Trial involving Philly school officials accused of violating First Amendment rights to begin

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Richard Migliore claims the former principal of Mastbaum Vocational/Technical High School (pictured) and senior district officials retaliated against him after his book, "Whose School is It? The Democratic Imperative for Our Schools," was published in 2007.

A CIVIL CASE involving five current and former Philadelphia School District employees accused of violating the First Amendment rights of an ex-administrator who wrote a book about education is set to begin this week in federal court.

Richard Migliore, who spent 34 years in the district as a teacher and assistant principal, claims the then-principal of Mastbaum Vocational/Technical High School and senior district officials retaliated against him after his book, Whose School is It? The Democratic Imperative for Our Schools, was published in 2007 and after he twice addressed the School Reform Commission regarding school governance.

According to Migliore's lawsuit, originally filed in June 2011, he began receiving disciplinary write-ups in the 2007-08 school year, which continued the following year, and was recommended for demotion in July 2009. Migliore ultimately retired before the demotion took effect, which he alleges was intended to compel him to leave the district.

The defendants in the case are the estate of Arlene Ackerman, who was superintendent at the time of the alleged actions; Estelle Matthews, former chief talent development officer; Lucy Feria, former regional superintendent; Andrew Rosen, formerly a human-resources representative; and Mary Dean, former Mastbaum principal.

Rosen is deputy of employee relations, and Dean is principal of West Philadelphia High School. The others have since left the district.

The defendants deny Migliore's allegations and argue that any complaints against him were based solely upon his "thoroughly unsatisfactory performance" as assistant principal, according to a response filed in the case.

Jury selection was completed yesterday and opening statements are scheduled to begin today before U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois in the U.S. Courthouse in Center City.

Migliore is seeking six years of back pay, compensation for a loss of retirement benefits and damages for pain and suffering.

District spokesman Fernando Gallard declined to comment on the case yesterday, citing the ongoing litigation.

"More important than any damages is the right of teachers and principals to write books, make speeches before the SRC and advocate on matters of public concern - the well-being of our public schools," Migliore, an attorney and advocate with the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, told the Daily News yesterday.

"That is the primary objective of this and that's really what I'm fighting for."

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