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Case against South Colonie School District dropped

A nearly 4-year-old discrimination case between the South Colonie Central School District and a former female teacher ended last week when the teacher withdrew her lawsuit.

The case, which originated in 2005, stemmed from claims by teacher Brooke Helmes that district officials discriminated against her when she was not offered tenure following an extended maternity leave. Helmes wrote in an affidavit that she was employed by the district as a probationary teacher between July 2002 and July 2005.

Helmes said that her probationary period was scheduled to end July 31, 2005, at which time she expected to be offered tenure due to the length of time she had been employed by the district, and what she labeled as several positive reviews in her affidavit.

"In April 2004, I requested a maternity leave. The maternity leave was approved by the board, and I began that maternity leave in June of 2004," said Helmes in her affidavit. "Prior to my maternity leave, every performance evaluation that I had received (six Formative reports and two Summative reports) ended with a 'top box,' indicating that I was 'making appropriate progress towards tenure.'"

Helmes also said in the affidavit that at no point was it brought to her attention that there were areas in which she needed to improve.

Helmes' maternity leave lasted the duration of the summer, and after the period of leave ended, Helmes asked to extend her leave. She returned later in the year, receiving a mediocre review the first time her performance was evaluated, according to her affidavit.

Helmes' attorney, Michael Conway, had said that according to his client, her co-workers' attitudes toward her had changed when she returned, and those who were once friendly were not any longer.

According to Conway, when Helmes was told that she would not be offered tenure, and so resigned from her position in the district.

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