|Jackie Lewis, second from right, has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Highline School District. Photo from Highline School District.|
A respected former administrator in Seattle's Highline School District has filed a discrimination lawsuit after his demoting following allegations of wrongdoing by another district employee.
For 13 years, Jackie Lewis was a well-known administrator at Evergreen High School. In 2007, he was transferred to Highline High School. According to reports in The Highline Times, parents actively protested the transfer. According to his attorney Moni Law, Lewis received satisfactory performance reviews all through his years.
That is, until an employee at Evergreen High School was accused of wrongfully performing physical examinations on students when he didn't have the certification. Lewis, before the beginning of the 2009/2010 school year had been asked to fill-in temporarily as interim-Athletic Director for the district.
Lewis says he was told by district administrators that his duties as Highline vice principal would take priority over his duties as district Athletic Director. Lewis says he was never provided with a written contract for the position, and never given any training for the job. More importantly, he was not specifically tasked with overseeing personnel working at other campuses.
A contract obtained through Lewis' attorney dated June 17, 2009, does not include any mention of the athletic director's duties. Catherine Carbone Rogers, district director of communications, says he was "employed under an administrator contract" which paid half his salary as an athletic director, although he was paid for both these positions the salary of one "Full Time Employee."
Law says that Lewis was putting in 60 to 80 hours of work a week regularly to fulfill both jobs.
"There was no additional compensation for this position," she said.
On May 13, 2010, Lewis was called into the human resources office of the district and placed on leave "pending an investigation into the alleged misconduct of Jayson Boehm," according to Lewis in a written complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
It was the first he'd ever heard of the misconduct. Carbone Rogers says that the district has no knowledge that Lewis knew about the alleged misconduct until he was told by district personnel.
On the same day, Lewis was also informed that he was losing his long-held position as an administrator.
But Carbone Rogers says Lewis wasn't demoted because of the conduct of Boehm, an employee hired 10 years ago who performed multiple duties at different campuses around the district. Lewis' demotion, according to the district, was due to "your failure to achieve satisfactory performance in your administrative position and is not a disciplinary transfer."
In his EEOC complaint, Lewis says he had just received a satisfactory rating of service for that year from Highline's principal. He was, however, evaluated as interim-Athletic Director, a position for which he was only holding temporarily and had received no training.
"Just after the incident with Mr. Boehm, I did receive a negative performance evaluation from the district's new executive Steve Rowley with respect to my duties as part-time Interim Athletic Director (contrary to representations that I would not be evaluated on my performance)," he wrote to the EEOC. "When I advised Mr. Rowley that I wanted to submit a rebuttal, Mr. Rowley stated that I did not need to submit anything to the disputed statements since Mr. Rowley's evaluation was allegedly intended only to help him understand my work duties, and for my "professional growth.'"
Carbone Rogers told the Skanner News that board policy allows transfers at the superintendent's discretion if he "deems it to be in the best interests of the school district."
At the center of Lewis' claim is whether he was treated differently than other employees in the same situation. Daylene Boehm, Evergreen High's athletic director who is related to Jayson Boehm, was also demoted to elementary school teacher. She is White.
However, no other principal at Evergreen High School faced disciplinary actions, Carbone Rogers says.
Law says the district must prove that there was a legitimate reason to demote Lewis and doesn't believe one exists.
According to Carbone Rogers, this is the first discrimination case that has been launched at the Highline District in recent memory. Diversity within the top administrators within Highline stands at 24 percent people of color (11 of 46 administrators are minorities).
Lewis is seeking $500,000 in damages plus attorney's fees. A court date has not yet been set.