As most are aware by now, back in August, the new Dover High School opened under the leadership of Dr. Evelyn Edney, a brilliant young African-American educator, appointed by Capital School Board Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas. [“Little things make big difference – Principal eager to welcome students and teachers to new home,” article, Aug. 14, 2014]. In November, only three months later, the Board of Education voted to not renew Dr. Edney’s employment contract. [“Dover High principal’s contract not renewed,” article, Dec. 12].
This action is highly suspect given that her boss, the superintendent, recommended her for a new contract based on his personal observations and her near-flawless performance ratings. In addition, the school and Dr. Edney were featured in an article in the Delaware State News for accomplishments one day before she was told that the board would not renew her contract.
Another reason that this looks suspicious is that prior to Dr. Edney, Dover High School had never met its Annual Yearly Progress. This was even under longtime principal Bob Adams and under Gene Montaño, but Mr. Montaño came very close. After DHS was labeled one of the poorest-performing schools in the state, it was placed in the Partnership Zone. [“Capital charts new course for Dover High — Partnership Zone group adopts transformation model for reform,” article, Sept. 27, 2011] The state involvement led Capital to put DHS under the very unpopular but highly effective Co-Principal Model. [Capital Board OKs Dover High Co-Principal Plan — Partnership Zone Proposal Ready for Action by State,” article, Dec. 20, 2011].
It was under this model that Dr. Edney and Mr. Garvey were assigned to lead DHS as co-principals. Mr. Garvey served as Principal of Curriculum, and Dr. Edney as the Principal of Administration. It was under Dr. Edney’s and Mr. Garvey’s leadership that DHS finally realized academic success and met AY) for the first time ever. With the school now coming out of the Partnership Zone, it had to return to the single-principal concept. Because Dr. Edney had excelled in her efforts to return DHS to academic responsibility, she was appointed as the sole principal of DHS.
In her new role as principal of DHS, Dr. Edney now faced the challenge of opening a new 1,800-student high school. This event was closely monitored by almost every media outlet and resident in central Delaware. The new DHS was opened seamlessly and safely with no noticeable incidents.
The totality of Dr. Edney’s performance helping to bring DHS out of the Partnership Zone and the seamless transition in opening the new DHS earned her a satisfactory performance evaluation and a recommendation for a new contract by her boss, Dr. Michael Thomas, superintendent of Capital School District, and also Superintendent of the Year for the State of Delaware.
As an unexpected and shocking reward, the board rejected the superintendent’s recommendation to give Dr. Edney a new contract without giving Dr. Thomas nor Dr. Edney an explanation. To this date, the board still has not given a reason for this action. The board consists of five members: four whites (Kay Sass, Matt Lindell, Brian Lewis, Sean Christiansen) and one black (John Martin). The four white members voted against her and the one black voted in her favor.
The decision by the board will result in several adverse ramifications: First, the board’s action begs for a Title VII unlawful-termination-of-employment lawsuit. A legal action by Dr. Edney may cost this district between $350,000 and $650,000.
A little research will show that two similar lawsuits have occurred within this district in recent years. Both administrators prevailed in their litigations. One case settled for over $90,000, the other over $100,000.
If Dr. Edney sues the district, here is an example of a settlement worksheet:
Recovery of lost wages — 2 years’ salary x $125,000 = $250,000 (assuming she was recommended for a 2-ear contract at $235k per year.)
Pain and suffering — $100,000 (moderate estimate)
Punitive cost — $200,000 (moderate estimate)
Legal fees — pay for both attorneys — $100,000 (moderate estimate)
Total for the district — $650,000
Total for Dr. Edney — $350,000
These are very conservative figures for 2015. But this is very likely what the taxpayers will have to burden, or the board can give Dr. Edney the contract recommended by the superintendent.
Second, with this action, the board has breached its credibility, its integrity and its honor as a decision-making body. The community has lost its confidence in the board’s ability to make lawful or sound judgmental decisions regarding our children, our finances or our employees. Every decision made by the board will now be questioned as to the integrity and basis of that decision. If this action taken against Dr. Edney is not challenged and is allowed to stand, the remaining African-American teachers and administrators do not have a fair chance for a career in this district.
Finally, the board’s inability to demonstrate that their decision was based on Dr. Edney’s job performance has left many to believe that race was the determining factor in their decision. Taking this unbending position has severely damaged race relations in this community and created a divisiveness not seen in Dover in over 50 years. Because of the harm done to the citizens of this community, a petition is being circulated to gain signatures to forward to Governor Markell to ask him to disband this board and appoint a temporary board until an election can be held.
Again, all of this can be avoided by giving Dr. Edney the contract recommended by Dr. Thomas.
Hopefully, the entire community will learn from this incident and exercise greater concern when voting for school boards’ members in the future.
The Mount Zion
Social Action Committee
Roy Sudler Jr., Chairperson