BELLVILLE – The Clear Fork Valley Board of Education and district superintendent are being sued by a suspended Bellville elementary school principal.
The suit, filed by Kirsten DeVito, alleges defamation, libel and slander.
DeVito served as Bellville Elementary School principal. Termination proceedings were started by the board and she was placed on unpaid leave Sept. 20, 2018. She remains suspended.
Superintendent Janice Wycoff was named in the suit, filed in Richland County Common Pleas court.
School board minutes from Sept. 20, 2018,when the proceedings started, said “recent allegations have been made concerning Mrs. Devito’s inappropriate conduct as it relates to teacher evaluations, including utilizing teachers’ signatures without their knowledge and/or approval.”
The lawsuit lists 34 allegations, including one in which the plaintiff says Wyckoff alleged that the plaintiff fraudulently caused teachers’ signatures to appear on teacher evaluation forms.
The lawsuit also says Wyckoff — in the report — alleged that DeVito “violated numerous school board policies, including failure to properly, effectively and competently evaluate staff, as well as damaging the trust and confidence of the staff, administration and board.”
Wyckoff said the board does not comment on ongoing litigation.
DeVito also said she would not comment.
An online report filed by the board of education said questionable evaluation forms resulted in an investigation of personnel files.
DeVito and her attorney were provided a draft copy of the grounds for a possible termination, according to the document. She was given the opportunity to respond to the grounds on Aug. 9, Aug. 24 and Sept. 18.
The board was to start termination proceedings at an Oct. 8 meeting unless DeVito filed a written demand with the treasurer for a hearing before the board or a referee. This was to occur within 10 days after receipt of the treasurer’s notice.
The Oct. 8 meeting was not held. A hearing would have to be at the Ohio Department of Education, pursuant to provisions in the Ohio Revised Code.
DeVito had been hired on a three-year contract.
Rocky Ratliff of Marion is representing DeVito.
Ratliff last week described as “inaccurate and false” a Clear Fork district report: “Full Specifications of the Grounds for Consideration of Terminating the Contract of Kirsten DeVito.” That report was written by Wyckoff.
Ratliff said he thinks board members should “buckle up” because there will probably be more litigation.
DeVito asked for compensatory and special damages in the sum or excess of $25,000. Her attorneys say she suffered damage to her personal and professional reputation