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McMillen v. Girard School Dist.

March 28, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLAUGHLIN, Sean J., J.


This matter is before the Court upon Defendants' motion for summary judgment.


On or about October 23, 2000, Defendant, Girard School District, hired Plaintiff, Lisa McMillen, as a part-time cafeteria helper at Rice Avenue Middle School ("RAMS"). (Plaintiff's Deposition, pp. 5-6). While employed in this position, Plaintiff would occasionally substitute as a custodian in the School District's Maintenance Department on a part-time, as needed basis, usually in the evenings. (Cornwell Aff ¶ 2). Plaintiff's supervisor, during the times that she worked as a custodian, was Defendant John Cornwell ("Cornwell"). Cornwell, at that time, served as Maintenance Director to the school district.

In June or July, 2004, Cornwell received permission from Dr. Dean Maynard, the District Superintendent, to post an opening for a full-time (40 hours per week) custodial position. This position would split time between RAMS and the District's high school. (Maynard Aff ¶ 2).

The job posting for the position indicated that the applicant should have "[g]ood communication skills" and would be expected to "[remain] on the school premises during assigned hours and during non-school hours when the use of the building has been authorized and attendance is required." On July 14, 2004, the District posted the position.

The District's procedure for filling vacancies during the relevant time period required Maynard, the Superintendent, to first appoint an interview team to select interviewees, conduct interviews, and recommend a candidate for the position to the Superintendent. (Maynard Aff ¶ 5).

The Superintendent then would recommend a candidate to the School Board for approval. The interview team had no authority to hire a candidate or to directly recommend a candidate to the Board. The Superintendent was not obligated to select a candidate from among those recommended by the interview team. (Maynard Aff ¶ 6-9). The ultimate decision with respect to the hire rested with the Board. (Maynard Aff ¶ 10).

In preparation for the July, 2004 custodial posting, Maynard appointed Cornwell and Greg McClelland, the principal of RAMS, to serve as the interview team. Before the position was formally posted, Cornwell and Maynard contend that they had a conversation about several potential candidates that Cornwell wished to interview, including Plaintiff. (Cornwell Deposition, p. 54; Maynard Aff ¶ 3). According to Cornwell, when Plaintiff's name was raised, Maynard instructed Cornwell that he did not want Plaintiff recommended for the job. (Id.)

Maynard asserts that he had decided to exclude Plaintiff as a viable candidate for the job prior to her interview because he felt that her interpersonal skills were insufficient for the position of custodian. (Maynard Aff ¶ 4; Cornwell Dep pp. 54-55). Maynard felt that an essential requirement of the custodial position was that the person hired be able to interact effectively with the public, particularly during evening hours when public events were scheduled at the high school and, occasionally, at RAMS. (Maynard Aff ¶ 4). Maynard further asserts that he had received feedback from staff and employees calling into question Plaintiff's interpersonal skills, including various complaints that he purportedly received about her attitude and performance while she was working in the cafeteria. (Maynard Aff ¶ 14).

Cornwell testified at deposition that he accepted Maynard's instruction not to recommend Plaintiff for the position, but advised Maynard that he still intended to interview Plaintiff as a courtesy. Cornwell felt that, in light of Plaintiff's experience as a substitute custodian, she would expect to be interviewed and considered for the position, and Cornwell did not want to create disharmony by offending her. Maynard acquiesced. (Cornwell Dep pp. 56-57).

After the position formally posted, McClelland and Cornwell selected five applicants to interview, including Plaintiff. Four of the applicants were women, and four of the five had previous experience with the District performing substitute custodial work. (Maynard Aff ¶ 3; Attached Exs A-E). The male applicant, Mike Ferrington ("Ferrington"), had already been performing the high school portion of the Custodial Position on an interim basis for the nine months prior to the posting. (Maynard Aff ¶ 23).

On August 19, 2004, McClelland and Cornwell conducted brief interviews of each of the five applicants. During her interview, Plaintiff indicated that she was asked two questions: whether she would continue to substitute for the District if she failed to receive the job, and whether she had any questions for the interview team. Following each interview, Cornwell completed an information sheet about each candidate, outlining some of the candidate's strengths and weaknesses. (Cornwell Dep pp. 48-50; Cornwell Aff ¶ 5, Exs. A-E). Plaintiff's sheet stated that she "doesn't always work well with others" and "is sometimes critical and bossy." Cornwell described Ferrington as "very conscientious" and noted his "good attitude." (Id.)

After concluding the interviews, McClelland and Cornwell testified that they independently concluded that Ferrington was the best candidate for the position. (McClelland Dep pp. 14-15; Cornwell Dep pp. 57-59). They recommended Ferrington to Maynard, who in turn recommended Ferrington to the Board. The Board approved the recommendation and awarded the position to Ferrington on August 23, 2004. (Maynard Aff ΒΆ 11). In addition to his interpersonal skills, Maynard claimed that he and the Board both valued the fact that Ferrington had a CDL license allowing him to drive a school bus. While this license was not a necessary ...

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