Education

Merced superintendent resigns after harassment probe. Leaves with a big paycheck

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The McSwain Union Elementary School District Board cut ties with Superintendent Steve Rosa following an investigation into claims he harassed employees during his two years leading the district.

Rosa steps down with no admission of any wrongdoing, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by the Sun-Star.

The superintendent resigned from the Merced County school district effective Aug. 23, according to an agreement approved by board members Monday at a special meeting. Rosa also promised not to sue the district for matters connected to the agreement.

In return, Rosa will receive $125,000 in severance pay, equal to a year’s worth of his salary and receive health and other benefits through August 2020 or until he finds other employment that offers coverage.

Board member Luis Lara said Rosa resigned voluntarily.

The severance payment provides Rosa with a “level of security” as he seeks other employment, Lara said.

“This agreement was deemed to be (in) the best interest of the district and its students as it allows the board to immediately focus on recruiting a new superintendent to lead the district in the 2019-2020 school year,” Lara said.

Rosa couldn’t be reached for comment.

He was placed on paid administrative leave July 24 after Rosa was accused during a school board meeting of workplace and sexual harassment.

Some of the claims include Rosa speaking negatively about district administrative staff, saying “I am the head mother (expletive) in charge,” according to a letter by a former employee that was read at a July 9 board meeting.

Other comments Rosa allegedly made, the letter states, constituted sexual harassment.

Lara declined to reveal the results of the investigation, saying the findings were confidential.

Following Rosa’s resignation, the school board announced plans to hire or promote an interim superintendent. After that is finalized, board members plan to look for a full-time replacement.

“The board wishes to thank Mr. Rosa for his (two) years of service to the district,” a news release on the resignation states.

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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