Former Finley School District paraeducator, bus driver appeals firing

Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldAugust 16, 2013 

A former Finley School District bus driver and paraeducator is appealing her firing after she tested positive for marijuana.

The Finley School Board removed Tracie Miller in late July following a recommendation from personnel director Gail Maguire.

Miller failed to tell the district the state revoked her commercial driver's license after a positive drug test, according to the district's termination letter. She also admitted to Maguire she used marijuana during Memorial Day weekend this year.

Miller said the positive drug test resulted from a one-time incident and she is trying to get back her job as a paraeducator.

"I don't feel they had any grounds to tie one to the other," she told the Herald.

Miller worked for the district for five years as a bus driver and more recently as a paraeducator. She worked full time for the district for the past two years in both jobs with an annual salary of about $18,200.

Board members met in a closed-door session for about 30 minutes on July 22 before voting to remove Miller from her positions. The only other people at the meeting were Maguire and Colleen Cowan, the district's business manager. Miller said she learned about the board's decision on July 24.

Superintendent Lance Hahn said the district never had previously disciplined Miller. Miller said she was placed on paid suspension by the board June 5 after the district learned she failed a random drug test by the state in late May. District policy requires employees maintain a drug-free workplace.

The district accused Miller of failing to show up promptly for a second drug test and giving conflicting statements about what she planned to do with her sample. She reportedly told Maguire she didn't know she had to inform her supervisor about the status of her license, according to her termination letter.

Hahn and other district officials have declined to comment on the case.

Miller said Public School Employees of Washington, the union that represents uncertified school district employees in the state, is working with her on the case. The union's Tri-City office has not returned numerous calls seeking comment.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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