Portland Public Schools Locked in 3-Year Dispute with School Psychologist

Dispute has dragged on since 2013.

For more than a year, there's been a lot of attention paid to hiring and retention within the ranks at Portland Public School. Members of the Portland School Board argued in 2015 over salary raises in the central office. They audited those salary raises in summer 2016, and Tuesday they voted to increase pay for administrators and some central-office employees.

The pay raises are an attempt to attract strong candidates for jobs at PPS, where there are numerous vacancies owing to the turmoil of last spring's lead scandal.

Behind the scenes, PPS has been experiencing another kind of employment battle. And while it involves only one employee, it's dragged out for more than three years.

A school psychologist from Sunnyside Environmental K-8 in Southeast Portland who was placed on paid administrative leave on Oct. 16, 2013, remains locked in a legal dispute with the district.

PPS put Theresa Seeley on leave so it could investigate her after she participated in a custody proceeding involving two Sunnyside students without district approval, public documents from the district show. (Public documents from Seeley characterize the leave differently; she says she was being investigated for accompanying a friend to court over the summer.)

In any case, that wasn't the first conflict between Seeley and PPS.

Seven months earlier, the Portland School Board voted not to extend Seeley's contract with the district. Seeley, who started working at PPS in the late 1990s, filed a federal lawsuit in 2015, alleging PPS retaliated against her for pursuing complaints against colleagues.

Seeley declined to comment on the dispute. Public records show PPS attempted to settle with Seeley in November.

A PPS spokeswoman declined to say whether Seeley is still being paid her $79,145 annual salary, but salary records PPS released in April included her.

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