Pennsylvania Record

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Appeals court affirms firing of Philadelphia school worker

State Court

By Scott Holland | Jul 2, 2019

HARRISBURG — The Commonwealth Court on June 25 upheld the firing of a Philadelphia school employee.

The School District of Philadelphia School Reform Commission had fired Angela White, an athletics office program coordinator, after the district’s inspector general discovered financial irregularities in 2016, the suit alleges. White worked with the Athlete Health Organization, a nonprofit city group providing free health screenings. 

Athletics department executive director Robert Coleman signed and issued four $2,500 checks to White. There were no wage deductions and White didn’t report the money on her state income tax return.

The district reassigned her to its records office and barred her from contact or involvement with the athletics department, then fired her when it determined she violated that directive by continuing to work for the AHO during school hours, court documents show.

White appealed the termination to a Philadelphia County trial court, which concluded White engaged in improper conduct and that the record contained substantial effort in support of that finding. The Commonwealth Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling. Judge Ellen Ceisler wrote the opinion and judges Mary Leavitt and Robert Simpson concurred.

On appeal, White said the district didn’t show the checks came from district funds, that her work for AHO was ever part of her school job responsibilities and that she never understood that she wasn’t allowed to keep working on AHO tasks after her reassignment.

The panel agreed with the district’s position that based on White’s job she knew the checks were drawn on school accounts and that “her failure to report the money as income further supports the commission’s finding that White knew the actual source of the money and was attempting to conceal it,” Ceisler wrote.

Chief academic officer Susan Logan, who barred White from athletics department work, testified that the AHO said White was working for it only as a volunteer. Logan also said any work White did for AHO was “congruent with her job duties” before the reassignment, undercutting her argument she didn’t know it was wrong to keep doing AHO work and supporting the commission’s finding that “White intentionally violated a school district directive.”

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