Two teachers have filed a lawsuit against the DeKalb County School Board alleging that the board owes them and thousands of other teachers money that has been withheld from a tax sheltered annuity fund since 2009.
Plaintiffs Elaine Gold and Amy Shaye, both teachers in the DeKalb County School System, filed the complaint on March 16.
According to the lawsuit, Gold has been teaching in the system for 18 years and is currently a teacher at Evansdale Elementary. Shaye has been employed for more than two decades and is a school psychologist serving several schools in the area.
The plaintiffs filed the suit on behalf of “themselves and all others similarly situated,” which means that for the complaint to move forward the court has to decide whether it meets the requirements of the class certification law.
Attorney John Salter said the school board broke its promise when it decided to “freeze” their contributions to the Tax Sheltered Annuity Plan (TSA Plan) in 2009 without giving two-year notice.
“This case is about the board making promises as early as 1979…to attract and keep quality instructors in the classrooms,” Salter said. “Having made those promises and having people like Elaine, Amy and thousands of others, devote their professional lives to DeKalb County Schools…these are promises that are not trivial, they are promises that need to be kept.”
In 1979, the DeKalb County School Board began seeking alternatives to Social Security, and, according to the lawsuit, passed a resolution authorizing an alternative plan and also requiring that “the board of education shall give a two-year notice to employees before reducing the funding provisions of the Alternative Plan to Social Security.”
However, in 2009 the school board, facing budget cuts and financial strain, voted to freeze contributions to the TSA Plan.
The lawsuit also alleges that the board realized the mistake and tried to “paper over” it by waiving the policy that required two-year notification.
According to the lawsuit:
“On May 10, 2010, the Board realized its error. During a meeting the Board was informed that its termination of the funding for the plan constituted a violation of the Board’s own policies, including the two-year notice requirement…the Board decided to ‘waive’ the Board policy that required it to give a two-year notice to its employees.”
This suit comes on the heels of another lengthy lawsuit the board is involved in against the construction firm Heery/Mitchell.
“I think all the taxpayers and all the teachers wish this could be resolved without lawyers [but] the fact of the matter is that sometimes people make promises and then try to break them and that’s what a court is for,” Salter said.
School board members and DeKalb County School officials did not return repeated phone calls or e-mails from The Champion concerning the lawsuit.