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March 3, 2014

New Castle Schools: Leave with pay was superintendent’s call

NEW CASTLE — When a New Castle school district employee is placed on administrative leave, it typically is the superintendent’s decision.

District solicitor Charles Sapienza said in an email last week that the district has no policy governing when and why an employee is placed on administrative leave or whether he or she should be paid during that leave.

Sapienza said he has reviewed the district’s policy manual, which does not address such matters.

The district’s junior high school principal, Robert Razzano, was placed on paid administrative leave Feb. 19 during an investigation, after another employee allegedly lodged a complaint with the district and with the New Castle police.

New Castle Police Chief Bobby Salem said last week the matter does not involve any students, and no one, contrary to rumors, was escorted out of the school by officers.

He said this week that, following interviews, the matter has been turned over to the Lawrence County district attorney for further investigation and a determination.

On Thursday, Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa said he is conducting interviews, which are not yet completed.

Attempts to reach him Friday were unsuccessful.

Neither Sapienza nor superintendent John J. Sarandrea would discuss the circumstances involving any complaint against Razzano, saying it is a personnel matter.

Sarandrea would confirm only that Razzano, 52, has been placed on paid administrative leave.

He said in an email Thursday that Razzano’s status remains unchanged and the district “will continue to work diligently to bring any and all matters regarding employees to conclusion.”

As for how the decision to place an employee on leave is made without a policy, Sarandrea responded that policies, procedures and guidelines are in place for many — but not all — scenarios that arise.

“Certainly when it comes to employees, all matters must remain strictly confidential.”

The superintendent of a school district has inherent managerial authority over the school system, employees and day-to-day operations of the district, he explained.

When matters arise involving employees, a case-by-case analysis is necessary so all school district interests are best served, he continued.

“As part of maintaining those best interests, all school districts should undertake an investigation before any actions are taken,” he said, adding administrative leave is part of an overall investigation as it relates to the employee.

Should it be necessary to take action regarding an employee, due process is required before a district can or will make any final decisions, Sarandrea said. Meanwhile, administrative leave with pay ensures employees do not experience sanctions or irreparable harm before an investigation has been completed and due process has been afforded to that employee, he explained.

Razzano was named as junior high school principal for the seventh and eighth grades at a special meeting July 29, under a 12-month contract. His base salary for the current school year is $109,020.

Prior to that, he had been an assistant principal in the district for 14 years. He also is a former teacher in alternative education and social studies.

Razzano’s wife, Barbara, is a member of the New Castle school board. She declined comment about the administrative leave matter last week.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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