New Lawsuit Filed Against Western Heights Superintendent

Tuesday, May 10th 2016, 6:09 pm
By: Grant Hermes

A lawsuit filed Monday alleges a pattern of intimidation, retaliation and disregard for state law and district policies, culminating in asking for tens of thousands of dollars in damages.

The lawsuit was filed against Western Heights School District Superintendent Joe Kitchens by an outgoing Western Heights Middle School Principal Carolyn Erickson.

Erickson was hired in July 2015, according to court documents, but was not rehired for the 2016-2017 school year.

Kitchens, who is the only named defendant in the case, has been with the district for more than 20 years.

Among the largest accusations are allegations that Kitchens falsified the school's accreditation reports during the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, allegedly lying about counselor to student ratios in the district.

Erickson also claimed the superintendent falsified AdvancedEd data being sent to the state by changing answers she gave inside the data. Erickson said the alleged actions were a “flagrant violation of state law.”

The lawsuit also said Kitchens refused to follow state and district guidelines for evaluations of administrators.

Erickson alleges Kitchens would often falsify or ignore requirements for her evaluations eventually causing her emotional distress.

The lawsuit details an episode from February 2016 in which Erickson was supposed to meet with Kitchens for an evaluation.

According to the lawsuit, Kitchens did not “follow the McREL guidelines [set by the district] and instead focused on select goals, did not allow for discussion of any necessary mid-year adjustments, and did not permit the discussion of any lacking resources.”

Kitchens was then quoted saying, “We’re not going to talk about that now, we can talk about it later.”

She also added in the lawsuit that Kitchens, a man, threatened and acted aggressively toward Erickson because she was a woman, even recalling several instances in which she claims Kitchens berated her in front of district staff.

One instance in the documents from May alleged Kitchens “raised his voice … and loudly threatened and intimidated” Erickson while “deliberately leaving his office door open so the central staff could hear this harassment.”

Kitchens was unavailable to talk about the lawsuit on Tuesday. A spokesperson for the district said she was unaware of the lawsuit and declined to comment.