DURANT, Iowa — A three-year legal battle finally ended Monday night in Durant, leaving one of its key players feeling bittersweet.
From the day she was asked to leave Durant High School grounds on Sept. 17, 2009, principal Monica Rouse said she didn’t deserve to be fired, and her fight to prove her case took her all the way to the Iowa Supreme Court, where justices ruled in her favor in April.
But the case didn’t end there. That would take another eight months.
It was settled Monday night in the place where it all began as the Durant School Board agreed to award Rouse an $850,000 settlement.
Rouse also agreed to step down from her job as Durant principal — a job she’s fought for for the last three years.
According to a document signed by attorneys for Rouse and the district, Rouse will receive a settlement of $450,000, including $425,000 paid by EMC Insurance Co. and $25,000 from the district. She will also be paid for the remainder of the school year and for early retirement for an additional 31 months which will total $400,000.
As she sat in her Durant home Tuesday morning contemplating the past three years, Rouse said she is relieved to be done battling, but unhappy about the way her career at Durant High School ended.
“I was an educator for more than 20 years,” said Rouse. “It’s an important part of my life. I’m not going to leave that career anytime soon, but I’m sure it will look different.”
Her early years with the Durant school district were good ones, said Rouse, who was hired as principal in the 1999-2000 school year.
Rouse still struggles with the fact that the person who initiated her firing, former superintendent Duane Bark, left the state in 2011 for another job in Wisconsin.
“He wasn’t invested enough in this community enough to stay until the end,” said Rouse. “He left other people to clean up a mess that was obviously not supported with enough evidence that held up in any court of law.”
An e-mail sent to Bark Tuesday afternoon seeking comment was not returned by press time Tuesday night.
Rouse said she and her husband Tim, a teacher in the Durant district, will remain in Durant to raise their son and daughter.
“We have no intentions of taking our kids out of this district,” said Rouse. “This is their home.”
Last spring, Rouse was working as an advocate for Iowa families of children who have special needs through Iowa’s Access for Special Kids Resource Center.
That changed in May when Rouse was instated as co-principal of Durant High School after a Cedar County judge ruled that she should be reinstated to her former position.
That situation resulted in a recent legal victory for Rouse, who took the district to court for contempt, alleging district officials created a hostile work environment when she returned.
In late September, a Cedar County judge ruled that the Durant School Board members should be fined and serve time in jail if they refused to fully restore Rouse to her previous position, which they eventually did.
Rouse said she’s satisfied with the amount of the settlement, which will afford her the opportunity to take the next several months off so she can focus on her family.
In the future, Rouse said she will consider working with Iowa’s Access for Special Kids Resource Center.
“There’s a lot to be said for closure,” said Rouse. “But I don’t want anybody to think it had always been this way. If all this hadn’t happened, I would have continued to be principal.”
Rouse said she’s learned some valuable lessons over the past three years, including the importance of being true to herself.
“This was a matter of finding the truth,” she said. “And the people who know the truth and know me supported me, whether they liked me or not. My concern is reflecting my character and level of integrity.”