Former SD 227 superintendent sues district over her firing
By Casey Toner firstname.lastname@example.org July 26, 2013 6:30PM
Updated: August 30, 2013 6:36AM
Former Rich Township High School District 227 Supt. Donna Simpson Leak is suing the district for more than $800,000, claiming civil conspiracy, breach of contract, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The lawsuit also asks Cook County Circuit Court Judge Peter Flynn to give her an all-new disciplinary hearing before the school board and bar two board members she claims are biased against her.
Leak filed the lawsuit shortly after the District 227 board voted to fire her in June. The board fired Leak as a tenured teacher and not a superintendent, claiming her superintendent contract that expired in 2017 was invalid because it lacked performance goals.
As a tenured teacher, Leak has 17 days to appeal the board’s decision before an Illinois State Board of Education hearing officer. It is up to the District 227 board to make a final decision on her firing after her appeal, according to the lawsuit.
However, the lawsuit is asking Flynn to delay Leak’s appeal process so he can determine whether her superintendent contract— which she claims contained performance goals — is still valid.
If Flynn rules that her superintendent contract is valid, she is asking the court to give her another termination hearing before the District 227 board, according to the lawsuit.
If Flynn rules that her superintendent contract is invalid, Leak would follow the standard process and appeal the board’s decision before an Illinois State Board of Education hearing officer and the District 227 board would make a final ruling.
In either case, Leak claims board members Cheryl Coleman and David Morgan are biased against her and should not be allowed to weigh in on her employment status, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims Coleman and Morgan’s decision to fire Leak was motivated by their bias against her and did not “further the purposes of the district, staff, or students.” The lawsuit also claims that board members Coleman, Morgan, Antoine Bass and Delores Woods conspired to bring “false and frivolous charges,” against Leak in order to fire her and hurt her reputation.
According to the lawsuit, Leak has a stellar “personal and professional reputation in the education community as well as the local community where she was employed.”
Since her firing, Leak has purchased a billboard advertisement facing the southbound lanes on Interstate 57 just south of the 127th Street exit. The billboard features Leak’s face along with a message to the community.
“Thank you!” reads the billboard. “Students, parents and staff of Rich Township SD 227.”
Leak’s attorney, Steven Glink, said in a phone interview that he believes Leak’s heart is with the district’s parents and children.
“A lot of people didn’t like Dennis Rodman, but he helped the team,” Glink said. “She was good for the district and the staff lost a lot.”
Glink wrote a letter to District 227 attorneys Franczek Radelet and John Relias in June defending Leak, saying the board had no basis to fire her. Glink denied the board’s claims that Leak had improperly expelled students and violated the rights of special education students, saying that Leak was acting as prior District 227 superintendents had under prior board approval, according to the letter. He denied allegations that Leak locked board members out the administrative center, claiming that they were locked out because the district was installing a new lock system, the letter said.
Reached by phone, Coleman declined to comment on the lawsuit. However, she did still feel that the board acted correctly in firing Leak.
“It was the right decision for the people and the children, no doubt about it,” Coleman said.