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Judge orders charter school principal back on the payroll

A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge on Friday ordered that a charter school resume the salary and benefits of a fired principal — at least until a ruling is issued in the principal’s wrongful termination lawsuit. 

Nicole Ivey-Price, who was fired from LEAD Academy in October, was granted a temporary restraining order by Judge Jimmy Pool, requiring that the school place her back on the payroll and restore her benefits while her wrongful termination suit works its way through the court. Pool also ordered the two sides into mediation in the hope that a settlement can be reached. 

Late Sunday, LEAD board members voted to place Ivey-Price back on the payroll and to place her on administrative leave. 

Ivey-Price filed suit against the school claiming that she was fired because she spoke to Alabama State Department of Education officials about wrongdoing occurring at LEAD. Her lawsuit made a number of startling claims — none more shocking than claims that LEAD administrators had sought to prevent learning disabled students from attending the charter school and also encouraged special needs students to transfer out of LEAD. 

Ivey-Price, and other teachers who spoke to APR, also claimed that LEAD had failed to properly compensate them and that promised benefits had been withheld.

Pool granted Ivey-Price’s request for a restraining order, in part, because she showed that LEAD had failed to provide her with COBRA benefits upon her termination, leaving her without health care insurance and also interrupting her coverage. A gap in coverage could affect her ability to obtain insurance in the future, and being unable to purchase insurance currently would put her at undue risk, the court determined. 

During her hearing, attorneys noted that LEAD had provided Ivey-Price with the opportunity to extend her health insurance benefits just two hours prior to the hearing — more than a month after her termination.

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LEAD has been plagued by issues since its administrators, led by new state Rep. Charlotte Meadows, first submitted an application. The entity chosen by the state to review those applications recommended LEAD not be approved, because it failed to achieve a satisfactory rating in any area judged by the authorizers. 

Since its rushed opening earlier this year, the school has lost its principal just a few weeks into the school year, had at least eight teachers resign and has been accused of putting children in danger with over-crowded classes. 

Some teachers have accused the school leaders of failing to pay them the promised salaries and failing to provide promised retirement benefits. 

The next hearing in the case is set for Dec. 17. Mediation will be conducted by former judge Charles Price, who currently sits on the Alabama Ethics Commission.


Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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