The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

January 15, 2014

Lawsuit alleges ‘interference’ in employment of Joplin principal

A former principal of Royal Heights Elementary School in Joplin has sued the district’s assistant superintendent over allegations that she cost him his job as principal, according to a lawsuit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court.

The one-page petition lists Larry Masters, who is still employed with the Joplin district as a special-education teacher, as the plaintiff, and Angie Besendorfer, the assistant superintendent, as the defendant. The petition does not list the school district as a defendant.

In his lawsuit, Masters alleges that he was offered a contract in March 2010 to continue serving as principal of Royal Heights Elementary, where he had been since 2004, but that the offer was rescinded by the Board of Education one month later.

Besendorfer “intentionally interfered” with his rehiring by making “false representations” about him to the board, according to the petition. That included accusing him of violating the regulations governing the administration of state standardized tests, according to the petition.

When reached by telephone Wednesday, Raymond Lampert, Masters’ Springfield-based attorney, declined to comment or to provide details on either his client or the lawsuit.

Administrators with the school district also declined to comment Wednesday.

“Because Mr. Masters is still an employee of the district, this is a personnel issue, and by law I am unable to respond publicly to his allegations or discuss the matter due to confidentiality restrictions,” Superintendent C.J. Huff said in an email.

Besendorfer recently announced her resignation from the district to pursue employment as a chancellor with WGU Missouri, a nonprofit, online university. She could not be reached through the district for comment.

Huff told the Globe in April 2010 that Masters was being reassigned to a teaching position by the end of that academic year. He declined to comment at the time on the circumstances surrounding that decision, although he did say it was the outgrowth of an “inquiry into concerns” that were brought to the administration’s attention, according to Globe files.

Damages sought

LARRY MASTERS alleges that he lost wages and suffered mental and emotional distress as a result of leaving the position of principal of Royal Heights Elementary School. His petition seeks an unspecified amount in damages.

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