AEA wins temp. restraining order in Montgomery schools intervention

Published: Sep. 13, 2017 at 3:33 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2017 at 6:35 PM CDT
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Dr. Eggleston in court Wednesday (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Dr. Eggleston in court Wednesday (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Alabama Education Association, Alabama's teacher's union, filed a complaint against Montgomery Public School intervention officials Wednesday, and a judge granted them a temporary restraining order.

Judge Greg Griffin granted the AEA's request for a restraining order to stop the reorganization of school system custodians without due process rights. The custodians were moved under logistics with one supervisor instead of being supervised by the principal of their assigned school.

AEA said this was a clear violation of the Students First Act that afforded school employees due process rights for transfers.

"We feel like it's a good day," stated AEA attorney Theron Stokes. "This result is important, the judge did what was right."

But the decision didn't come without a fight. Attorney Spud Seale appeared on behalf of the intervention, previously representing the MPS Board and the district at large. It was questioned whether representing the intervention and Chief Education Officer, Dr. Reginald Eggleston was a conflict of interest.

Seale said that despite using the word "transfer" in the letters of notice to the custodians, it was not a technical transfer, only part of a district reorganization and promised to give the full rights of the Students First Act to the custodians.

AEA attorneys stated Seale couldn't give factual assurances of this nature because MPS doesn't have a superintendent or anyone technically in charge. Judge Griffin responded to that statement, asking who was in charge.

It was revealed that now-former state superintendent Michael Sentance blocked the board from hiring legal counsel and a superintendent. The Montgomery County Board of Education was powerless and there are limitations on Eggleston's authority.

Seale admitted he was not consulted on the letters sent to the custodians.

Following this explanation, Griffin granted the TRO, reversing the reorganization, putting custodians back under the supervision of principals.

"The ship does not have a captain," Stokes stated. "Things are just out of control."

After the hearing, WSFA 12 News asked Seale who was in charge at MPS. Seale responded, "Define in charge".

When questioned about who has the authority to make decisions, Seale stated, "The Montgomery County Board of Education is under state intervention, and the state intervention statute is pretty clear that the plenary authority is in the state superintendent or his designee."

Seale reaffirmed the custodians weren't transferred.

"This was clear this wasn't a transfer. That was never the intention," Seale stated. "I can also confirm that has also been conveyed to the AEA on more than one occasion."

AEA denies that communication, stating Eggleston would never respond to their communications.

"A lot of things going on with MPS, it's almost been done in the color of darkness," Stokes stated. "We don't know what is being done, who is making the decisions, that was not the purpose of this collaborative effort they are supposed to have with the Montgomery County Board of Education."

AEA's complaint, filed Wednesday, lists the custodians involved in the reported transfer as plaintiffs, and Sentance and Eggleston as defendants. The complaint cites bad faith agreements, as the intervention didn't follow through with the hiring of a superintendent and general counsel, explains what AEA defines as 'runaway spending' that accounts for $1.3 million in additional hires and expensive pay increases.

A hearing on this complaint is expected to be scheduled soon.

"We intend to present that to the judge," Stokes explained, citing Eggleston is operating outside his statutory authority, as superintendent. "He does not have the authority to do it. He's acting illegally as superintendent of the Montgomery County Board of Education."

The State Department of Education and the Montgomery Public School System declined comment stating system protocol prevents commenting on pending litigation.

The lack of a state superintendent creates more instability for the MPS intervention, left to the next state superintendent to manage. Sentance resigned his position Wednesday morning.

Copyright 2017 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.