A year after she was let go, the former director of human resources for the Camden City public schools is suing the school board and Superintendent Bessie LeFra Young, saying she was wrongfully terminated.
In a complaint filed March 29 in Superior Court, Monise Princilus alleged that she was suspended from the $120,000-a-year position in 2011 and her contract was not renewed because she refused to falsify Young's attendance record and challenged a wildly positive self-assessment of its operations that the district sent to the state.
In late January, district records showed that Young had been absent from work at least 186 days — about the length of a school year — in the previous 18 months.
Young, who returned to work Feb. 1, said at the time that she suffered from a chronic illness she declined to specify.
Princilus said Thursday that the number of days Young missed may have been underreported. She faulted shoddy record-keeping.
"Before I came, no one was monitoring" the superintendent's attendance, said Princilus, 38, who was hired as director of human resources in January 2010. "There was no process in place."
Princilus' allegations come when the district and superintendent are under scrutiny by the state due to poor student standardized tests scores, inaccurate reporting of school violence, and an abysmal showing on the state performance review known as the Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC). The state is considering an appeal by the district of its failing grades.
Princilus says she was suspended with pay on March 31, 2011, and was never granted a requested a hearing with the school board. Her employment was ended about two months later.
"That's still on my record," said Princilus, now an administrator in another South Jersey school district. Princilus previously worked as coordinator of the office of employment training in Trenton and as assistant director of human resources at Kean University in North Jersey.
In her lawsuit, Princilus alleges that Young directed her "to create false records which would, in essence, cover defendant Young's absences from her duties." She also claims that the superintendent ordered her to "falsify documents, or endorse or ratify documents" relating to the district that Princilus "knew to be false, misleading or inaccurate."
Princilus alleges that she refused to be a party to inflated district self-reports sent to the state in early 2011 as part of the QSAC review process. The district gave itself a perfect score for personnel, 98 percent for operations, 78 percent for fiscal management, 67 percent for governance, and 61 percent for instruction and program on its QSAC self-evaluations.
State officials arrived at the district on April 4, 2011, to do their own assessment and reached a far different conclusion. They gave the district received failing grades in four of the five categories: instruction and program (7 percent); operations (47 percent); personnel (9 percent); and governance (33 percent). It received 79 percent in fiscal management.
Princilus was suspended on March 31, 2011, to prevent her attendance at a meeting "where information she would have supplied to [state] ... monitors would have been detrimental," the lawsuit alleges.
"There's nothing I can possibly say in reference to this matter because it is in litigation," Young said Thursday.
School board attorney Lester Taylor also declined to comment, and school board president Susan Dunbar-Bey did not return calls for comment. School board member Ray Lamboy said the board was aware of the lawsuit but could not comment beyond that.
Princilus is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys' fees.