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Hendricks v. Pittsburgh Public Schools

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 10, 2015

PAMELA F. HENDRICKS, an adult individual, Plaintiff,
v.
PITTSBURGH PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Pittsburgh Faison Primary Campus, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

NORA BARRY FISCHER, District Judge.

AND NOW, this 10th day of February, 2015, upon consideration of Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration, (Docket No. 36), and Brief in Support, (Docket No. 37), Plaintiff's Response in Opposition, (Docket No. 39), Defendant's Reply, (Docket No. 44), Plaintiff's Sur-Reply, (Docket No. 47), and the Court having convened Argument on said Motion, (Docket No. 48),

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant's Motion is GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part. The Motion is GRANTED, to the extent that the Court's Memorandum Opinion, (Docket No. 34), is AMENDED, to correct the Court's error in finding that Leah Rae Bivins ("Ms. Bivins") was the Vice Principal of Faison during the 2009-2010 school year. The third sentence in the first paragraph of Section II.A., id., now shall state: "For the 2009-2010 school year, JoAnn Hoover ("Ms. Hoover") was the Vice Principal and Yvonna K. Smith ("Ms. Smith") was the Principal." The Motion is DENIED in all other respects. For the reasons that follow, the correction of this factual error does not cause this Court to alter its holding in denying Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on the race discrimination claim. (Id. ).

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The purpose of a motion for reconsideration "is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." Kabacinski v. Bostrom Seating, Inc., 98 F.Appx. 78, 81 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985)). Because "federal courts have a strong interest in the finality of judgments, " United States v. Hoey, 2011 WL 748152, at *2 (W.D.Pa. Feb. 15, 2011) (citation omitted), the standard that must be met to prevail on a motion for reconsideration is high, see Berry v. Jacobs IMC, LLC, 99 F.Appx. 405, 410 (3d Cir. 2004). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit explains that:

[s]uch motions "are granted for compelling reasons, ' such as a change in the law which reveals that an earlier ruling was erroneous, not for addressing arguments that a party should have raised earlier." Solis v. Current Dev. Corp., 557 F.3d 772, 780 (7th Cir. 2009) (internal citations omitted). Though "[m]otions to reconsider empower the court to change course when a mistake has been made, they do not empower litigants... to raise their arguments, piece by piece." Id.

United States v. Dupree, 617 F.3d 724, 732-33 (3d Cir. 2010).

The Court may grant a motion for reconsideration if the moving party shows: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence which was not available when the court issued its order; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent a manifest injustice. United States v. Perminter, 2012 WL 642530, at *3 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 28, 2012) (citing Max's Seafood Cafe by Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999)). A motion for reconsideration is not a tool to re-litigate and reargue issues which have already been considered and disposed of by the Court, see Hoey, 2011 WL 748152, at *2 (citation omitted), or for addressing arguments that a party had the opportunity to raise before the Court's decision, see United States v. Dupree, 617 F.3d 724, 732-33 (3d Cir. 2010) (quotations omitted). Rather, such a motion is appropriate only where the court misunderstood a party or where there has been a significant change in law or facts since the Court originally ruled on that issue. Hoey, 2011 WL 748152, at *2.

II. ANALYSIS

1. Implication of the Court's Factual Error

Defendant argues that, because the Court misclassified Bivins as Vice Principal for the 2009-2010 school year, the Court must reconsider its denial of summary judgment on the race discrimination claim. (Docket No. 37). Specifically, Defendant contends that "there is undisputed record evidence that Bivins played no role (and was not even an administrator at Faison that year) when Plaintiff was placed on her first EIP and when she received her first Unsatisfactory rating." (Docket No. 37 at 4). Plaintiff avers that Ms. Bivins did observe her "on several occasions during the subject year." (Id. ). Nevertheless, Plaintiff maintains that it is of no consequence whether Bivins was the primary observer, as Ms. Bivins had the "final say" on the second unsatisfactory rating that directly led to Plaintiff's termination. (Docket No. 39 at 2); (Docket No. 25-2 at 75).

Notwithstanding the factual error which was corrected by this Court, supra, Defendant has not provided this Court with any basis to grant its motion for summary judgment as to the race discrimination claim.[1] In this Court's estimation, the record supports Plaintiff's contention that Ms. Bivins was Plaintiff's superior during the 2010-2011 school year, (Docket Nos. 24, 33 at ¶¶ 23-24); did conduct observations, (Id. at ¶ 53); (Docket No. 30-1 at 13:10-19); and did recommend her for the second unsatisfactory rating, (Docket Nos. 24, 33 at ¶ 59). Despite Defendant's argument that Ms. Bivins "had no involvement in Plaintiff's first EIP and unsatisfactory rating" and that Ms. Hoover was the primary observer during both years in question, Ms. Bivins' name is listed on the "Administrator" line at the bottom of a Student Behavior Referral dated December 3, 2009. (Docket No. 25-2 at 45).

Moreover, during that year, Lora Bethea ("Ms. Bethea") testified that Ms. Bivins split the staff; some people were to be supervised by Ms. Hoover, the Vice Principal, and some people were to be supervised by Ms. Bivins. (Id. at 8:20-23). Special education and primary teachers were to be supervised by Ms. Hoover. (Id. at 8:23-24). Plaintiff was a special education teacher. (Docket Nos. 24, 33 at ¶ 19). There is evidence in the record, however, that at some point, Ms. Bivins began to supervise Plaintiff and did play a role in the 2009-2010 school year. See, e.g. (Docket No. 25-2 at 45) (Student Behavior Referral prepared by Administrator L. Bivins and dated 12/3/2009). In her deposition, Ms. Bivins could not pin-point her roles at Faison during the relevant time period:

Q: When were you vice principal, and when were you principal?
A:... I believe I was assistant principal there in - I don't know - I think 2009. See, I don't know. I was back and forth there about six times throughout my career. But I know most likely from 2008 to 2010 or so I served either as assistant principal there, interned there, or acting principal there.

(Docket No. 30-1 at 6:14-23). Ms. Bivins was asked if she had duties to oversee Plaintiff when she was a teacher at Faison. (Id. at 9:24-10:1). She responded, "Yes. During the time which I was assistant principal - I'm not sure when she came. As far as during the time which I was assistant principal yes, and during the time I was an acting principal, yes, and a principal." (Id. at 10:2-7). When Ms. Bivins was an assistant principal, she said that she had to assist Plaintiff a lot and spend a lot of time supporting her. (Id. at 28:25-29:5). Further, Ms. Bivins testified that she was an acting principal the year prior to her becoming the principal at Faison, presumably during the year 2009-2010, because toward the end of that year, the principal went out on leave. (Id. at 8:15-18). When she was acting principal, she testified that part of her duties was to oversee Plaintiff. (Id. at 10:1-7). However, Ms. Bivins later testified that during the 2009-2010 school year, she had no involvement at Faison. (Id. at 48:24-49:5). The Court recognizes the above ...


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