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Geller v. Henry County Board of Education

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

September 9, 2014



J. DANIEL BREEN, Chief District Judge.


The Plaintiff, Stephen P. Geller, brought this action against the Defendant, the Henry County Board of Education (the "Board"), on June 21, 2013, alleging violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. ("ADEA") and the Tennessee Human Rights Act, Tennessee Code Annotated § 4-21-101, et seq. ("THRA"). The Plaintiff also sought relief for unlawful transfer under Tennessee Code Annotated § 49-5-510. Before the Court is the Defendant's motion for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (D.E. 27.)


Rule 56 provides in pertinent part that "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The court is to "view facts in the record and reasonable inferences that can be drawn from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Bible Believers v. Wayne Cnty., ___ F.3d ___, 2014 WL 4211190, at *5 (6th Cir. Aug. 27, 2014) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). It is not to "weigh evidence, assess credibility of witnesses, or determine the truth of matters in dispute." Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986)). The court must determine "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Kroll v. White Lake Ambulance Auth., ___ F.3d ___, 2014 WL 4067748, at *3 (6th Cir. Aug. 19, 2014) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52).


The following material facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. Geller was born on April 24, 1948. He began working for the Henry County school system in the 1990-91 school year as a special education assistant. Plaintiff was assigned to a classroom teacher position from 1993 to 2006. During this period, he received no administrative training or licensure, completing only the continuing education required to maintain his teaching license. In 2006, Rick Kreisky, Defendant's then director of schools, assigned Geller to the position of assistant principal at Henry County High School ("HCHS"). At that time, the Board's rules on the classification and qualifications for administrative and supervisory personnel read in part as follows:

To be considered for certificated administrative or supervisory positions, the applicant must show the following qualifications:
1. Professional teaching certification; and
2. Administrative or supervisory certification and experience in accordance with state law and State Board Rules and Regulations in the appropriate area based on the minimum of a master's degree. Non-certified administrative and supervisory personnel shall possess sufficient training and experience to perform the services required and such additional qualifications as the Board and director of schools shall determine.

(D.E. 29-3 at 50.) Geller was placed in the position on the condition that he obtained a master's degree, which he received from Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee in 2008.

It is undisputed that, prior to the 2010-11 school year, Plaintiff spent most of his time disciplining students and the remainder divided among conducting teacher evaluations, leading emergency drills, monitoring the lunchroom and overseeing the school's building facilities. Just before the school year began, he requested to be relieved of disciplinary duties due to shoulder pain, which made it difficult for him to apply corporal punishment.[1] At that time, he remained an assistant principal and performed other duties. In his deposition, he estimated that he expended fifteen percent of his time directly advising students and the same amount leading collaborative curriculum meetings. He further concluded that twenty-five percent of his work was spent supervising the cafeteria, five to ten percent on discipline, ten to fifteen percent overseeing school maintenance and safety, and five percent dealing with school bank deposits.

In the 2011-12 school year, Geller stated in his deposition that his time evaluating teachers increased to an overall percentage of thirty-five to forty percent, although the evaluations did not take the same amount of time every day. The functions of lunchroom monitoring, building safety, collaborative teaching and discipline remained, he recalled, approximately at 2010-11 levels.[2]

Throughout his employment with the Henry County school system, Geller never possessed an administrator's license. In 2009, administrator preparation rules in Tennessee changed. The new rule provided that, "[e]ffective September 15, 2009, assistant principals, teaching principals, or dual assignment personnel with more than fifty percent (50%) of their responsibilities involved in instructional leadership must be properly licensed or be enrolled in a State Board approved instructional leadership preparation program." Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 0520-02-03-.02(6). Obtaining ...

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