A teacher fired from a Memphis charter school is suing her former employer for retaliation and wrongful termination after defending her principal during a contentious public meeting.

Students at Memphis Academy of Health Sciences High School protest administrators firing a teacher and principal.
PHOTO CREDIT: Laura Faith Kebede/Chalkbeat

Patricia Ange is seeking $350,000 in damages against Memphis Academy of Health Sciences High School, which enrolled about 400 students last year. Meanwhile, the school’s lawsuit against Reginald Williams, the former principal, has been at a standstill for about eight months.

Memphis Academy fired the principal for poor test scores, according to school documents. Even though state lawmakers rushed to protect teachers, students, and schools from negative test results last year because of problems with computerized testing, it was unclear if the law also applied to principals.

The firings of Ange and Williams prompted about three dozen students to walk out in November and parents and supporters to flood the school’s board of directors meeting a few weeks before the walkout.

“Immediately following the October board meeting, [Ange] found herself ostracized. Other faculty avoided her,” her lawsuit alleges.

At the meeting, Ange said school leaders did not tell teachers that Williams had been fired. She and parents also reported more student misbehavior after he left.

Even though the school had promised to pay for seniors to retake ACT tests, they did not after Williams was fired, Ange said. She borrowed the money from a family member to pay for the tests, and alleges the school misspent it.

Reginald Williams
PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Reginald Williams

The school sued Williams in November, arguing that he “conspired” to “disrupt the operations of the school, to lure students away from the school, and to cause financial harm and public embarrassment to [the academy’s] standing in the educational community.”

Williams is now the principal at Overton High School. He was previously the principal at Kirby High School and an assistant principal at Central High School. The new principal at Memphis Academy is Michael Miles, according to the school’s website.

Ange went on to serve as chief of staff at Memphis Lift, the parent advocacy organization that coordinated efforts to find out more about the leadership changes at the charter school, one of the oldest in the city. Ange returned to teaching ACT prep this school year at another charter school, Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering.

Attorneys for the school and Williams declined to comment. The school has taken no further action against Williams since withdrawing its request for a hearing to obtain a temporary restraining order against him in February.

Shelby County’s chancery court has not scheduled a hearing yet in Ange’s case, which was filed Sept. 16.