A two-year discrimination lawsuit over whether La Cañada Unified School District officials unfairly treated former elementary school principal Christine Castillo during and after her 2012 pregnancy has been settled for $385,000, the district’s attorney has confirmed, but that’s not all.
Documents released by LCUSD attorney Dana McCune on request show the district negotiated a separate settlement with Castillo’s husband, former La Cañada High School Principal Ian McFeat, who “had expressed workplace complaints against District including, but not limited to, those arising out of alleged retaliation, discrimination and harassment,” the document states.
Under the agreement, McFeat will collect $133,192 in salary pay and benefits as the recently named executive director of student services and resign from the district on June 30. But the settlement — signed by McFeat on Dec. 4 and LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette Dec. 5 — suggests the former principal will not likely work a single day in the position for which he’s being paid.
“[McFeat] shall be given the title of ‘Executive Director of Student Services,’ and identified as such to any future/inquiring employers,” the settlement states. “However, unless specifically requested by the District, [he] shall not perform any services or engage in any duties as an Executive Director for the District.”
As stipulated in the agreement, Sinnette issued a press release announcing McFeat’s “promotion” to what appears to have been a specially created district-level position on Dec. 7, two days after she agreed in writing that he would not return to work unless requested to do so.
“We look forward to his continued success in supporting students, staff and families,” she stated in the release.
Jim Cartnal, a former LCHS administrator who became executive director of pupil and personnel programs and services in June 2017, would return to the high school campus as interim principal in McFeat’s place, the release stated.
In a Dec. 11 sit-down interview with the Valley Sun about McFeat’s promotion, neither Sinnette nor then-Board President Kaitzer Puglia, who participated in the interview by phone, gave any indication of McFeat’s impending resignation or the possibility he might never actually work in his new role.
“It’s just a time for people to take a deep breath, assess the landscape and see if this is the very best fit, which we think it could be,” Sinnette said, praising McFeat’s tenure at the high school and his ability to build community relationships.
“Each person has something they can offer … and we want to be able to be efficient and maximize all of our team strengths,” Puglia added.
In that interview, Sinnette skirted questions about the Castillo case, describing it as ongoing, without mentioning she and the former La Cañada Elementary administrator had both signed off on the settlement agreement the week before.
“This [case] was continued to early January,” said Sinnette, referring to a Jan. 4 pretrial conference scheduled after Castillo and her attorney failed to appear for a Dec. 5 court date, one day after Castillo had signed the agreement.
That conference date has since been cancelled, according to the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s civil case calendar.
In a Dec. 28, 2016 lawsuit filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Castillo claimed she was discriminated against by Sinnette and other district employees, who she claimed failed to accommodate a doctor’s recommendation for reduced hours during pregnancy and later conducted negative employee evaluations that led to her being reassigned to a teaching position for the 2015-16 school year without her consent, the suit indicated.
Initially represented by Los Angeles-based law firm Geragos & Geragos, Castillo sought damages, including punitive damages, for alleged acts of discrimination as well as intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. She filed for dismissal on Dec. 12 of this year under a new attorney, but court documents do not indicate a district response to that action.
According to the two settlements, which became effective eight days after their Dec. 4 signing, Castillo and McFeat’s two daughters would continue to be accepted by the district for “continued educational services,” through their senior years of high school.
Castillo would immediately resign, although her principal position with LCUSD would be described to potential future employers by the district’s human resources department as lasting from 2012 to 2015, during which time her evaluations “averaged a ‘satisfactory’ rating,” the settlement states.
McFeat’s prospective future employers will be given language from an agreed upon letter of recommendation and will be told he was employed with LCUSD from 2012 to 2019 and held the title of executive director of student services, his settlement states.
Neither party is allowed to comment on the terms, conditions or content of their agreements, as both have agreed to limit their response to “The matter has been resolved,” according to Castillo’s settlement. They are also prohibited from ever seeking any future work with LCUSD.
McCune, who refused to speak on the record about the matter, did confirm that a significant portion of Castillo’s $385,000 settlement would be covered by the district’s insurance policy, while McFeat’s $133,192 would be paid out of a previously approved 2018-19 budget.
According to a statement prepared by current LCUSD Governing Board President Brent Kuszyk that was sent to the Valley Sun Monday, the district would make a final determination in March about whether to keep Cartnal in the LCHS principal position.
In the meantime, Sinnette’s office and the office of educational services will handle all uncovered duties of Cartnal’s vacated executive director position, still described by Kuszyk as “vacant,” until Cartnal’s return or, barring that, the late spring hiring season.