Moore-Fotso v. Board of Education, City of Chicago
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER Signed by the Honorable Robert M. Dow, Jr. on 5/8/2017. Mailed notice(cdh, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
DOROTHY A. MOORE-FOTSO,
BOARD OF EDUCATION
OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO,
Case No. 12-cv-10419
Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Before the Court is Plaintiff Dorothy Moore-Fotso’s motion for reconsideration [109;
118] of this Court’s decision  to grant Defendant’s motion for summary judgment . For
the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration [109; 118] is denied.1
The facts of this case are set out more extensively in the Court’s Memorandum Opinion
and Order  granting Defendant’s motion for summary judgment . See also MooreFotso v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chi., 2016 WL 5476235, at *2–7 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 29, 2016).
As a brief recap, Plaintiff suffers from multiple chronic medical conditions that impact
her ability to stand or sit for extended periods of time, use stairs, or be confined to rooms with
carpeting or dust. Plaintiff also worked as a teacher at various Chicago schools between 2005
and 2012, and requested that Defendant accommodate her disabilities pursuant to the Americans
with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Most of those accommodations were granted. In particular,
Plaintiff was given dictation software, a printer, a scanner, two types of projectors, a HP compact
business notebook, an ergonomic roller mouse and mouse station, toner cartridges, whiteboards,
In accordance with Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(4)(A)(iv)–(vi), the 30-day time period for
Plaintiff to file an appeal runs from the date of this order.
a task chair, air purifiers with filters in each of her classrooms, filing cabinets, and access to the
school’s elevator. She was also granted leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to be
absent up to four days each month. One requested accommodation that Plaintiff did not receive,
however, was the ability to teach from a single classroom on the first floor of her school.
Plaintiff requested the one-room accommodation at the start of the 2009-2010 school
year. The prior year, Plaintiff had been chronically absent and tardy, and received repeated
warnings about her attendance. Her attendance problems (and disciplinary actions for those
problems) continued into the 2009-2010 school year. Moreover, Plaintiff fared poorly during her
annual performance review that year. She arrived late to class, failed to provide a lesson plan or
establish a positive learning environment for students, and was involved in a confrontation with
another teacher. Similar observations were noted when another school administrator evaluated
her classroom performance. At the end of that school year, Plaintiff received an “unsatisfactory”
rating, and pursuant to a city-wide policy governing teacher layoffs, Plaintiff was terminated.
For the next school year, Plaintiff was placed in Chicago’s Reassigned Teacher Pool.
She was unable to secure permanent employment during her ten-month RTP assignment, and
was then assigned to work as a Cadre substitute—teachers who move from school to school to
cover temporary vacancies. Between September and November 2011, Plaintiff worked briefly at
two schools. She renewed her request to work from a single classroom, but this accommodation
was not provided. Furthermore, one of these schools hired two math teachers during the time
that Plaintiff worked as a Cadre substitute, but Plaintiff was not hired for either position. These
positions also required the teacher to work from multiple classrooms. Plaintiff’s Cadre status
ended in August 2012, and she has since worked as a day-to-day substitute teacher.
Plaintiff claims that Defendant violated the ADA by failing to provide reasonable
accommodations for her disability, discriminating against her because of her disability, and
retaliating against her because she had filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”). Defendant moved for summary judgment, which the Court granted
. First, the Court found that Plaintiff was not a “qualified individual with a disability”
because her excessive absences and tardiness meant that she could not perform the “essential
functions” of her job. As a result, her failure to accommodate and discrimination claims could
not survive. Second, even if Plaintiff was a qualified individual with a disability, a reasonable
jury could not find that Defendant failed to engage in an interactive process with Plaintiff over
her accommodations, that a single classroom was a reasonable accommodation when she became
a Cadre substitute, or that the ADA required her to be hired as a full-time math teacher. Third,
Plaintiff had failed to present a triable issue of fact that any of seven adverse employment actions
that she experienced was because of her disability. Finally, Plaintiff could not show that the five
employment actions allegedly taken in retaliation were adverse or that there was a causal
connection between the filing of the EEOC charges and the employment action. Accordingly,
the Court granted the motion and entered judgment in Defendant’s favor. [See 107.]
Following the entry of judgment, Plaintiff filed several motions [109; 118], which the
Court construed as requesting reconsideration of the Court’s decision [see 114, 120].2
“A motion to alter or amend a judgment is only proper when ‘the movant presents newly
discovered evidence that was not available at the time of trial or if the movant points to evidence
With the consent of Plaintiff, the Court permitted recruited counsel who had represented Plaintiff
through the summary judgment proceedings to withdraw [see 120]. The motion for reconsideration
therefore was filed by Plaintiff representing herself, and the Court will liberally construe the motion as it
must will all pro se filings.
in the record that clearly establishes a manifest error of law or fact.’” Burritt v. Ditlefsen, 807
F.3d 239, 252–53 (7th Cir. 2015) (quoting Matter of Prince, 85 F.3d 314, 324 (7th Cir. 1996)).
“A ‘manifest error’ is not demonstrated by the disappointment of the losing party. It is the
‘wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent.’” Oto v.
Metro. Life Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000) (quoting Sedrak v. Callahan, 987 F.
Supp. 1063, 1069 (N.D. Ill. 1997)). A motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 59(e)
should be used only when “the Court has patently misunderstood a party, or has made a decision
outside the adversarial issues presented to the Court by the parties, or has made an error not of
reasoning but of apprehension.” Bank of Waunakee v. Rochester Cheese Sales, Inc., 906 F.2d
1185, 1191 (7th Cir. 1990).
Rule 59(e) motions are “not appropriately used to advance
arguments or theories that could and should have been made before the district court rendered a
judgment, or to present evidence that was available earlier.” Miller v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Am.,
683 F.3d 805, 813 (7th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
In seeking reconsideration, Plaintiff does not present newly discovered evidence or claim
that the Court disregarded or failed to recognize controlling precedent. Instead, she advances
one new factual claim that she asserts should have been considered by the Court, and several
other arguments that largely mirror ones that she advanced in opposition to summary judgment.
The Court starts with Plaintiff’s new factual claim.
Plaintiff contends that her attorney erroneously failed to deny Defendant’s Local Rule
56.1 Statement of Fact 21 [92, ¶ 21], which concerns her May 13, 2010 annual performance
review conducted by George Henry Corliss High School Principal Anthony Spivey. [See 109-1,
at 2.] Paragraph 21 states:
During the class period for which Principal Spivey evaluated plaintiff, she arrived
late to teach her class. When plaintiff arrived she was not engaging in instruction.
She sat, doing nothing, for a while. This did not demonstrate good teaching
practice. The principal saw “no planning that took place. [He] thought she was
not prepared. Kids were not engaged. There was very little attempt to support the
students while she was in the classroom. There was [a] confrontation between her
and the other teacher that disrupted the classroom.” The co-teacher of the class
plaintiff observed was D.P.
[See 109-1, at 2 (internal citations omitted).] Plaintiff argues that she “would have had to
experience a lobotomy to disrespect authority by not participating during an observation, sitting
down, then arguing with the classroom teacher on record after [she] arrived late to class.” [109,
at 3.] Moreover, Plaintiff asserts that she brought the error to her attorney’s attention in January
2016, but it was never corrected.
Plaintiff then offers a highly detailed account of the events of May 13, 2010. For
example, Plaintiff recounts that (1) Corliss used the Carnegie Learning Math Curriculum
between 2008 and 2010, and Plaintiff had provided prepared lesson plans to the Corliss math
staff in September 2008; (2) Plaintiff’s “key pod” would not open the school’s front door on May
13, so she waited for the assistant principal to open the door; (3) “Plaintiff arrived late to the
classroom” because she had to pick up her math curriculum materials from the planning room;
(4) Plaintiff’s co-teacher wrote a math problem on the white board and told Plaintiff that students
were familiar with the “rule of disability,” but did not review that rule with students; (5) Plaintiff
then discussed this rule with individual students; (6) one student asked Plaintiff if the number
one was a prime number, and in response, Plaintiff asked him to define the prime and composite
numbers while “the classroom teacher yelled at the Plaintiff about whether the number one is a
prime number”; and (7) Principal Spivey’s observation of her classroom performance was
“false” because it “included information not related to the Plaintiff’s instruction of Carnegie’s
Learning Math topic on how to introduce, identify, and construct geometric concepts that
describe the circle.” [109-1, at 3–5.]
Plaintiff’s description of the events of March 13, 2010, does not affect this Court’s
decision to grant summary judgment for several reasons. As Plaintiff implicitly concedes, she
did not present any of these facts to the Court prior to summary judgment. [109-1, at 2.] A
motion for reconsideration is not an opportunity to “present evidence that was available earlier”
or make arguments “that could and should have been made before the district court rendered a
judgment.” Miller, 683 F.3d at 813. But it would not have mattered if she had timely submitted
this account, even assuming it could be rewritten to comply with Local Rule 56.1.3 Plaintiff’s
dispute over the substance of Principal Spivey’s classroom observations—which was only one of
the factors that contributed to Plaintiff’s “unsatisfactory” rating—misses the forest for the trees.4
None of these “disputed” facts suggests that Defendant failed to accommodate her disability,
engaged in disability discrimination, or retaliated against her against her disability.
differently, the specific facts that Plaintiff now wishes she had disputed do not refute the
conclusions that (1) she had significant attendance problems that prevented her from carrying out
the essential functions of her job; (2) Defendant provided her with multiple accommodations; (3)
The Court previously concluded that the parties’ statements of fact did not comply with Local Rule 56.1
because they were argumentative, evasive, focused on immaterial facts, and combined lengthy statements
into a single paragraph. [107, at 1–4.] It also noted that denials of statements of fact should be “concise”
and contain “specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials” to
substantiate the disagreement with opposing party’s statement of fact. Id. at 2; L.R. 56.1(b). Plaintiff’s
reconsideration motion continues to fall short of those requirements. Her “denial” of Paragraph 21 spans
more than 50 sentences, yet cites nothing from the record to support her account. The Court would have
disregarded a response like this had she submitted it at summary judgment.
Principal Spivey’s evaluation states that Plaintiff’s “weaknesses” were (1) “Applying contemporary
principles of learning and teaching methodology consistently”; (2) “Actively engages in school-wide
professional development”; (3) “Sets standards for quality student work”; (4) “Exhibiting appropriate
classroom management skills”; (5) “Clearly produces intended or desirable assessment results”; (6) “Does
not maintain her attendance/punctuality in accordance with our local unit criteria”; and (7) “Consistently
carry out daily routines and administrative request.” [80, at Ex. E, Attach. 13]
there is no evidence that Principal Spivey’s classroom evaluation was motivated by
discriminatory animus; and (4) her unsatisfactory evaluation and termination predate the filing of
her November 2010 EEOC charge and cannot form the basis of a retaliation claim. [107, at 39];
see also Dickerson v. Bd. of Trustees of Cmty. Coll. Dist. No. 522, 657 F.3d 595, 603 (7th Cir.
2011) (explaining that “potentially inaccurate evaluations [do not] necessarily denote disability
discrimination”). Indeed, most of the details that Plaintiff offers corroborate the main points of
Principal Spivey’s account: she was late to class and was involved in at least two disputes with
her co-teacher during the evaluation, one of which involved yelling. Plaintiff fails to explain
how her contention that she was following a lesson plan on March 13 means there is a triable
issue of fact for any of her ADA claims. Thus, her belated denial of Paragraph 21 does not merit
a different outcome for summary judgment.
Over the course of Plaintiff’s reconsideration-related filings [109; 118; 130], Plaintiff
also raises several other loosely organized arguments.5 She claims that Washington Principal
Florence Gonzalez falsely testified at her deposition about the demands of special education
teachers and certification requirements for general education, special education, and
mathematics. [109, at 5–6.] Neither point has anything to do with the reasons underlying the
Court’s summary judgment decision.
Plaintiff further argues that her equipment
Plaintiff’s single spaced, 22-page reply does not respond to any of Defendant’s arguments regarding
why reconsideration is inappropriate. [See 130-1.] While it mostly rehashes arguments that Plaintiff
raised before, Plaintiff also—for the first time—provides a quote from the unnamed Math Department
Chair at George Washington High School (id. at 6–7) about how Plaintiff should not have been provided
one classroom just because of her disability. While this quote does nothing to displace the Court’s
conclusion that Plaintiff’s failure-to-rehire claim cannot be pursued as a viable disability discrimination
theory because it was omitted from her EEOC charge [107, at 35–36], Plaintiff offers no explanation as to
why she did not include this quote in her original summary judgment response brief. Nor does she
explain whether this person was involved the hiring decisions at Washington, ever communicated this
sentiment to Washington’s Principal, had the power to decide whether she received a one-room
accommodation, or even when this quote was made. See Rozskowiak v. Vill. of Arlington Heights, 415
F.3d 608, 612 (7th Cir. 2005) (“Derogatory statements made by someone who is not involved in making
the employment decision at issue are not evidence that the decision was discriminatory.”).
accommodations were not enough, the lack of a one-room accommodation worsened her
attendance problems, Defendant knew about her disabilities, she had multiple relevant
certifications in math and special education that made it “egregious” for Defendant not have let
her teach math, other math teachers at Corliss taught from a single classroom, Principal Spivey
evaluated her according to the wrong standard, she did not serve in RTP for the full ten month
term, and Principal Gonzales knew (or should have known) that Plaintiff was certified in math.
[See 109-1, at 6–9; 118-1; 130-1.]
The Court considered and rejected these same arguments as insufficient to avoid
summary judgment for Defendant. It also provided multiple reasons for doing so in its 43-page
opinion. [See 107.] Plaintiff’s briefs do not discuss any of those reasons, identify any record
evidence demonstrating a material factual dispute that the Court ignored, cite any controlling
precedent that the Court overlooked or misconstrued, or explain how exactly the Court erred in
any of its conclusions regarding Plaintiff’s three ADA claims. “Reconsideration is not an
appropriate forum for rehashing previously rejected arguments or arguing matters that could
have been heard during the pendency of the previous motion.” Caisse Nationale de Credit
Agricole v. CBI Indus., Inc., 90 F.3d 1264, 1270 (7th Cir. 1996). And Plaintiff’s mere repetition
of her contentions that she deserved a one-room accommodation and to be hired as a full-time
math teacher fails to persuade the Court that reconsideration under Rule 59(e) is appropriate.
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration [109; 118] is denied.
Dated: May 8, 2017
Robert M. Dow, Jr.
United States District Judge
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