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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Elite Catholic Cincinnati Prep School Summit Country Day: Jewish Bias Lawsuit Dropped By Former Worker

Prep School Pinched By Sour Economy
 CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A private prep school that caters to wealthy and prominent families in Cincinnati admits it took a major financial hit and had to lay off staff during the economic collapse that started under former President George W. Bush.  The details surfaced in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court filings.  They came just before longtime Summit Country Day librarian Alice Finkelstein dropped her religious bias lawsuit that asserted she was targeted for dismissal because of her Jewish faith.  Throughout more than a year of litigation, the elite Catholic prep school -- whose alums include HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius -- denied all allegations of discrimination.  Finkelstein was laid off in 2009 after 10 years at the school.  Finkelstein claimed she was subjected to harassment and retaliation at the Catholic school, and said that a co-worker once told her, "Jews don't believe in the power of prayer."  She also said she was not given time off for Jewish holidays.

Summit said it let her go solely due to a deteriorating financial condition.  It said the "collapse of the economy" in the fall of 2008 was behind staff reductions at the K-12 school.  Here's Summit lawyer Paul Dorger's recounting of events [from a motion to have the case tossed out of court]:

"Summit hired Jerald Jellig as its head of School in July 2007.  One of the tasks he was charged with was to reduce costs.  At the end of the 2007-2008 academic year, Jellig reduced the work force by terminating the employment of several staff members.  Plaintiff's position was retained, and she was not effected by this first reduction in staff.

"In October 2008, Summit experienced a deteriorating financial situation as a result of the collapse of the economy.  At that time, Summit anticipated significant drops in both charitable gifts and student enrollment for the following academic year.  Additionally, Summit's investment committee indicated that the school's endowment would suffer considerable losses,  By early 2009, Summit determined that further personnel cuts were necessary.  Therefore, at the end of the 2008-2009 academic year, it was necessary for Jellig to let go of more employees . . .

"On June 8, 2009, Jellig informed plaintiff that her contract would not be renewed due to budget cuts,  Jellig gave plaintiff a letter detailing Summit's severance offer which was based on the same severance formula as the other employees whose employment was terminated by the RIF.  Jellig was unaware of the faith traditions of his staff members selected for layoff, and he did not know that plaintiff is Jewish."

Court records show Finkelstein voluntarily dropped the lawsuit in mid-September.  She did so without prejudice, which means she has the option of refiling the case within a year.  Information about the school is available by clicking here.

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