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School board member's discrimination complaint dismissed by U.S. Department of Education

Published: Monday, June 30 2014 2:49 p.m. MDT

In this 2013 file photo, Michael Clara talks with some friends before being sworn in as a new member of the Salt Lake City School Board. A complaint filed by Clara alleging hiring discrimination in west-side schools has been dismissed by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

Brian Nicholson, Deseret News archives

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SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Department of Education has dismissed a complaint accusing the Salt Lake City School District of discriminatory hiring practices.

The complaint, which was filed in May by Salt Lake School Board member Michael Clara, alleged that district officials had unfairly excluded the input of parents during the hiring of a principal for a west-side school.

The Department of Education effectively sided with the school district, acknowledging that different hiring procedures had been followed in the selection of principals but that those procedures were justified as part of the district's school improvement efforts.

"I understand their logic, but I don’t agree with the conclusion," Clara said.

Clara said he was informed of the dismissal last week, and he's still considering his options on how to move forward on the issue. He said he has received calls from educators in the district who worry the "turnaround school" label is too broadly defined and used disproportionately for schools on the city's more-diverse west side.

In most cases when a new principal is hired, school selection teams — which include parents — are created to interview and screen candidates.

But for schools involved in the district's University of Virgina Partnership for Leaders in Education Initiative, candidates are vetted by a team of district administrators, human resources personnel, other district representatives and special consultants.

District spokesman Jason Olsen said in an email that the process of selecting principals is comprehensive and targeted at providing effective leadership at the school level.

"Our single purpose is to provide the best possible learning opportunity for the children of Salt Lake City, and our principals are an essential part of that effort," Olsen said.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com, Twitter: bjaminwood

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