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Davenport v. Anne Arundel County Bd. of Educ.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 6, 2014

CHRISTINE DAVENPORT, Plaintiff,
v.
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant

Page 429

For Christine Davenport, Plaintiff: Cary Johnson Hansel, III, Joseph M Creed, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Joseph Greenwald and Laake PA, Greenbelt, MD.

For Anne Arundel County Board of Education, Defendant: Jay H Creech, LEAD ATTORNEY, Annapolis, MD.

OPINION

Page 430

MEMORANDUM OPINION

George L. Russell, III, United States District Judge.

This employment discrimination action is before the Court on Defendant Anne Arundel County Board of Education's [1] (the " Board" ) Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 29). Plaintiff Christine Davenport, a former employee of the Board, alleges the Board repeatedly failed to promote her in favor of substantially younger and less-qualified applicants in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (" ADEA" ), 29 U.S.C. § § 621 et seq. (2012). She also alleges the Board retaliated against her in response to her internal and formal complaints. The Court, having reviewed the pleadings and supporting documents, finds no hearing necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2011). For the reasons outlined below, the Board's Motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND[2]

A. Facts Relevant to Age Discrimination

The Court previously recited the applicable facts in the preceding Memorandum Opinion dated December 4, 2012 (ECF No. 12), but will reiterate the facts necessary to rule on the present

Page 431

motion. Davenport was born in December 1949. She began working for Anne Arundel County Public Schools (" AACPS" ) as a teacher in 1973, where she remained for the ensuing thirty-two years. In 2005, at age fifty-five, Davenport decided to become an assistant principal. She applied for, and was hired as, an administrative trainee in September 2005. At the time, the administrative trainee position provided administrative support with student discipline and served as a springboard for individuals interested in being promoted to other administrative positions, including assistant principal.

The Board requires assistant principal candidates to have an Administrator I endorsement and to interview with a panel of principals that rates the candidates on a scale of zero to three. Candidates are then placed on a list and may apply to open positions or be considered for unadvertised assistant principal positions.

In 2008, while serving as an administrative trainee, Davenport received her endorsement and interviewed for secondary assistant principal positions. She received an interview score of 1.76, equivalent to " recommend with reservations." (Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1, Attach. D, ECF No. 29-2). Though the parties dispute the specific reasons why, Davenport was not considered for promotion to an assistant principal position despite applying for, and inquiring about, several open positions. Instead, the Board repeatedly filled the positions with younger candidates. Before the 2010-2011 school year, as Davenport's time as an administrative trainee came to an end, the Board hired or promoted " several individuals" under the age of forty to assistant principal positions, none of whom had interview scores lower than 2.0. (Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1, at 3, ECF No. 29-2); (see also Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. & Req. for Hr'g [" Pl.'s Opp'n" ] Ex. 5, at 2, ECF No. 34-5) (naming three individuals under the age of forty whom the Board allegedly hired as assistant principals).

The lone exception was Phillip Elliot. The Board promoted Elliot to assistant principal at Meade High School effective August 19, 2010, because the position became available later in the summer hiring season. He was forty years old and had an interview score lower than 2.0 and equivalent to " recommend with reservations." (Liverman Dep. 64:2-3, July 31, 2013, ECF No. 34-2). The timing permitted Meade High School Principal Darryl Kennedy to recommend an individual for assistant principal at the school. After having supervised Davenport and Elliot while both were administrative trainees at Meade High School during the 2009-2010 school year, Principal Kennedy recommended Elliot for the assistant principal position.

No one recommended Davenport or advocated on her behalf. Rather, Principal Kennedy testified that Davenport's " response to situations [involving student behavior] were either slow or nonexistent," and though " she was a very positive person . . ., there was some slowness to her." (Kennedy Dep. 34:15-16, 39:19-21, Sept. 12, 2013, ECF No. 34-4). Davenport spoke to Principal Kennedy directly about the decision to promote Elliot, believing the decision was discriminatory based on her age.

Davenport also met with AACPS Deputy Superintendent (" Dep. Sup." ) Arlen Liverman to voice her concern about being overlooked for assistant principal positions. During the meeting, Dep. Sup. Liverman remarked that Davenport would not be promoted because of her " experience" or " seniority," [3] and that her " salary would be

Page 432

too high." (Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. 1, ¶ 6, ECF No. 34-1). bye the start of the 2010-2011 school year, at sixty years ld, Davenport was transferred to Marley Middle School as an eighth grade science teacher.

B. Facts Relevant to Retaliation

Davenport filed a discrimination charge with the Maryland Commission on Human Relations (" MCHR" ) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) on October 8, 2010, alleging age discrimination. In the discrimination charge, Davenport alleged the Board promoted three individuals under the age of forty, including Elliot, to unadvertised assistant principal positions even though they were less qualified. Three of her counterparts older than fifty, she alleged, were selected for teaching positions rather than as assistant principals.

One month later, on November 8, 2010, Marley Middle School Assistant Principal (" Asst. Principal" ) Susan Sergeant observed Davenport's classroom at Principal Kevin Buckley's request. Principal Buckley had observed Davenport's classroom two months earlier. Asst. Principal Sergeant's evaluation contained a critical analysis of Davenport's classroom performance with recommendations for improvement. By November 17, 2010, Davenport's performance started to decline. That day, Principal Buckley attempted to counsel Davenport and present her with the Board's written procedures for penalizing and terminating tenured teachers. Davenport, taking the gesture as an " unmistakable" sign her termination was imminent, began taking sick leave the following day and did not return to Marley Middle school, having since retired. (Pl.'s Opp'n at 5, ECF No. 34).

C. Procedural History

Davenport commenced this action in this Court on May 1, 2012, alleging violations of the ADEA and the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (" ERISA" ), 29 U.S.C. § 1140 (2012), and advancing claims for breach of contract, intentional misrepresentation, and negligent misrepresentation. On December 4, 2012, the Court dismissed all but Davenport's age discrimination and retaliation claims, limiting their scope to facts not time-barred by the ADEA. (See ECF Nos. 12, 13). It also limited Davenport's retaliation claim to acts that occurred after she filed her discrimination charge. Discovery has since concluded and the Board now moves for summary judgment.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), the Court must grant summary judgment if the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the opposing party has the burden of showing that a genuine dispute exists. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). " [T]he mere existence ...


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