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SETTLEMENT IS REACHED IN DISPUTE WITH PRINCIPAL

The Barker School Board has reached a "surprise" settlement of its nine-month battle with Elementary School Principal Roselyn Morgan.

The board's unanimous action, which followed a brief executive session at a specially summoned meeting Thursday evening, cancels plans to reopen Mrs. Morgan's disciplinary hearing next week, Superintendent Judith Staples said.

As part of the agreement between the board and Mrs. Morgan, details of the settlement were withheld.

Edwin J. Robisch, a labor consultant who was part of the defense team, said defense attorney B. J. Costello of Albany had been in Lockport earlier this week, but seemed only to be preparing witnesses for the resumption of the hearing. He said he was "surprised" by word of a settlement. The board had voted 4-3 to suspend Mrs. Morgan, 59, with pay last Oct. 28, and charged her with directing third-grade teachers to cheat on a state standardized reading test given May 9, 1996, by erasing pupils' wrong answers.

Mrs. Morgan was also accused of filing unjustified negative job evaluations against two untenured teachers, Bonnie Buri and Pamela Schunk, who reported the alleged cheating, in revenge for that action.

Mrs. Morgan heatedly denied the charges and made plans to file a defamation suit against the School Board.

The hearing, which began Feb. 14, collapsed June 19, when Mrs. Morgan and her then-defense attorney, Beverly R. Hackett, did not appear.

The complexion of the case had changed when two School Board members who voted to bring charges against Mrs. Morgan were defeated at the polls by candidates who were in favor of settling the case. Hearing officer James B. Atleson, a University at Buffalo Law School professor, said Ms. Hackett had told him in light of that development, any further hearings would be pointless. She anticipated a settlement of the matter.

Last month, Atleson accepted a district motion to declare the hearing at an end and proceed directly to written closing arguments.

The new School Board, however, decided July 9 to ask Atleson to vacate his order and let the hearings resume with Costello replacing Ms. Hackett as defense attorney. That move left many district residents up in arms over a continuation of the heavy expense of the case, estimated at over $100,000 so far.

There were even threats from some residents at a School Board meeting Monday to hire a lawyer to pursue an injunction against reopening the hearing. Mrs. Staples said those threats played no role in the board's decision.

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