Success Academy teacher can move ahead with breach of contract claim

By Takesha Thomas | Sep 8, 2018

Judge rules in favor of former Success Academy Teacher

FORT MYERS — A former Success Academy teacher will be allowed to move forward with a breach of contract claim against the School District of Lee County, the superintendent, chief human resources officer and school principal.

U.S. District Judge Sheri Polster Chappell ruled on Aug. 28 against Oliver Levitt's claims that the district violated his First and Fifth Amendment rights. She also dismissed claims of defamation against the district. 

The matter was heard in the U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida Fort Myers Division. Judge Polster Chappell did rule in favor of a breach of contract claim, however. Attorneys for Levitt were given until Sept. 12 to file a second amended complaint in order for the matter to move ahead. 

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are school principal Marti Iovine; Angela Pruitt, human resources officer for the school district; district Superintendent Gregory Adkins; and the School District of Lee County

Levitt worked as an instructor at Success Academy, a public high school run by the School District of Lee County, according to the lawsuit. 

In the claim, Levitt contends that several district employees, including the principal, chief human resources officer and superintendent, allowed for his contract not to be renewed because he had won an election for Lead Building Representative. 

However, attorneys for the district claim no First or Fifth Amendments were violated. The position of Lead Building Representative entitles whoever is in the role to "certain privileges under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, acts as a liaison between the faculty, school administration and the Teacher's Association of Lee County." Levitt claims that the principal of Success Academy became at odds with him "because he won the election" and the person the principal favored lost.

According to the lawsuit, Levitt advised the principal and other faculty and staff about inappropriate behavior from the teacher who had run against him for Lead Building Representative but who had lost. Levitt claimed that the teacher had allegedly engaged in an altercation with a student, according to the lawsuit.

 Levitt alleges that the school did not act on his complaints but instead retaliated against him, according to the lawsuit. He was then issued two "baseless letters of warning. The letters contained false allegations about Levitt’s failures as a teacher and his failure to adhere to the CBA," according to the lawsuit.

 The letters were never provided to Levitt, however, and instead were placed in his personnel file by the principal. Levitt contends this was all done in retaliation. His contract was ultimately not renewed with the district due to the letters and subsequent poor ratings on his reviews. 

Levitt filed a grievance and he claims that due to bias among the chief human resources officer and superintendent, the matter was improperly handled.

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School District of Lee County U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Fort Myers Division

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