LCUSD Settles Lawsuit With Former Principals for $500K

The La Cañada Unified School District will pay about $500,000 to settle a lawsuit with former La Cañada Elementary School Principal Christine Castillo and her husband Ian McFeat, the former La Cañada High School principal who was recently named executive director of student services at the district.
Castillo will receive $385,000 in a lump-sum payment, according to a settlement agreement she signed on Dec. 4. She had filed a lawsuit against the district on Dec. 28, 2016, for alleged sexual discrimination and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional stress amid fallout after revealing she was pregnant not long after she accepted the LCE principal position in 2012.
McFeat, who recently stepped down as LCHS principal to accept the district-level position, will receive a sum equal to $133,192, according to an agreement signed by McFeat on Dec. 4.
The Outlook obtained the settlement information through a request under the Freedom of Information Act. None of the parties involved, including Castillo, McFeat or LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette, is allowed to discuss the settlement matter, or give comment regarding each other, according to the documentation. The Outlook’s requests for comment were not answered.
According to his settlement document, McFeat was to “immediately” submit a letter of resignation, with a termination date of June 30. McFeat had expressed workplace complaints against the district including “alleged retaliation, discrimination and harassment,” according to the document.
On Dec. 12, Castillo filed a request to dismiss her lawsuit against the district. The dismissal was entered into the record two days later, according to case information listed on the Los Angeles County Superior Court website.
Castillo’s initial pleading was filed about two years ago when she alleged that Superintendent Wendy Sinnette had reacted negatively to her report of her pregnancy. According to court documents, Sinnette was told of Castillo’s pregnancy in August 2012, just a month after Castillo had moved from Seattle to Los Angeles to accept the position and join her then-boyfriend McFeat, the newly named LCHS principal.
Sinnette is alleged to have said the district’s governing board was “disappointed” because Castillo “waited” to tell the superintendent about her pregnancy.
When The Outlook first wrote about the case in January 2017, board members issued a statement that said they stood behind Sinnette and “will not tolerate any misrepresentation of her character or her behavior.”
Castillo returned from her maternity leave in August 2013 but was reassigned to a position as a 1st-grade teacher in June 2015. She had been a principal since August 2012 and alleged she was receiving retaliation because of her pregnancy.
She was seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages, while LCUSD had denied the charges.
Dana McCune, the attorney representing La Cañada Unified School District, declined to speak on the record about the case or agreements. Phone messages left for Castillo, McFeat and Sinnette were not returned by The Outlook’s press deadline.
McFeat’s agreement says that he would surrender his position with the district as a principal and that he understands he is to provide no work and perform no duties, tasks or services for the district unless he is requested to do so. The document also states he “shall not return” to the district or any other school site for work-related reasons unless requested.
McFeat held the position of LCHS principal from 2012 until it was announced on Dec. 10 he was being “promoted” to executive director. However, according to the agreement, McFeat “shall be given the title” of executive director of student services and identified as such to any future or inquiring employers. Unless requested by the district, he “shall not perform any services or engage in any duties as an executive director for the district.”
Sinnette signed both agreements to settle on Dec. 5.
Under the settlement, the district agrees to accept Castillo and McFeat’s two children for continued educational services. Additionally, Castillo was to immediately resign from employment with the district and withdraw from a re-employment list. Castillo’s agreement adds that she has no other lawsuits, claims or actions pending in her name or on her behalf.
Both Castillo and McFeat are required to limit their responses when asked about the settlement and say, “The matter has been resolved.”
Castillo, McFeat, LCUSD board members and current administrative staff including Sinnette agree to “refrain from any disparaging statements” about the plaintiffs or district, according to the agreements.
Castillo will direct any inquiries by potential future employers to the district’s human resources department. The district will report that she held the title of principal and was employed by the district from 2012 to 2015 and her evaluations over the period averaged a “satisfactory” rating.
McFeat will also direct potential employers to human resources. If an employer wants to speak with McFeat’s former direct supervisor, the supervisor will use the language of an agreed to “letter of recommendation” to speak to the “strengths and achievements” of McFeat.
The district will tell McFeat’s potential employers that he most recently held the title of “executive director of student services.” The district will also report that the employee was employed with the district from 2012 to 2019.
There is no admission of liability, and Castillo and McFeat acknowledged the agreements are a compromise and not an “admission of the truth or falsity of any actual or potential claims” or an admission by the district of any fault or liability.
Everyone involved will each bear his or her own costs, attorneys’ fees, and other fees incurred in connection with the settlement, according to the document.

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