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Farmer v. Camden City Board of Education

July 19, 2005

WILMA J. FARMER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAMDEN CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION, ANNETTE D. KNOX, AND JOHN DOES 1-10, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

Plaintiff, Wilma J. Farmer, brought suit against the Camden City Board of Education ("Camden Board" or "Board") and its Superintendent, Annette D. Knox, charging them with age discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -49. Defendants subsequently moved for summary judgment seeking dismissal of the Complaint, which motion this Court granted in its entirety. The Court explained its reasons therefor in a 38-page Opinion, which Plaintiff now asks the Court to reconsider under L. Civ. R. 7.1(i).*fn1 For the reasons expressed below, Plaintiff's attempt to reargue and relitigate its claims does not comply with the limited purposes of the reconsideration rule. In any event, the arguments which Plaintiff has presented to the Court for the first time are without merit. The motion for reconsideration will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND*fn2

Plaintiff was hired by the Camden City Board of Education ("Camden Board" or "Board") as a third grade elementary school teacher almost 52 years ago. (Farmer Dep. Tr. Def. Ex. A at 7:18-25.) In 2000, after having held other intermediate level faculty positions, Plaintiff was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Administration and Support Services. (Id. at 15:3-13.) Ms. Farmer was holding that position at the time Defendant Annette D. Knox became the Superintendent of the Camden City School District in January, 2001. (Id. at 18:1-8.)

Shortly thereafter, the position of Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction became vacant. On January 31, 2001, Plaintiff sent a letter to Ms. Knox requesting to be appointed to that position. (Pl. Ex. G.) By letter dated February 5, 2001, Defendant Knox responded to Plaintiff's written request. The letter stated: Dear Dr. Farmer:

This letter is written in response to your request for a transfer to the position of Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction.

I am aware of your many years of dedicated service to the Camden City Public Schools in the area of curriculum and instruction. Please know that I have great respect for all that you have done for the district and its students during your tenure; however, I am interested in moving in a direction which requires a long term commitment to the district beyond my contractual obligations of 3.5 years.

Thank you for your interest in this position. Hopefully the district can count on you to continue the work you are currently engaged in as the Assistant Superintendent for Administrative and Support Services.

Sincerely,

Annette D. Knox, Superintendent of Schools

(Pl. Ex. H.) Defendant Knox claims that it was her understanding at the time she sent the letter that Plaintiff was planning on retiring within the year. Ms. Knox claims that she learned of Plaintiff's intention to retire from a conversation with Karen Murray and Phil Freeman, then President of the Board. (2/26/04 Knox Dep. Tr. Def. Ex. C at 135:1-6; 2/18/04 Freeman Tr. Def. Ex. B at 13:19-14:3.) During another conversation with Phillip Freeman, Knox allegedly told Mr. Freeman that Plaintiff "had been around for a long time, too long." (2/18/04 Freeman Dep. Tr. Def. Ex. B at 31:11-16.)

On February 12, 2001, Defendant Knox sent a letter to Plaintiff reprimanding her for allegedly having rescheduled Parent/Teacher Report Card Conferences without her authorization.*fn3 On June 6, 2001 Defendant Knox sent to Plaintiff another letter reprimanding her for an act of "insubordination." (June 6, 2001 ltr., Def. Ex. R.) Specifically, Defendant Knox accused Plaintiff of sending a memorandum regarding changes to the final examination schedule without having first consulted her. In that letter Defendant Knox additionally re-emphasized that all communications to principals were to be sent under cover of her signature.

Meanwhile, on February 13, 2001, the Board publicly announced the opening for the position of Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. (Def. Exs. I, J.) On Monday, June 18, 2001, the interview committee interviewed four applicants, including Plaintiff, for that position. Of the applicants, Charles A. Highsmith received the highest score by a significant margin and was ultimately selected to fill the position.*fn4 Notably, Defendant Knox was not a member of the interview committee.

Also on June 18, 2001, Defendant Knox sent a letter to Plaintiff informing her that the Board would be considering "action which will impact upon your employment status with the Camden Board of Education." (Def. Ex. T.) Meetings were scheduled for June 21, 2001 and June 25, 2001 to discuss this matter as well as other personnel decisions involving no fewer than twelve other employees. (Def. Ex. U.) Following the June 25, 2001 Board meeting, Plaintiff was transferred to the position of Director of Curriculum and Instruction. Following the transfer, Plaintiff's pay ...


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