UPDATED: Former Framingham Principal Files Lawsuit Against Public School District

FRAMINGHAM  – A former elementary school principal has filed a lawsuit against the Framingham Public Schools.

Joseph Smith, who was principal at Stapleton Elementary School, for less than a year, filed a suit in Hampshire County against the Framingham Public Schools on May 18, 2016.

Smith, who was hired by Superintendent Stacy Scott during the summer of 2013, resigned in March 2014, after an MCAS issue at the school.

Scott is currently on an extended paid leave for the 2016-17 school year.

The lawsuit only names the public school district, and not Scott, who was in charge of hiring and firing principals for the district.

The lawsuit was filed after Framingham Source exclusively reported that Scott did not have a license to be superintendent in Massachusetts, and after the Framingham School Committee held closed door meetings about the performance of Scott.

Editor’s Note: Framingham Source learned of the lawsuit when the Framingham School Committee’s attorney called Source Editor Susan Petroni this month to ask her questions about a report she published in 2014 while working for a different media outlet about Smith. The lawyer said that teachers and staff at Stapleton Elementary were participating in depositions, and asked Petroni about a photograph she may or may not have taken, specifically.

Since that phone call, Source contacted the Framingham Public Schools about the lawsuit. Human Resources Director Inna London said she could not speak on pending litigation. School Committee Chair Heather Connolly said she was aware of the suit, but could not comment.

Smith’s attorney Ben Rudolf, of Worcester law firm  Murphy & Vander Salm, confirmed that a “discrimination” lawsuit was filed against the Framingham Public Schools on May 18, 2016. Rudolf said Smith had filed an earlier complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

Rudolf, who specialized in employment litigation and contract disputes, said the suit did not name an individual. He said last Thursday he could not discuss the litigation more, without talking to his client

In March of 2014, it was reported that fifth grade students at Stapleton Elementary School had less time to complete the state-mandated MCAS exams. Typically, students start the test by 9:30 a.m., but students were were not given the test until almost 10:30 a.m. according to staff. Employees at Stapleton said the state exams were still sealed in a box at 8 a.m.

After media reports on the MCAS issue, Scott issued a statement. It read: “Monday, March 17, administrators from the FPS district office reported concerns to DESE regarding a potential irregularity in MCAS administration at Stapleton ES which impacted the starting time of the test for 5th grade students.”

On March 26, Scott issued a letter to parents. It read:

“I was made aware of possible MCAS testing irregularities on the initial day of testing. The first test administered at Stapleton was a one hour untimed test.  Upon notification, Central Administration staff was deployed to Stapleton Elementary to assist Principal Joseph Smith in MCAS administration for the rest of the week … Although Principal Smith will not be in this week, the work of teaching and learning continues as usual. Ellen Vedora, head teacher is in charge this week. She is being supported with personnel from Central Office Administration. Please direct any questions you have to Mark Prince, Assistant Superintendent, or to my staff as needed.”

On March 28, during a meeting with parents, Scott announced Smith had resigned on March 27.

Scott later named then-Dunning Elementary School Principal Kim Taylor to serve as the interim principal for the rest of the school year, while overseeing Dunning Elementary, as well.

Smith came to Framingham  after three years as principal at Leeds Elementary School in Northampton and two years as the assistant principal at Crocker Farm Elementary School in Amherst.

His resume, when hired by Scott, said he held two Master of Science degrees from Sage Graduate School; one is in Special Education and the other one is in Reading.  His undergraduate degree was awarded from the University at Albany in Albany New York.

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Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: editor@FraminghamSource.com Phone: 508-315-7176

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