Former Glen Cove guidance chair sues district, claims retaliation
A former guidance chairman in Glen Cove City Schools is suing the district, school board and superintendent in federal court, saying he was denied tenure in May in retaliation for his role in exposing a grade-fixing scandal that occurred at the high school two years ago.
Michael Tweed, 40, of Plainview, who joined the school system in July 2011, filed the lawsuit this week in the Eastern District in Central Islip. He is seeking reinstatement with back pay, as well as $3 million in punitive damages and legal fees.
The district faced two grading scandals during the 2011-12 school year, one at the high school and one at the elementary level.
Administrators have said they have taken action to prevent future instances of cheating -- several educators paid hefty fines for their involvement and the state monitored some testing there since.
District residents, however, have continued to raise questions at school board meetings about whether punishments were appropriate.
Tweed and Arthur Scheuermann, an attorney with the School Administrators Association of New York State who filed the suit, could not be reached for comment Friday.
In the lawsuit, Tweed said Superintendent Maria L. Rianna in February asked him to accept a fourth year of probation "in exchange for releasing the district of all potential claims" he might have against it, including for retaliation.
The suit says Tweed previously was told he would be tenured after three years. Educators often are considered to be on probation until they earn tenure.
Rianna, reached by phone Friday, said, "I can't talk to you about that at this point in time."
Later, in a statement, she said, "This is currently a legal matter and the district has no comment at this time."
Tweed alleges in court papers that he "stumbled across the fact that at least two high school students had their official transcripts improperly tampered with to enable them to graduate," and that he alerted then-superintendent Joseph Laria.
Laria, who reported the irregularities to the state as is required, resigned from the district in May 2013.
According to the lawsuit, Tweed cooperated with the district's independent investigation into the grade-changing scandal, as well as that of the Nassau County district attorney's office, believing he would be protected as a whistle-blower.
But in the spring of 2013, he said in the court papers, he started to hear from people associated with the district that he was being targeted.
He was denied tenure on May 5 at a school board meeting at which students spoke out on his behalf.
The lawsuit includes excerpts from Tweed's earlier job reviews at Glen Cove, indicating a solid performance.
Since his participation in outing those involved in the grade-fixing scandal, it says, he has been harassed, embarrassed and humiliated by those named in the suit and has had trouble finding work.