Trial against OPSB continued until May

By Alejandro de los Rios | Jan 6, 2011

A jury trial pitting former employees of the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) against the school board in Orleans Parish Civil District Court has been continued until May because of an undisclosed attorney conflict.

New Orleans principal Eddy Oliver, teacher's aide Oscarlene Nixon and OPSB custodian Mildred Goodwin lead the class of an estimated 8,000 current and former OPSB employees who claim they were wrongfully terminated after most of New Orleans' public schools were flooded during hurricane Katrina.

New Orleans attorneys Willie Zanders, Suzette Bagneris, Clarence Roby, Anthony Irpino, Roderick Alvendia, Juana Lombard, Charles Samuel and Walter Willard are representing the class.

New Orleans attorneys William Aaron Jr. and Renee Smith are representing the OPSB. Judge Ethel Julien is overseeing this trial, which had originally been set for Jan. 10.

The motion and order to continue the trial could not be found in the case record, so it is unclear who filed the motion and why. A spokesman for Julien also could not specify what the attorney conflict was.

The case was originally filed as an injunctive relief for Oliver, Nixon and Goodwin, in which they claimed that the OPSB's proposed plan to turn several of its schools into quasi-charter schools would "end public schools in New Orleans."

The initial request, which essentially asked that teachers that were hired by the OPSB be retained in schools that were taken over by the RSD, was denied.

But in a September 2007 ruling, Julien acknowledged other causes of action including wrongful termination and breach of contract. In December 2008, Julien certified the class as "all current or former employees of the OPSB prior to Hurricane Katrina." The class includes principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, central office administrators, secretaries, social works, food service, maintenance and other service workers that had been hired by the OPSB.

Julien's ruling was appealed to the Louisiana Fourth District Court of Appeals. In November 2009, Judge Edwin Lombard, Judge Terri Love and Judge Paul Bonin affirmed the class certification.

The case was appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court, which voted not to block the case on March 5, 2010.

Orleans Parish Case 2005-12244

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