Education

Superintendent of Merced County school district under investigation, following complaints

McSwain Union Elementary School District Superintendent Steve Rosa, pictured in this cropped photo of the 2018 Association of California School Administrators Region 9 Award Night, was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday, July 24, 2019, after allegations surfaced accusing him of fostering a hostile work environment and making sexually harrassing comments at the Merced County school district.
McSwain Union Elementary School District Superintendent Steve Rosa, pictured in this cropped photo of the 2018 Association of California School Administrators Region 9 Award Night, was placed on paid administrative leave Wednesday, July 24, 2019, after allegations surfaced accusing him of fostering a hostile work environment and making sexually harrassing comments at the Merced County school district. Courtesy Association of California School Administrators

McSwain Union Elementary School District Superintendent Steve Rosa on Wednesday was placed on paid administrative leave, school board members confirmed.

Rosa’s leave is pending an investigation into allegations made in comments by community members and a letter which stated he made harassing comments.

Rosa couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

An emergency board meeting was called Wednesday following several public statements at the July 9 regular board meeting, school board member Luis Lara said.

“There were some letters read during public comment,” Lara said, declining to generally describe the nature of the allegations. “Some of those may be facts and some may not. ... But it’s something we have to investigate.”

Rosa was placed on paid administrative leave following a 3-2 board vote.

One of the letters from a former employee, obtained by the Sun-Star, describes a toxic work environment in which Rosa would “yell at the district office staff, which would result in tears.”

Rosa allegedly made comments that would have constituted sexual harassment, and spoke negatively about the district administration staff, saying “I am the head mother (expletive) in charge,” according to the letter.

Teacher leaders declined to comment on Rosa’s leave or the allegations, according to the district’s teachers union co-president Timothy Self.

Lara, speaking on behalf of the school board and administrators, said the district decided not to hire an interim superintendent in hopes an independent investigation by legal counsel would wrap up in about a month, before the start of the next school year.

“We have full trust and support of our administrative staff and trust that they can continue moving on with all duties without a superintendent at this time,” Lara said.

Self said the teachers union had no problem with that decision.

“We have an amazing administration that can step in and fill in the shoes,” Self said.

Board members and administrators couldn’t comment on the nature of the allegations due to the pending investigation, Lara said.

In addition to leading the McSwain school district, Rosa is the 2018-19 region president of the Association of California School Administrators.

Vikaas Shanker is an award-winning reporter covering education, crime and courts for the Merced Sun-Star and Los Banos Enterprise. After growing up in Naperville, Illinois and graduating from the University of Kansas, he reported in several Chicago suburbs before moving to Merced County in 2016.
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