PAISD teacher asks court to halt termination hearing

Kelly Holleran Feb. 9, 2010, 3:22am

A Port Arthur Independent School District employee has filed a petition for injunctive relief, asking the court to prevent the school from firing him.

Jerome Melonson, a middle school math instructor, fears the district will terminate him because he pointed out that students are undereducated in math in PAISD elementary schools.

Melonson, who has worked for the school district for 14 years, says he was issued a rare and complimentary two-year contract on April 30, 2008, after his work with undereducated students at Edison Middle School and because of his contributions to the school's improved math performance on the 2008 Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test.

But according to the petition Melonson filed Feb. 3 in Jefferson County District Court, trouble began brewing after Assistant Superintendent Beasley and Superintendent Johnny E. Brown discovered that Melonson had been openly discussing the under-education of the school district's students, "contrary to Brown's policy against transparency in PAISD's public education."

Soon, Melonson claims the administration began targeting him for criticism, even though they had previously recognized his competencies as a math teacher.

He alleges that as an act of retaliation and an attempt to force him to retire, Brown transferred Melonson to Austin Middle School to teach sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade math.

Melonson claims he experienced difficulties in the new assignment because of a new requirement that all eighth-grade students take algebra. To make matters worse, administrators packed Melonson's class full of undereducated students, he claims.

However, after Hurricane Ike, Melonson taught only sixth grade math; yet school administration continued to harass him and placed him on a professional growth plan, which he claims he fulfilled.

"On the last day of the 2008-2009 school year, Plaintiff learned that he was to be terminated even though he was being recruited to teach academics in the PAISD summer school programs and coach," the petition states. "On June 24, 2009, Kenneth Marks, the President of the PAISD Board of Trustees, wrote and advised Plaintiff that the Port Arthur Independent School District Board of Trustees proposed the termination of [Plaintiff's] Contract of Employment for good cause as determined by the Board."

On Aug. 25, Melonson sat through a hearing before the same board that voted on his termination during which a principal told board members Melonson was unfit to teach, the petition says.

Melonson claims he requested documents from the PAISD that were crucial to his defense, but the district delayed providing the documents, then produced memorandum different than that requested by Melonson.

"PAISD has attempted to rig the hearing against Plaintiff, and has refused to provide the documents which would demonstrate the accuracy of Plaintiff's charges and claims and the inaccuracy of PAISD's claims," the petition states.

"The PAISD has 'red-labeled' Plaintiff and characterizes him as ineligible for re-employment, without good cause, and has denied him the opportunity to obtain gainful employment," the petition says. "PAISD has quietly discontinued the universal requirement of algebra as urged by Plaintiff. Plaintiff has been deprived of the opportunity to obtain gainful employment as an educator because of the claim by PAISD that he is unfit to teach, when he only pointed out to the PAISD, his co-workers, the students and some parents that the students are undereducated in PAISD elementary grades in Math."

Melonson is seeking a temporary injunction forcing the school district to produce the documents he requested, is asking the court to force the school district to reset his hearing for seven days after he receives the documents and is asking the court to prevent the PAISD from reconvening the hearing before its board until it has demonstrated the board is impartial and academically oriented.

In addition, he wants the court to prevent his termination pending a trial, to prevent the PAISD from terminating Melonson because of his exercise of protected expression, to grant a declaratory judgment that PAISD violated his constitutional rights by refusing to produce the requested documents and to award him attorneys' fees, costs and other relief to which he may be entitled.

Larry Watts of Missouri City will be representing him.

The case has been assigned to Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: E185-852.

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