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School District, Seto Part Ways; Pagan Named Interim Superintendent

Former superintendent will be paid $54,968, which includes pro-rated salary and unused vacation days.

1-31-14 special meeting06Former schools Superintendent Edward Seto will be paid nearly $55,000 and has agreed to waive ethics complaints against the Board of Education leadership in a separation agreement approved Jan. 31 by the school board.

The board met in a special session to approve the agreement, accept Seto’s resignation and appoint Eveny Pagan as the interim Superintendent.

Neither vote was unanimous; board members Delvin Burton, Christine Danielsen and Nancy LaCorte voted “no” on accepting the separation agreement, and board vice president Eva Nagy voted “no” on the resolution accepting Seto’s resignation and appointing Pagan.

Board member Robert Trautmann abstained on both votes because his wife is a district employee.

Seto’s resignation was effective at midnight, Jan. 31. Pagan, formerly the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, will serve as interim superintendent from Feb. 1 through March 28, when she leaves the district to take a position in the Passaic school system.

The board last year voted to not offer Seto a new contract when his was set to expire at the end of June, 2104. Seto was paid $206,000 a year under the latest contract.

A copy of the separation agreement was obtained by the Franklin Reporter & Advocate through an Open Public Records Act request.

Under the separation agreement – for which both board president Julia Presley and Nagy voted “yes” – Seto “releases and waives all claims, known (including the School Ethics Charges) and unknown, resulting from anything that has happened up to now, including claims for attorneys’ fees and any claims which could have been asserted by him.

Seto had filed ethics complaints against Nagy and Presley. A hearing on the complaints by the state Department of Education’s School Ethics Commission was held Jan. 28, but there has been no word as to what was decided.

Earlier in the Jan. 31 meeting, Presley said that she did not take part in any of the negotiations leading to the separation agreement’s creation.

Responding to questions from Township Councilman Phil Kramer (D-Ward 3), Presley said the board’s personnel committee – Nagy, Keisha Smith-Carrington and Richard Arline – negotiated the terms, after being charged to do so by the board.

“I’m not involved in the negotiations of the agreement at all,” Presley said.

Both sides stipulated in the agreement that they will not make disparaging statements against each other, nor will they retaliate against each other or their families or associates.

The agreement also states that any public comment on the separation agreement will be limited to the following:

“At its January 31, 2014 meting, the Franklin Township Board of Education accepted the resignation of its Superintendent, Edward Q. Seto. Mr. Seto plans to retire from this position, as well as pursue other professional opportunities. In accepting the Superintendent’s resignation, the Board acknowledged Mr. Seto’s numerous contributions to the district.”

The agreement stipulates that the only person authorized to give Seto a recommendation is board member Nancy LaCorte. A recommendation letter written by LaCorte is included in the agreement package.

Under the agreement, Seto is to be paid $54,968.01, which includes his pro-rated salary through March 15 and payment for 42 unused vacation days.

The agreement had to be approved both by the state Commissioner of Education and by the Somerset Executive County Superintendent of Schools. Board administrator John Calavano said the state approval did not come in to the district until after 2 p.m. Jan. 31.

Without those approvals, the agreement could not have been voted upon.

The board entered into an approximately hour-long executive session before the first vote, and another lengthy executive session prior to the second.

Before voting to accept Seto’s resignation and appoint Pagan, Presley in a written statement said the board had to supply the county superintendent with the names of the three people being considered as acting superintendent.

“She stated she would only accept one, Eveny Pagan,” Presley said.

Presley said after the meeting that a job posting for an acting Superintendent would be made on Feb. 10, although district spokeswoman Mary Clark said the ad would be posted Feb. 2.

She said the search for a new permanent Superintendent would be “as long as it takes to find an excellent Superintendent. Our kids deserve the best.”

 

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