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School Department still involved in litigation

Date: 4/14/2009

By Natasha Clark

Assistant Managing Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW The East Longmeadow School Department is still in arbitration with three school district employees over their termination last year.

Three lunch workers were allegedly seen by another employee throwing food into the trash and then retrieving the food out of the trash to serve it at Meadow Brook Elementary School.

"We did a very extensive and legal investigation with all parties concerned -- the food service [staff], administrators, [the employees] involved, other employees, very extensive," Superintendent of Schools Dr. Edward Costa said. "And what we did, at that time, is we terminated those three employees."

According to Costa, there were eyewitnesses of the incident as well as several auditory witnesses who were supervising in the cafeteria and heard the proceedings but did not see everything that was going on.

It was one class, the last to come through the lunch line, involved in the incident in question and Costa sent a letter out to parents informing them of what may have taken place.

The three employees appealed the decision through the grievance process and then through the School Committee before the issue was taken to state arbitration.

"The arbitrator did cite evidence but felt it was not enough for termination," Costa said. "The arbitrator did not see enough evidence to conclusively give a rationale for termination, and therefore, recommended that the three employees be reinstated."

Costa said the School Committee has the option to take the case to state court.

"That is currently where we are, so it is still in motion," Costa said.