The school board approved $10,000 to settle a former School 15 instructional assistant’s discrimination lawsuit.
Natasha Escudero of Woodland Park alleged in a New Jersey Superior Court complaint that the school district discriminated against her when former state-appointed superintendent Donnie Evans terminated her citing “excessive absenteeism” in May 2015.
Escudero’s lawsuit says then-principal Madeline Roman and vice principal Richele Neal conducted a faulty evaluation to justify her termination. She was rated satisfactory in three categories and needs improvement in three others in the allegedly “retaliatory evaluation,” for the 2014-15 school year, according to the lawsuit.
A year earlier, she was rated “outstanding in 6 out of 7 categories” and “commendable in the 7th category.”
“I know that there were a lot of things going on and you had a rough year,” Roman told her when discussing the evaluation, according to the lawsuit.
Escudero took exception to the evaluation described in the lawsuit as “clearly erroneous and created as a set up to terminate” her for medical disability and prior medical leaves. She used sick days in Oct. 2014 for sharp stomach pain that required a hospital visit. Took days off in Feb. 2015 for an abortion.
Escudero provided doctor’s notes and informed her supervisor of her medical problems. Her supervisor Karen Bernard inquired about her attendance.
“I’ve been in that situation before with men who leave you high and dry,” Bernard remarked to her in a meeting.
Escudero, who was hired in 2013, was left high and dry by the district when she was terminated in May 2015. She had 5 paid personal days and 13. 5 sick days for the 2014-15 school year. At the time of her termination she still had 4 sick days left, according to the lawsuit.
Escudero made $29,000 prior to termination. She assisted pre-K teachers with lesson plans and classroom management, according to the lawsuit. She filed her lawsuit in Mar. 2016.
The school board approved the settlement on Apr. 18, 2018. The district settled the case to avoid expending time and resources on the case, according to the approved resolution.