The New Castle Area School District has approved a settlement in a federal lawsuit filed three years ago against the district and its former superintendent.
The school board at its regular meeting Monday voted 9-0 in favor of ratifying an agreement in the case initiated by former principal Robert Razzano and his wife, Barbara, against former superintendent John J. Sarandrea and the district. An executive session to discuss the settlement preceded the board’s vote.
The lawsuit, filed Aug. 10, 2017, in U.S. District Court, Western District in Pittsburgh, claimed that Razzano was rejected for employment when he applied for work at a different school district, because Sarandrea, as New Castle’s superintendent at the time, falsely and improperly signed a form that indicated problems between Razzano and students.
The settlement awards the Razzanos a total of $135,000 — $125,000 of which is to be paid by Sarandrea’s insurer, and the other $10,000 to be paid by the district’s errs and omissions insurance company, Liberty Mutual.
Attempts to reach Sarandrea and his insurance company attorney, Patricia Monahan of the Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman and Goggin law firm in Pittsburgh, were unsuccessful Tuesday.
Razzano of New Castle, who had worked for the district for 20 years, had resigned his position as a principal in a settlement he entered into with the district in April 2014, after allegations about his behavior were made by adult teachers and other adult co-workers. A lawsuit he had filed, claiming the district did not properly follow its harassment policy in investigating the claims, was dropped as part of that agreement.
The federal lawsuit was initiated after Razzano, during his search for a new position, learned about a form that Sarandrea had signed that indicated Razzano had prior problems with students, rather than teachers.
The form, developed by the state Department of Education, was required to have been completed by Razzano as the applicant, but also by former employers of an applicant, for any position in Pennsylvania regarding contact with children, according to the complaint filed by Levicoff.
The school district was dismissed from that suit by a court order on Jan. 6 this year, but the U.S. district judge wrote that she “strongly suggests the New Castle Area School District be included and participate in any pretrial conference.”
According to the resolution that the board passed Monday, the district agreed to participate in the mediation of the settlement, even though it no longer was a party to the Razzano’s claims in the suit — “upon strong recommendation from the court,” in order to resolve any potential issues of appeal, the resolution states.
The federal complaint initially was filed on Razzanos’ behalf by the Razzanos’ attorney, Avrum Levicoff of Pittsburgh. An attempt to reach him Tuesday was unsuccessful.
District solicitor Charles Sapienza, attorney, said that the law firm of Andrews and Price of Pittsburgh represented the school district in the case, hired by the district’s insurance carrier, Liberty Mutual.
“There are no district funds being paid out,” Sapienza emphasized. “It was Liberty Mutual’s decision to settle the case. It avoids any appeals and closes the case out in its entirety, and we have to accept that because the insurance company in our name is making that contribution.”
Razzano commented about the settlement, “I think at the end of the day, to be very succinct, I was looking for justice and justice was served. There’s nothing more to be said.”