New Castle News

April 8, 2014

New Castle Schools: Razzano resigns in settlement with district

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Robert Razzano has resigned from his position as New Castle Junior High School principal, effective yesterday.

The school board in an 8-0 vote ratified an agreement between Razzano and the district that ends his employment and allows him to collect his pay through the end of the year, an amount of $29,610.

Board member Barbara Razzano, his wife, did not attend last night’s committee of the whole meeting.

Razzano, entered into an agreement with the school district allegedly under threat of firing over alleged sexual harassment complaints.

A condition of the settlement is that he withdraw a lawsuit he had filed against the district in the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas on March 18. That lawsuit, which includes documents detailing the nature of the alleged complaints, must be withdrawn within seven days of final execution of the agreement.

Razzano’s lawsuit contests the manner in which the district was investigating allegations of a sexual harassment nature that were lodged against him by several coworkers.

Other terms of the settlement are:

•Razzano will collect $2,000 for his 80 accrued sick days.

•He will keep his health and retirement benefits through June 30.

•Razzano is precluded from filing future legal action against anyone affiliated with the district.

•His resignation requires him to return all keys to district buildings and all property of the district.

•The district, in return, will not place any evaluation or evaluation results in Razzano’s personnel file regarding his employment performance for the 2013-14 school year.

•The district will respond to inquiries from any prospective employers of Razzano by reciting the period of time when he was employed by the district and saying only that he left voluntarily for personal reasons.

•The district will be responsible for all standard payroll deductions including federal, state or local taxes and Social Security.

•In the event that Razzano applies for unemployment compensation, the district will not contest it but will answer inquiries truthfully.

•The agreement shall not be construed as an admission by the district or Razzano of any fault, liability or wrongdoing or any violation of federal, state and local laws.

 

Razzano, in an emailed statement yesterday, said he resigned due to political and philosophical differences.  “This was an extremely difficult decision but one that I know is the best for my family and me,” he wrote.

 

“I could have continued to pursue the legal battle, which would have exonerated me of the false allegations made against me; but, to do so, would have put myself, my family, the community and everyone associated with the school district through a lot of embarrassment.”

“I have lived in this community for over 50 years. I have worked at the school district for 20 years. Therefore, I have decided to focus on the positive experiences of the past 20 years. I will always appreciate the relationships that were developed with administrators, faculty and staff.  Most of all, I will cherish the memories with the thousands of students I had the honor and privilege of being their teacher or principal,” Razzano continued.

 “I am enthusiastically looking forward to the next chapter in my life. My father always told us ‘there is a reason for everything.’ My plan is to take my pension and look for opportunities where I can use my God-given abilities and talents to continue to make a positive impact on young people.”

 Razzano’s attorney, Avrum Levicoff of Pittsburgh, said yesterday of the district, “they’re dropping everything. They were trying to fire him and that becomes moot.”

Levicoff contends people in the district who don’t like Razzano were trying to unseat him.

“If they didn’t get him this time, they were going to keep trying. You just realize you have to get out,” Levicoff said.

He maintains the allegations against Razzano were not credible and that “there was an organized effort to put him in a bad light.”

Razzano was worried about continued efforts on the part of his apparent enemies to undermine him, Levicoff said.

He pointed out that nobody lodging the complaints had ever made a contemporaneous complaint to Razzano about his behavior.

“Nobody ever said to him, ‘Don’t do that,’ or ‘I don’t want you to behave like that,’ never,” Levicoff said.

The only incident where anyone contemporaneously complained involved one worker who immediately complained to the administration.

“That incident was investigated by the superintendent, and Bob was exonerated from any misconduct,” Levicoff claims.

District superintendent John J. Sarandrea had placed Razzano on administrative leave with pay Feb. 19 when the complaints came to light.

The district and its attorneys conducted a Loudermill hearing, which is a due-process procedure to allow Razzano to answer to the complaints against him.

Levicoff said the district administrators had informed Razzano they were going to stop paying him while he was on leave, but the settlement resolved everything.

In order for the district to have terminated him, the school board would have had to agree and give him a hearing, which would have been lengthy and would have involved 19 witnesses, Levicoff said, commenting, “On both sides, I think everyone was very happy to avoid that.”

(Email: dwachter @ncnewsonline.com)