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Second lawsuit filed as schools plan to add positions

Jared Felkins jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 5:36 PM

A second lawsuit against the Wilson County Board of Education and Director of Schools Tim Setterlund alleging wrongful termination was filed last month, just days prior to Setterlund unveiling his plans to add new positions at the Central Office.

Jill Micco, who held the position of supervisor of special education prior to Sept. 11 when Setterlund eliminated it, filed suit Nov. 21 in Wilson County Chancery Court and requests a jury trial. She joins former Wilson County schools career and technical education supervisor Bill Moss, who filed a separate-but-similar suit against the board and Setterlund in October. Both Moss and Micco hired local attorney Michael Clemons with Clemons and Clemmons in Nashville to represent them.

In the suit – much like Moss – Micco claims Setterlund and the board broke state law in eliminating Micco’s position and asks for back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees.

Setterlund eliminated Micco’s position Sept. 12, one day prior to action taken with Moss’ position.

Setterlund said he eliminated the supervisor of career and technical education position Sept. 13, which left Moss without a job. At the time he said supervisors of instruction Monty Wilson and Jennifer Cothron would assume Moss’ duties.

“There’s a myriad of reasons,” Setterlund said at the time. “One is money. That was an expensive position for us. Another is that it creates a lean central office with expectations for high achievement.”

Moss received a nearly $100,000 annual salary in his position. He worked for Wilson County schools for the past 31 years.

Micco worked for Wilson County schools for about 23 years and started as a school psychologist.

According to Micco’s suit, at the time her position was eliminated, Setterlund told her they had “differing visions for the school system.”

In the suit, Micco claims she was “denied her right to a preference for re-employment accorded to tenured personnel,” according to state law. She said in the suit she was never placed on a preferred list for re-employment.

Micco also said in the suit Setterlund and the board violated state law by not considering her or evaluating her for any vacancies. She also claims in the suit her fitness was not evaluated as required by state law.

The suit also claims the board failed to “state on the record why it abolished” Micco’s position “if, in fact, it voted to do so.”

Micco claims in the suit Setterlund failed to give Micco or the board notice prior to eliminating her position, which Micco claims is in violation of state law.

Micco said in the suit her losing her job was not due to the elimination of her position, and she was denied a hearing before the board.

On Dec. 2, the board approved adding three new positions at the Central Office, along with their respective job descriptions.

Setterlund said Dec. 4 the elimination of both Moss and Micco’s positions were included in plans leading up to the creation of the new positions.

The board voted Dec. 2 to add the positions of deputy director of academics, deputy director of student services and deputy director of talent management, but not without discussion.

Board member Bill Robinson wanted to defer a vote on the issue until board members could discuss it in a work session

"I would feel more comfortable if we had more open discussion on how this will be funded," said Robinson at the time.

Larry Tomlinson echoed Robinson's concern, asking if the addition of the positions would affect the budget. 

Setterlund said it would not.

 "I would not hire these positions if it would increase the budget," said Setterlund at the time.

Tomlinson also wanted to know if there was a timeline to hire people to fill the newly created roles.

Setterlund said he had a "sense of urgency" regarding the addition of these positions in order to "reorganize in the best interest of our students."

Board Chairman Don Weathers commended Setterlund.

"This is a good move," said Weathers. "You have to be willing to make changes. We have to listen to his recommendation and grow with it."

On a final note before voting, Tomlinson said, "I certainly hope if we do do this and we have capable people in our system to do this, I hope they will be considered. Our teachers and current employees are the ones I'm concerned about."

Democrat general assignment reporter Kimberly Jordan contributed to this report. 

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