Thousands of New Orleans Teachers Win Court Ruling

Orleans Parish teachers out of a job after Hurricane Katrina are one step closer to a payday.

An appeals court says they were wrongfully terminated.

WGNO News Reporter Darian Trotter has more on the latest legal maneuver.

In the days following Hurricane Katrina; not only were homes lost, jobs were too.

“We were fired,” teacher Jodee Pulizzano said. “The day after the levees broke there was no leave we were fired.” “The website we were told to go to said you’re fired.”

Jodee Pulizzano was among the more than 7-thousand teachers laid off by the Orleans Parish School Board and the State Department of Education.

“Devastating, heart wrenching, I mean I remember crying a lot,” she said. “It was surreal, you just don’t think something like that could happen to you and then happen to the school that you’re at.”

It sparked a class action lawsuit for teachers who were tenured before the storm.

The case has gone through years of legal wrangling.

Wednesday, Louisiana’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decided unanimously that OPS teachers were wrongfully terminated and were not given due process.

“We won; we got a win that is a great situation for all of us,” Pulizzano said. “It makes you feel good. It doesn’t help what all the teachers have been through but a great win for Orleans Parish teachers and for all of us who have gone through so much.”

“We’re happy about this victory, we’re humble about it, but we just have to see what happens next,” plaintiff’s attorney Willie Zanders said.

According to the ruling, teachers were awarded two years of back pay with benefits from OPSB and an additional year of back pay and benefits from the state; because some of the teachers should have been rehired for its Recovery School District.

It could all amount to at least 1.5 billion dollars in damages.

“Generally speaking those employees who were out of work the longest will be entitled to more if any recovery than those who were only out for a few weeks or a few months,” Zanders said.

The ruling could still be appealed to the State Supreme Court.

Thursday night there was no comment by the school board.