School Board to approve nearly $200,000 settlement in back pay to former teacher

By Kelly Fisher, reporter for the Ashland City Times

The Cheatham County School Board will vote to approve a settlement that was reached in a lawsuit against a former tenured teacher.

The teacher was previously removed from her position at Ashland City Elementary School, which was backed by a circuit court judge before a state court overturned the decision in August.

Director of Schools Cathy Beck said in the school board’s work session Nov. 28 that negotiations by attorneys landed former teacher Carlissa Elmi three-and-a-half years of back pay.

The board will vote to request a total of more than $198,000 from the Cheatham County Commission.

Beck said that Elmi was offered the opportunity to return to work for the Cheatham County School District at another school – which she did not identify – but she declined the position.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals issued a filing Aug. 18, overturning a Circuit Court opinion that the decision to terminate Elmi’s employment was justified.

Elmi spent 19 years of her nearly three-decade teaching career at Ashland City Elementary School. Former Director of Cheatham County Schools Stan Curtis stated in May 2014 that he was seeking Elmi’s dismissal, citing “insubordination and inefficiency” in his recommendation to the Cheatham County Board of Education, which backed Curtis.

Elmi was terminated in 2014 and filed suit seeking it be overturned.

Circuit Court Judge David Wolfe issued a decision supporting the termination in Aug. 2016, citing “a pattern of problems with Ms. Elmi’s performance,” based on examples given.

The letter listed 13 documented late arrivals, failure to enter grades promptly and her failure to successfully fulfill a plan of assistance by ACES principal Chip Roney, among other things.

Was someone lying?

But the Court of Appeals decision stated that evidence outweighed the chancery court’s findings and its conclusion that Elmi was insubordinate and inefficient, based upon the Tenure Act’s terms, and refuted each allegation against Elmi.

For example, allegations against the former teacher included frequent tardiness in one academic year, but findings showed that she had only arrived late on one day, which would not constitute insubordination.

“(The) record fails to establish any basis for the dismissal of a tenured teacher,” the Aug. 18 decision states.

The Cheatham County School Board will vote on the lawsuit settlement during its meeting Monday.

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