Lawsuit against McPhail dropped by Detroit charter school

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News
Sharon McPhail

Detroit — A civil lawsuit filed against former Detroit City Councilwoman Sharon McPhail after she was fired by a Detroit charter school has been dropped, McPhail's attorneys said on Friday.

Detroit Community Schools terminated McPhail's job in October after she allegedly refused to obtain the proper state certification to be superintendent there.

Daniel E. Harold, who represents McPhail, said both McPhail, Detroit Community Schools conservator Nancy Berkompas and their attorneys have been working for months to resolve the case. On Friday, a special conference was held before Wayne Circuit Judge Craig S. Strong.

"To that end, the conservator has withdrawn and dismissed her complaint with prejudice and fully and unconditionally retracts the allegations and claims," Harold said in a statement. "Ms. McPhail, in turn, has withheld the filing of her own claims against Detroit Community Schools and will no longer serve in her administrative position at Detroit Community Schools."

Attorneys for Berkompas were not immediately available on Friday to comment.

Berkompas sued McPhail after she was terminated on Oct. 8 for allegedly refusing to obtain the proper state certification to be superintendent within three years of being hired in 2012. 

The same day McPhail was fired, Bay Mills Community College, the charter school's authorizer, appointed Berkompas as conservator to bring the school into compliance with state law.

Attorneys for Berkompas had sought a restraining order to prohibit McPhail from managing business operations at the school and requiring her to return its property.

McPhail disputed the school's claim that she lacked certification as a school administrator. In court documents, McPhail's attorneys maintain she is certified.

The school has incurred $200,000 in state fines as a result of McPhail's alleged "failure to comply" with state law to be credentialed, according to attorneys for the school.

State law mandates that school administrators hired before January 2010 are not required to hold administrator certification and those hired after that time must hold a valid administrator certificate or be enrolled in a program leading to such certification.

In addition to the restraining order, Berkompas had asked the court to issue a judgment that says McPhail has no authority to operate or enter the school, to act as a signatory or co-signatory on school accounts and to keep any school property.

The lawsuit also sought a judicial order to block McPhail from interfering with Berkompas and her duties at the school.

McPhail had held four different titles at the school: general counsel, chief business officer, chief administrative officer and school leader, which Berkompas' suit alleged was an attempt to evade the certification requirement. 

The school, founded in 1997, had 726 students in grades K-12 last year.

Harold said on Friday that McPhail "poured her heart and soul" into Detroit Community Schools and its students.

"It is the parties’ sincere endeavor and goal for Detroit Community Schools to continue on its upward trajectory from this academic year into the future, and they have set the framework for this to be accomplished," Harold said.