School board candidate takes grievance matter to court
Michael Weston really, really wants his day in court. That is, if the court is the Hillsborough County School Board.
The former Freedom High School math teacher sued Hillsborough schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia in December, saying Elia has a legal duty to schedule a grievance hearing for him before the elected board.
Weston, who did not have tenure, was dismissed at the end of the last school year. The action, called a "non-renomination," followed an investigation based on an anonymous complaint about his interaction with teachers and students. Weston is also an outspoken critic of the district and is running for the second time for a school board seat. He faces Michelle Popp Shimberg and Sally Harris in District 2, which covers south Tampa and southern Hillsborough.
The allegations involving Weston's coworkers were unsubstantiated. The ones involving students - basically, that he was rude, sarcastic and insulting - were supported by student interviews. But the matter did not result in disciplinary action. And Weston contends district officials hand-picked students who did not like him, including some who had withdrawn from his classes.
Though he could not challenge the non-renomination, the teachers' union did file a grievance on his behalf concerning two contract violations. He prevailed in that grievance and that's why Elia said he is not entitled to a hearing before the board.
What does Circuit Judge Bernard Silver say?
In a nutshell, he wants Elia to respond within 30 days. He won't go as far as saying she is neglecting any legal duty. Rather, he wrote, the case might involve a contract violation.