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Groton discrimination complaint charges superintendent fired assistant wrongfully

Groton - Former assistant superintendent of schools Dottie Hoyt has filed a discrimination complaint against the Board of Education, alleging that she was wrongfully terminated and that her treatment under Superintendent Paul Kadri over the last school year caused an anxiety disorder.

A complaint filed Wednesday - the first day of school in Groton - with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities claims discrimination based on her gender, age and disability, and as retaliation.

"Mr. Kadri's abusive treatment toward me and other older women who have worked in the Central Office constitutes gender and age discrimination," the 59-year-old Hoyt wrote in the complaint filed Wednesday and provided to The Day by her attorney.

She said she was also retaliated against when a principal's job she was being considered for was taken "off the table" the day her lawyer told a school district attorney he was representing her in a sexual harassment lawsuit and said that her termination on June 30 because of her anxiety constitutes disability discrimination.

In an interview, Kadri said he could not specifically discuss the case. However, he provided a copy of a letter he sent to faculty and staff about the issue. In his letter, which also thanked employees for a successful start to the school year, Kadri wrote that he said he was sorry Hoyt's "baseless charges" would become a "distraction" at the start of the school year.

Despite a positive start to the year, Kadri said, he and Hoyt were in "some serious discussions about the performance of the curriculum office" during the second semester.

"As those discussions became more specific, Dr. Hoyt chose to pursue a legal path," Kadri wrote. "Her first attorney threatened to go public with a baseless charge of sexual harassment, I would assume in the hope intimidating me to recommend a cash settlement to the Board. Her most recent attorney has asked for a significant financial settlement for her in order not to make a public charge of age, gender, and disability discrimination."

Kadri said the school district conducted an investigation into Hoyt's allegations last year. "Not only was nothing found, there were plenty of examples of how the district does not discriminate," he wrote.

Hoyt is represented by Nina Pirrotti, a New Haven lawyer who is president of the Connecticut Employment Lawyer's Association, a nonprofit organization of attorneys.

Board of Education chairman Bob Peruzzotti said the school district's lawyer has been in contact with Hoyt's lawyer, but said he could not comment on the case.

Last week, the school district hired Hoyt's successor, Maryanne Butler, who had previously worked for the State of Connecticut on Scientific Research-Based Interventions and science curriculum, Peruzzotti said.

Before becoming assistant superintendent in 2009, overseeing the district's curriculum, Hoyt had spent 17 years as an educator in Groton, first as a classroom teacher and, starting in 2000, as principal of Pleasant Valley Elementary.

Kadri was hired by Groton in 2008, leaving his post as superintendent of the Neshaminy School District in Bucks County, Pa.

In her complaint, Hoyt said that Kadri had initially recruited her to become the assistant superintendent, but later ignored her and then became outright hostile after a salary dispute.

"Mr. Kadri's treatment of me morphed from lavish praise to indifference to outright hostility and abuse after I pointed out in early winter that I was not being paid according to my contract and insisted that I be so paid."

In early March, Hoyt alleges, Kadri distributed copies of a report she had prepared on district-wide benchmark assessment results, saying the report "was an example of what not to do and that the pie charts I had prepared were a waste of time."

"The irony that Mr. Kadri chose to publicly humiliate me during a meeting in which bullying behavior was being addressed was not lost on anyone in attendance at that meeting," the complaint states.

At another meeting in March, Hoyt alleges that Kadri had the head of human resources run a meeting, despite her status as "second in command."

"I was disturbed and humiliated by the undermining of my role and the public message that conveyed Mr. Kadri's minimization of me," the complaint states.

Hoyt describes several where she was subjected to what she referred to as Kadri's "tirades," both in private meetings and before other administrators. She said he felt "intimidated and threatened by his behavior."

In one meeting, Hoyt said Kadri "pounded his fists on the table and began to aggressively rise from his chair, leaning over the table toward me."

On March 25, Hoyt's doctor mailed and faxed a letter to the school district's attorney stating that he had diagnosed her with "an anxiety disorder which is clearly related to stresses in the workplace," according to the complaint. Hoyt said her symptoms included sleeping difficulties, avoiding social situations and activities she had enjoyed, constant worrying, body aches, loss of appetite and elevated blood pressure.

On April 30, Hoyt's attorney received a letter saying her contract would not be extended when it expired on June 30, saying she had become "paralyzed" in her duties. On June 2, Hoyt was formally notified the she would not be given a principal's position she was being considered for.

Hoyt's signed and sworn complaint filed Wednesday asks the CHRO and the state Equal Employment Opportunities Commission to investigate her complaint and secure "any rights and remedies available to me under state law."

m.collette@theday.com

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