Fired technology specialist files grievance against school district

Cliff Buchan
News Editor

A fired technology support specialist VI is weighing her options following a no-action move by the Forest Lake School Board last Thursday.

Debra Long, East Bethel, was terminated by the district on Monday, Jan. 23. She was one of a number of technology specialists hired by the school district last summer as classified employees following a district decision to eliminate technology specialist jobs that had been filled by licensed teachers.

Long went before the school board at its regular meeting on Feb. 2 and requested the board pull the consent agenda item to officially terminate her employment. The school board approved the consent agenda item including the termination with no discussion.

School officials declined comment on the termination, citing data practice considerations.

Her Version

In her open forum comments to the aboard last week, Long argued that she had been wrongfully fired based on terms of her contract. She said as a less than 12-month employee, her contract allowed for termination without cause up to 133 days of employment with the district. She said she worked 161 days prior to her firing on Jan. 23.

Long, a 15-year veteran of technology work, said  she was assigned duty at Linwood and Wyoming elementary schools following her Aug. 15, 2011 hiring. During that time, Long said she had had no performance reviews or any indication that she was not performing to the expectations of her employer.

On Jan. 23, she was called to a meeting with Linwood Principal Roche Martin and Wyoming Principal Mike Conway where she was handed a letter indicating she was being terminated that day. Long said she was told “she was not a good fit for the district,” but given no other explanation for why she was being fired.

“That’s why I went to the school board,” she said, adding that she wanted to know what a good fit actually meant. “I thought I was going to get my question answered.”

She said she has had no run-ins with school higher ups with the possible exception of Tim Brockman, the district’s supervisor of information systems and technology and the district official who hired her. Long said she received a terse note from Brockman earlier this school year after she sent a note to Brockman requesting a computer upgrade for an administrative staff member at Wyoming Elementary who was having repeated problems with her computer.

With the termination now in the books, Long said she will weigh her options. She said on Tuesday she has filed a grievance within the school district. She is a member of the Forest Lake Technology Specialists Association.

If the local grievance is not successful, Long said she would consider filing a grievance with the state Bureau of Mediation Services.

The state agency confirmed this week that the technology association is certified with the BMS, meaning the BMS could hear a grievance over the termination.

Long said she was reassured of her decision to contest the school move after discussing the issue with Forest Lake City Councilman Mike Freer prior to the school board meeting.

Freer, the new city council liaison to the school board, was at the Feb. 2 meeting to introduce himself to the members of the board and chatted with Long prior to the start of the meeting. He was appointed liaison last month by Mayor Chris Johnson.