suing Principal Marlene Molter because, he says, he was not given tenure after three years of probation during which he received many positive evaluations, several from her. The school system and its superintendent are not named in the lawsuit.

Lawrence P. Pinno Jr., Anker's attorney and a former member of the county Board of Education, filed the complaint last week in Circuit Court

"How does a teacher get selected as Teacher of the Month and recommended for non-renewal in the same month?" Pinno asked.

Molter, a vice principal at the time Anker was hired to teach English and creative writing, frequently observed his classroom performance and gave him successful evaluations, which are documented in the suit.

"If I had shown ineptitude, I was never shown what I was doing wrong," Anker said.

The county Board of Education has scheduled a Sept. 4 hearing on Anker's appeal of his dismissal, which was upheld by the former interim superintendent, Patricia L. Skebeck. Robert Tomback was appointed superintendent on July 1.

"The board will hear the appeal and has the ability to overturn the superintendent's decision, but there is no precedent for that action," said Teresa D. Kranefeld, schools spokeswoman.

The school system is providing Molter with legal representation in the appeal and the lawsuit, and officials have insisted that she not comment on either action, Kranefeld said. Kranefeld declined to comment on the circumstances of Anker's dismissal.

Anker, who also served as advisor to the school's Video Club, traces the rift with Molter to a student-produced film that won first place in the Maryland High School Theater Festival in 2008. Anker submitted the satiric "A Bard's Tale" for the film competition, unaware that he needed the principal's approval, he said. Later, he said, Molter would not allow the club to show the film to CMW students.

Both Pinno and the teachers' union have tried unsuccessfully throughout the summer to negotiate with the school system and reinstate Anker, who received no severance. Anker delayed filing suit "until making every legitimate effort" to resolve the situation, he said. The firing has made it nearly impossible to secure another teaching position, he said.

"I am holding out hope that I can weed out the truth through the court process," he said.

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