Thursday, June 21, 2018
Education

Ousted director accuses Pasco superintendent of retaliation

LAND O'LAKES — A former high-level Pasco school district official has accused superintendent Kurt Browning of getting rid of her for speaking her mind.

Lizette Alexander, director of student services until Browning reorganized the department in February, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission a few weeks after the superintendent removed her name from his reappointment list for the new school year.

Alexander, 61, was one year away from retirement. She faced an unspecified midlevel management job and a pay cut.

District email records show that when she asked to speak with Browning about her status, assistant superintendent Amelia Larson responded that "Superintendent Browning acknowledges but denies your request to meet with him. Your unprofessional and hostile communications demonstrate that further discussions would be futile."

Leading to that point, Alexander had sent emails to Larson and Browning accusing them of trying to drive her out. Alexander had supported former superintendent Heather Fiorentino in the 2012 campaign.

She said she had no intention of retiring early, yet Larson told her it was time to do so. She said she told others about her job situation, which she said angered Larson, whom Alexander once supervised.

"I have a right to freedom of speech and any objective observer can see that I am being harassed and retaliated against solely for speaking to others publicly on my own behalf," Alexander wrote in one email, while waiting for a conversation with Browning to clarify matters. That talk never came.

Instead, Alexander got an email from Larson stating she never asked or forced Alexander to retire or denied her right to speak. "However, we do not have space for individuals who have demonstrated a lack of commitment to the District's vision to create a community which works together to improve outcomes for our students."

Soon after, she received an official notification that she would not be retained.

"I did nothing but a good job," said Alexander, who ran the district's new choice division for a few months after her old job was dissolved. "I couldn't have a discussion with Mr. Browning because Mr. Browning decided he didn't want to talk with me. I had no way to appeal anything."

Browning said he had not seen the complaint. Asked if he retaliated or discriminated against Alexander, he said, "Absolutely not."

He referred further questions to the district equity manager, who had not received a copy of the complaint.

Alexander said she wasn't looking to work for the district anymore. "I hope at least I shed some light onto what they are doing," she said.

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