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City Schools of Decatur reinstates fired media clerk


City Schools of Decatur reinstates fired media clerk

Susan Riley
Susan Riley

Susan Riley

This story has been updated. 

Susan Riley, a Decatur High media clerk who was unexpectedly terminated from her job in February and later placed on paid administrative leave, has been reinstated, Decaturish has learned.

Riley met with Superintendent David Dude on Wednesday afternoon, April 13. After that meeting, Dude announced Riley was being reinstated and offered her a public apology.

Dude released the following statement regarding Riley’s case:

The review of the personnel situation involving Mrs. Susan Riley is now complete. Based on careful consideration of the facts supported through the independent review, I have decided that Mrs. Riley will retain employment with the school district and will continue in the role of media clerk at DHS.

My decision to terminate Mrs. Riley’s employment with the school district was not a “right decision” as I believed. I made a wrong decision based on facts I believed were more clear than they actually were; for that I have apologized to Mrs. Riley and to the DHS staff and hereby apologize to the greater community for which I caused unnecessary strife.

I always encourage our students and staff to learn from their mistakes and I hold myself to that same standard. Several significant changes in district structure, process, and procedure will be made.

In complex situations like this one, there is frequently more nuance than one would prefer. This will continue to be a sensitive time for students, parents, and faculty as we work through this and related situations. Many people rightfully have strong feelings regarding this entire situation and/or specific aspects of it. I encourage everyone to model for our students constructive and productive approaches for communication and conflict resolution.

Dude has not responded to a message asking what “significant changes” he is making as a result of the investigation. Decaturish has made a formal records request for the results. Under the state Open Records Act, records pertaining to the suspension, firing or investigation of complaints against a public employee are exempt from disclosure until 10 days after the investigation is concluded. It is unclear when the investigation into Riley’s firing was completed.

Riley had been on paid administrative leave since the uproar over her unexpected termination in February caused Dude to reconsider his decision. There were allegations that Dude was misled about Riley’s job performance.

It’s unclear whether there will be any consequences for the individual or individuals who provided Dude with misinformation. Riley said she missed her job.

“Some people might think paid leave is great, but I’ve hated every minute of it,” Riley said.

She thanked her supporters for helping her get her job back.

“I didn’t deserve to be terminated so I am very happy to go back,” Riley said. “I’ve missed our great faculty and students and can’t wait to see them! My family and I are so grateful to this amazing community for their support. HUGE Thanks to everyone!”

David Hughes, her attorney, declined to comment.

CSD hired Jonathan Poole with Strickland Brockington Lewis to look into the handling of Riley’s case. He was being paid $235 per hour for his services. The review began early last month.

Riley wasn’t sure why she was fired. Hughes, her attorney, alleged his client was fired for four reasons, including misappropriating school equipment, failing to adhere to a new job plan, inappropriately complaining about her coworkers’ alleged mistreatment of her and for discussing a human resources complaint into her allegations. School Board members rebutted his accusations, but have declined to offer specifics.

Tom Stubbs, a local attorney who has been rallying the community to Riley’s defense, said in a widely-distributed email, “Outgoing Superintendent [Phyllis] Edwards told Susan on Sept. 11 of last year that she [Dr. Edwards] had approved the upgrade from media clerk to media and tech assistant. The paperwork for that promotion disappeared, however. Superintendent Edwards reasonably does not recall all the details of what happened, but she did report to Susan … that she remembered checking with the principal and HR about it – and these were the primary hurdles the promotion had to clear  – and that there had been no objection. The promotion was never provided, however.”

According to people familiar with the outcome of Riley’s reinstatement, she will not be promoted when she returns to Decatur High.

According to Stubbs, Riley also “reported having difficulties” with two other employees at the school, but Stubbs alleges Riley’s reports were disregarded by CSD’s Human Resources Department.

Prior to her unexpected firing in February, Riley had worked at Decatur High for 19 years and was well-regarded by students and her colleagues. She was named a Decatur Hometown Hero in 2011.

When she received the Hometown Hero award, she was described as, “the heart of the school.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information about the meeting between Susan Riley and David Dude. This story has been updated with the correct information.