Former Sandwich School Superintendent Wins Legal Battle
By: Diana T. Barth, October 25, 2013
Barnstable County Superior Court Judge Christopher J. Muse found Wednesday that former Sandwich school superintendent Mary Ellen Johnson had a valid contract and is owed, at minimum, the salary she would have earned under that contract, about $310,000 according to her attorney, Paul L. Nevins.
Mr. Nevins said that the contract was for a more than $150,000 a year for the two years it would have been in effect.
Judge Muse ordered the attorneys for both Sandwich and Dr. Johnson to meet and propose a settlement of the issue, in contention for about three years, based on that understanding.
Dr. Johnson, who had both passionate supporters and detractors, was hired in 2008 with a two-year contract.
In April of 2010, the Sandwich School Committee met to discuss extending her contract, but ended up continuing that discussion. When discussion resumed a few days later, her contract as superintendent of schools was renewed. Discussion regarding the legality of that second meeting began immediately, and it was determined that the meeting had not been properly posted in accordance with state open meeting law and a new vote was taken.
That vote, however, came after town elections, and the newly elected board voted against that extension, ending Dr. Johnson’s employment.
Dr. Johnson filed suit, asking to keep her job and for compensation, going up as far as the State Appeals Court, which sided with Dr. Johnson and returned the matter to Barnstable Superior Court.
The question to be answered in any settlement agreement reached in that court is how much she is owed by the town, based on the contract, as it was, at first, extended, but Mr. Nevins suggests that his client could be legally reinstated for a day, allowing her to retire under that contract.
Ms. Johnson’s suit had named school board members, individually, but board members are not being held personally liable.