Lawsuit Accuses Pomona Schools of Bias in Hiring

Times Staff Writer

A former school administrator whose race- and sex-discrimination suit against the Pomona Unified School District was settled in 1983 has filed a second suit alleging that her supervisors failed to abide by the terms of the settlement.

Temetra Gronemeier, who was demoted to an elementary school teaching job in 1981 after serving for three years as administrator of a program for disadvantaged students, alleges in the suit that Supt. Timothy Graves and other district officials did not consider her for administrative openings, as specified in the 1983 settlement, because she is black and a woman.

Terms of Settlement

The out-of-court settlement, in which Gronemeier received $115,000 in damages, required the district to consider her for every administrative opening from July, 1983, to October, 1984.

A second plaintiff, Charles Sanders, 60, alleges in the new suit that he was the victim of race and age discrimination because he was forced to retire by his supervisors after being threatened with a similar demotion. Sanders also is black. He and Gronemeier are each seeking $3 million in damages in the suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in June.

The two allege in the suit that discriminatory attitudes exist at a high level in the school district, influencing decisions on hiring, firing and transfers. The suit also accuses the district of unfair labor practices.

"We refer to it as the Mississippi of Southern California," attorney Dale Gronemeier said of the school district. "We're trying to drag them into the 20th Century."

The Pasadena lawyer is married to Temetra Gronemeier, and his firm, Gronemeier & Barker, is representing both plaintiffs.

Dale Gronemeier said the two cases were combined in one suit because their claims of discrimination and failure to adhere to affirmative action policies reinforce each other.

Denies Allegations

Although the district, represented by attorney Elaine Canty, has as yet filed no formal response to the suit, Supt. Graves denied the allegations. "We have not and are not practicing discrimination due to age, sex or race," Graves said in an interview.

Graves said that of the district's 87 administrators, 28 are black, and 11 of the black administrators are women. He said the district also employs 24 white women as administrators. Since 1977, when the district voluntarily adopted an affirmative action plan, 33 minority administrators have been hired or promoted, compared to 25 whites, Graves said.

The suit also alleges that the district violated the California Fair Employment Act by demoting Temetra Gronemeier and Sanders without due process, failed to consider Gronemeier for administrative positions as required by the settlement of the first suit and ignored the district's affirmative action plan.

First Filed in 1978

Temetra Gronemeier first filed suit against the district in 1978, accusing it of a variety of management deficiencies. In 1981, she amended that suit, adding claims of both racial and sexual discrimination. Her husband said her decision to amend the suit followed her discovery, after she returned from a year's sabbatical leave, that she had been reassigned from an administrative position she had held for three years to an elementary-school teaching job.

Graves maintains that Gronemeier, who has resigned from the district, was considered for every opening as required but was not promoted. Under the terms of the settlement, the district was bound only to consider her, not necessarily to promote her.

But Dale Gronemeier said that his wife's administrative and management experience would have led to a promotion if the district were not practicing discrimination. He said the district's failure to promote her was a form of retaliation for filing the first suit.

Sanders said in an interview that he opted to retire after receiving notice of an impending demotion to a teaching job. Last March, Sanders said, Graves told him in a letter that Sanders was being reassigned because Graves had "lost confidence" in the administration at Fremont Junior High School, where Sanders had been assistant principal since 1980.

Sanders said the action seemed especially severe because he had been an administrator since 1972, working at a variety of administrative duties in several different schools.

Superintendent's Letter

Graves' letter said a personality conflict between Sanders and Principal Anthony DeLaPaz was causing low morale at the school, but did not mention Sanders' job performance. Sanders denies that any such personality conflict existed.

Sanders also said he had received no warning of the demotion and had not been given a chance to correct the situation and save his job.

He said one of the district's area superintendents, William Pitts, told him he would be assigned to a classroom at the beginning of the 1985-86 school year and pressured him to retire instead of accepting the assignment.

Sanders said he received no other correspondence and was given no further explanation of the demotion.

"I didn't think that was the real reason," Sanders said of Graves' written explanation of his demotion. "I can't see them having any other justifiable reason to demote me, so consequently it has to be age and/or race."

Graves declined to comment on the action against Sanders, citing laws that protect the privacy of personnel information.

Both sides have been reluctant to discuss the suit. Temetra Gronemeier declined to be interviewed, and school board members and other district administrators refused to comment on the advice of legal counsel.

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