June 21st, 2010 5:33 pm | by BETH SLOVIC News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Schools, CLEAN UP

Special Education Administrator Files Suit Against Portland Public Schools

Stacey Sibley, a popular former administrator at Pioneer School, a Portland Public Schools' program for children with severe behavioral conditions, filed suit [PDF] against the school district on Friday. She claims in her suit that she was the victim of defamation and retaliation after she complained about threats to student and staff safety at Pioneer.

According to the lawsuit, the problem started on March 10, 2009, when Sibley and five of her subordinates met with Jollee Patterson, PPS's general counsel and the district's then-acting human resources director. The meeting was to discuss recent staffing decisions by Sibley's supervisor, Joanne Mabbott. Sibley believed those decisions (which weren't specified in the lawsuit) would undermine student and staff safety at Pioneer. Sibley met with Patterson and another PPS administrator for a second meeting on April 3, 2009.

On May 6, 2009, the lawsuit alleges Mabbott told Sibley in the foyer of district headquarters (in front of other employees) that Sibley was "no longer necessary" to Pioneer. PPS then placed Sibley, a PPS employee since 1993, at Ockley Green K-8 School where she was given the title of assistant principal.

Two months later, a financial analyst with the district sent an email to several other PPS staff that said Sibley had misused a district-issued credit card, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit calls that email both false and defamatory.

Sometime after Jan. 1, 2010, when a parent asked PPS's chief academic officer, Xavier Botana, whether Sibley had been removed from Pioneer because she "hurt a child," Botana allegedly responded by saying "we can't talk about that." According to the lawsuit, Botana's statement created the false impression Sibley had engaged in wrongful conduct.

Sibley ran Pioneer for 10 years until 2009. She supervised 200 employees and 470 children, according to the lawsuit, which seeks $772,383 in damages.

A PPS spokesman said he wasn't aware of the lawsuit, but PPS typically doesn't comment on pending lawsuits.
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