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Bolton v. Baldwin County Public School

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

September 22, 2014

BEVERLY J. BOLTON, Plaintiff,
v.
BALDWIN COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS, [1] Defendant

Decided Date: September 19, 2014.

Beverly J. Bolton, Plaintiff, Pro se, Pensacola, FL.

For Baldwin County Public Schools, Defendant: Robert C. Campbell, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, Campbell Duke Law Firm, Mobile, AL; Robert Nash Campbell, Campbell, Duke & Campbell, Mobile, AL.

Jennifer Sinclair, Defendant, Pro se.

Page 1343

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM E. CASSADY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment with attached brief and evidentiary materials (Doc. 47), plaintiff's response with attachments (Doc. 49), and the defendant's reply brief (Doc. 50). The parties have consented to the exercise of jurisdiction by the Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), for all proceedings in this Court. (Doc. 26 (" In accordance with provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties in this case consent to have a United States magistrate judge conduct any and all proceedings in this case, including the trial, order the entry of a final judgment, and conduct all post-judgment proceedings." ); see also Doc. 28 (order of reference).) Upon consideration of the foregoing pleadings, with attachments, and all other relevant pleadings in this case, the Court concludes that defendant's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 47) is due to be GRANTED.

FINDINGS OF FACT

On August 12 or 13, 2013, plaintiff was interviewed by the principal of Baldwin County High School, John Cabaniss, and recommended for an open special education teaching position at the school. ( Compare Doc. 9, at 6 with Doc. 47, Sinclair aff., at ¶ ¶ 2 & 4 and Doc. 49, Exhibit 5 (August 12, 2013 email communications between the Human Resources Department and the high school regarding paperwork Bolton needed to complete before a recommendation to hire could be made).) Cabaniss's recommendation of Bolton was entered into the Baldwin County Board of Education's " Human Resources data base system (CITRIX)[] on August 16, 2013[.]" (Doc. 47, Sinclair aff., at ¶ 4.)

According to plaintiff, August 16, 2013 was the date of the " New Hire" orientation/meeting she attended (see Doc. 9, at ¶ 8) and on that date she received paperwork,

Page 1344

including New-Hire Packet Information (Doc. 49, Exhibit 7) and an enrollment form to enroll in the Teachers' Retirement System of Alabama, which she signed that very day (Doc. 49, Exhibit 8). The New-Hire Packet Information specifically informed all new employees that " until the Board's approval, employment is not final[]" and that if the Board did not approve employment, the newly hired individual would be " considered a substitute and compensated accordingly." (Doc. 49, Exhibit 7.) Even a " certification" form signed by Bolton on August 23, 2013 makes reference to plaintiff as merely a " PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEE[.]" (Doc. 49, Exhibit 6.)[2] All of the foregoing is consistent with Jennifer Sinclair's affidavit testimony that " [a]ll certified employees of the Baldwin County Board of Education, including certified special education teachers, are not employed by the Baldwin County Board of Education until the Board approves his/her hiring at a Board meeting open to the public." (Doc. 47, Exhibit 4, Sinclair aff., at ¶ 3.)

Following submission of Cabiniss's recommendation of Bolton on August 16, 2013, the Human Resources Office of the Baldwin County Board of Education went about the task of verifying plaintiff's credentials. (Doc. 47, Exhibit 4, Sinclair aff., at ¶ 4.) To this end, it was determined that although Bolton held a Florida teaching certificate, " she did not hold an Alabama Professional Educator Certificate" and, therefore, " she was eligible for Alabama Collaborative 6-12 Certification via reciprocity with Florida[.]" ( Compare id. at ¶ 5 with Doc. 47, Exhibit 1 to Sinclair aff., at 4.) Indeed, Angela Middleton, with the Human Resources Office, sent an email of " high" importance to Principal Cabaniss, on August 20, 2013,[3] therein advising Cabaniss that plaintiff appeared to be eligible for such a certification provided she submit " [a] copy of her score report or registration confirmation for the NEXT ADMINISTRATION of Praxis II #5354, Special Ed Core Knowledge & Applications[.]" ( Id.)[4] In addition, Middleton advised Cabaniss that she had discussed with Bolton--after the new employee orientation meeting--the State's requirement that all prospective employees who filed applications prior to September 1, 2013 would be " required to complete basic skills testing[; ]" however, Middleton also advised

Page 1345

Cabaniss that her department was in the process of asking the State for an " update on this issue[.]" (Doc. 47, Exhibit 1 to Sinclair aff., at 5.) The following morning--that is, on August 21, 2013 at 8:49 a.m.--Middleton emailed Cabaniss and advised that the State was continuing to enforce the requirement " of basic skills testing for OTH applications[; ]" therefore, in addition to the Praxis II #5354 score report or registration confirmation for the next administration of the test, the Human Resources Office also needed a copy of Bolton's " score report or registration confirmation for the NEXT ADMINISTRATION of AECTP basic skills (reading, writing & math)" in order to " complete the review of Ms. Bolton's credentials[.]" ( Id. at 4.)[5]

On August 26, 2013, Angela Middleton addressed the following email to Bolton:

Thank you for faxing your test registration information.
The score reports for the July 13 administration of basic skills testing for which you registered were mailed on August 10 so[] you should have received your score report by now. Please submit a copy of your score report.
The Praxis II document received was printed before your registration was finalized. Please forward a copy of your admission ticket or registration confirmation for the Praxis II.
Lastly, your email below indicates your desire to pursue the Collaborative 6-12 certification (which is required for your current assignment) but[] it does not make clear that you do not wish to pursue any other area of certification for which you may be eligible (e.g.[,] Elementary K-6 and Collaborative K-6). Please state clearly your preferences ...

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