Suit Against Superintendent Settled in N.Y.

By Ian Shapira
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 12, 2008

Prince William County Schools Superintendent Steven L. Walts's long-running legal battles related to his former employer appear finished, after an elementary teacher settled this week a federal lawsuit against him and the Greece, N.Y., school system.

Walts, who was superintendent of the Greece Central School District from 1998 to 2005 before coming to Prince William, was one of several former Greece school officials named as defendants in an age-discrimination lawsuit filed by Mary T. Donlon, 58, a Greece elementary teacher.

Donlon, who sought more than $1 million in damages, alleged that Walts's administration tried to dismiss her based on what she viewed as unfair evaluations and chose younger, less-experienced teachers for coveted summer school jobs.

On Tuesday, the Greece Board of Education voted to settle the dispute in U.S. District Court in Rochester for $235,000, according to board members. Until the Greece school board's vote, Walts had been on track to testify in depositions or at trial.

Reached at her elementary school, Donlon said in an interview that she is relieved the suit has concluded. "It's been a long haul. I guess after a certain period of time you just hope that Walts or any of the other Greece administrators know that it's not a good practice or policy -- discrimination," Donlon said. "I just hope he's not doing the same things down in Prince William. I wish Prince William well."

Keith Imon, a Prince William associate superintendent who serves as Walts's spokesman, said yesterday that he and Walts had not been aware of the settlement until told by a reporter. "In lieu of having any official information confirming that, it's hard to say anything," Imon said. "As you might expect, Dr. Walts remains focused on Prince William County."

The Prince William system, with more than 73,000 students, is the second-largest in Virginia, after Fairfax County schools.

Donlon's case was one of five discrimination lawsuits filed by Greece teachers, each of whom won favorable rulings from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Walts's administration. Greece school board members said the lawsuits were all settled, forcing the school district's insurance company to pay more than $500,000.

The lawsuit's conclusion comes after a New York comptroller's audit, issued in February, that condemned the financial management of the Greece school system under Walts. The audit, which prompted an emergency session of the Prince William School Board, determined that the Greece school system used unauthorized funds to finance a multimillion-dollar capital project and allowed Walts to accept $25,000 for vacation days in a fiscal year during which he was employed for one week.

Walts has defended his record in Greece and denied wrongdoing in connection with issues raised in the audit and the lawsuits.

"It's good to be done with this chapter of our history," said Patrick Tydings, vice president of the Greece school board. "It was a lot of heartache for the district to deal with these lawsuits. Some people thought it would be interesting to hear him testify in a lawsuit."

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