Former principal sues Geneva schools

Updated 6/14/2011 1:16 PM
  • Margaret Pennington

    Margaret Pennington

The former principal of Heartland Elementary School is suing the Geneva school district, saying it discriminated against her because she is a woman older than 40.

Margaret Pennington, 52, filed the suit June 7 in federal court. She is accusing the district of offering her less pay than two other elementary school principals hired at the same time as her. Both were men, and both were younger and less experienced than her, she says in the suit. When she asked for equal treatment, she alleges the district offered to raise her pay in exchange for her not receiving health insurance. She later learned the other principals received health insurance.

The suit alleges the district violated the federal Age Discrimination Employment Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act, plus the Illinois Wage Pay and Collection Act.

District 304 Superintendent Kent Mutchler said he has not seen the lawsuit so he could not address the allegations, but he likely would not comment on it as it is the district's practice not to comment on pending litigation.

Pennington was principal for the 2008-09 school year, on a one-year contract. For 2009-10, she was named a resources procurement and special projects coordinator, working out of the central office. She was not rehired.

That job change was a demotion, according to Pennington's suit; she characterizes the position as a "hodgepodge" of duties consisting mostly of clerical work and that district officials interfered with her attempts to obtain grant money for the district.

Pennington also alleges she didn't get the same opportunity and instruction to improve her performance as did one of the other two new principals who was having trouble with the job. He was kept on another year.

In all, she is seeking unspecified back pay, her salary and compensatory damages. Her attorney, Ruth Major, said the amounts will be determined during the course of the trial. Major said Pennington has dropped a case she brought before the Illinois Human Rights Commission, concentrating instead on the federal suit.