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Former Northwood superintendent, school board reach settlement

Judy McGann, former superintendant of Northwood Schools, appeals her firing to the school board in a public hearing in the Northwood High School gymnasium; November 12, 2008
(Concord Monitor photo/Karen Langley)

Judy McGann, former superintendant of Northwood Schools, appeals her firing to the school board in a public hearing in the Northwood High School gymnasium; November 12, 2008 (Concord Monitor photo/Karen Langley)

The former superintendent of School Administrative Unit 44, which includes Northwood, Nottingham and Strafford, has reached a settlement with the school board regarding her September 2008 termination.

In August 2011, Judith McGann brought a civil suit against the SAU and Northwood boards as well as Colleen Pingree, former Northwood school board chairwoman, and William Tappan, former district business administrator. The case, filed in Stafford County Superior Court, was resolved this week. The settlement is confidential, but one of the provisions required the SAU school board to release a statement saying that McGann never acted for personal profit and that findings by the New Hampshire Department of Education did not corroborate allegations of financial misconduct.

“Ms. McGann’s termination was an unfortunate event and the SAU Board concludes that Ms. McGann has a right to pursue her career as a public school superintendent and hopes this statement will assist her in that pursuit and allow both parties to move forward,” the statement said.

McGann served as superintendent for four years and was in the middle of a two-year contract when she was fired. In total, she had worked in the district for 28 years.

In the civil suit, McGann charged all parties with conspiracy, breach of contract, negligent and intentional defamation, invasion of privacy and inflicting emotional distress, among other things. McGann was fired with cause in 2008, with the school board alleging she had mismanaged district finances and withheld information regarding financial reports from the board.

Under McGann’s contract, the SAU board was able to fire her at any time for “immorality, incompetence, insubordination” or failure to abide by the laws of the state of New Hampshire, the State Board of Education, and the policies of the SAU and districts within it. By dismissing McGann with cause, the board was not obligated to pay her salary for the remaining 10 months of her contract. It also allowed her to appeal the decision to the board, which ultimately upheld the termination.

The case continued for two years with appeals to the state Department of Education and state Supreme Court. In May 2011, the State Supreme Court held that the board had acted fairly in its hearing process, meaning the board’s decision could stand. The court’s decision, however, did not take a stand on the actual grounds for termination.

In the civil suit, McGann sought monetary and enhanced compensatory damages, alleging the boards and individuals involved caused her monetary and emotional damages as well as loss of reputation.

Andru Volinsky, McGann’s attorney, said McGann is “pleased” with the settlement and glad the legal actions are over. McGann is now serving as a part-time superintendent at the Lincoln-Woodstock cooperative school district. Before that, she was serving as a special education coordinator at the Cooperative Middle School in Exeter.

Requests for comment from the school board’s attorney were not returned.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or
kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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