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Hickman assistant principal claims race, age issues in salary disputes

A Hickman High School assistant principal claims the school district underpaid him because of his race and age.

Jerome Sally, a 25-year employee of Columbia Public Schools, sued the district on Oct. 4 for human rights violations. Sally, who is black, said he was paid less than his white counterparts at the district, a “result of systemic discrimination” at CPS since he started there.

The lawsuit describes several years of disagreements between Sally and district officials over how much he should be paid. Sally, who currently makes $100,740 a year, claims that CPS misapplied various aspects of its salary schedule, which determines how much teachers and administrators are paid based on years worked and level of education. The lawsuit seeks back pay for the amount of money lost in those years it was miscalculated.

The lawsuit said Sally’s transition to the assistant principal of West Junior High School in 2006 caused a “confusing ordeal” to decide his salary. The lawsuit claims the district did not give him credit for his previous years of teaching and applied a modifier to his salary less than half of what it should have been. According to the lawsuit, district officials said doing so would make him one of the highest paid assistant principals in the district.

Sally’s attorney Andy Hirth said the avoidance of adding these factors seemed to be racially motivated.

“Why else would it matter?” Hirth said. “What other reason is there that he couldn’t be the highest paid assistant principal in the district? If you have the credentials, you have the experience and you have seniority, why shouldn’t you be the highest paid?”

Hirth has also sued CPS on behalf of an administrator for racial discrimination in 2017. In that case, Andrew McCarthy, a white assistant principal at Battle High School, claimed he was passed up for the Hickman High School principal job because of complaints he and his wife filed against Dr. Kevin Brown, the former head of secondary education. That suit claims Brown made racially and sexually charged comments about others at Battle High School.

Hirth also points to Sally’s situation following the passage of a tax levy in 2016. CPS promised raises for teachers and administrators as part of the campaign to pass it. However, the lawsuit claims Sally was not offered a raise for the 2016-17 school year. The lawsuit said CPS officials told Sally he was being overpaid based on the salary schedule for administrators. Eventually, the district did offer a raise around $4,000 a year, but the lawsuit said this was much less than his younger and white colleagues.

District spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

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