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Details emerge on superintendent's firing

(MCT) — Meredosia-Chambersburg District school board members have publicly indicated their decision to fire Superintendent Ruth Schneider was because of a breach of her contractual obligations.

Details only emerged after the Journal-Courier filed a Freedom of Information Act, which the board responded to when the Attorney General’s Office intervened.

The school board terminated Schneider on May 8 at the end of a meeting that lasted more than six hours. Allegations were discussed in closed session for more than five hours. Schneider was in the meeting for most of that time with her attorney, Edward J. Copeland of Chicago.

The board came out of closed session and voted to terminate Schneider about 12:30 a.m. May 9. The board did not make its reasons for termination public. Board members did not discuss the matter in open session.

No one responded to a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the board’s resolution. Journal-Courier fax records indicate the request was received at 5:09 p.m. May 9.

After more than five business days, the Journal-Courier asked the state’s public access counselor to look into the matter.

The resolution was attached to a letter dated June 4 from the board’s law firm.

“Your letter was the district’s [and our office’s] first notice that Mr. Jake Russell had made a [Freedom of Information Act] request,” said attorney Larry Kuster of Rammelkamp Bradney in a letter to the Attorney General’s Office. “The District also complied promptly to his request. Mr. Russell’s request, which you enclosed in your letter, contains the proper address for the district, but it was not received by the district.”

Interim Superintendent Michael Davies said the district “has not in any way attempted to avoid, ignore or delay” responding to the request.

“For some unknown reason, your request was not received by the district,” he said. “If something like this should happen again, please call the superintendent’s office to inquire about the status of the request.”

The resolution to fire Schneider lists the series of events leading to her firing, beginning with the board’s adoption of a multi-year contract with her about April 5, 2011, and the decision to put her on administrative leave a little more than a year later.

“The Board of Education finds, based on the sworn testimony and exhibits submitted, that Dr. Ruth Schneider breached a material term of her employment contract with the district,” the resolution says. “Schneider’s multi-year employment contract with the district is terminated due to her breach of the contract.”

Copeland indicated that the board’s actions centered on an anonymous mass email that directed recipients to an adult website that hosted a video of a woman who looks like Schneider having sex with two men. School officials referred vaguely to issues of character in first suspending and then dismissing the superintendent.

Schneider’s attorney said she has been working with law enforcement authorities to find the person he contends sexually assaulted her, videotaped the act without consent and then posted it on at least two adult websites.

Copeland said Tuesday that there are no new developments.

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