New Jersey's commissioner of education has approved a $300,000 settlement awarded to a former Willingboro schools superintendent who ran up a nearly $10 million deficit while in charge.
Alonzo Kittrels served as superintendent from 2001 to 2005, during which budgeting errors and poor recordkeeping led to a financial mess that shuttered three schools and forced the state to bail out the district.
In 2007, a state auditor reported that the district faked reports "to cover up the district's deteriorating financial position" during the 2005 fiscal year. Kittrels denied any wrongdoing, saying he did not handle financial reports.
The school board voted to suspend Kittrels in July 2005. Following his suspension, Kittrels filed lawsuits against the board and its members alleging legal and constitutional violations in his dismissal.
Despite not coming to work for three years, Kittrels said he continued to serve as salaried superintendent through the end of his contract on June 30, 2008.
In the agreement, the school district awarded Kittrels about $74,500 to compensate him for contractual salary increases, unused vacation days, and his last two months of salary and benefits. The remaining $225,500 is a lump sum personal injury settlement, with $60,000 paid by the school district's insurance company and the remainder paid by the board in exchange for Kittrels' dropping his pending lawsuits.
New Jersey Commissioner of Education Lucille Davy, who rejected the initial settlement in August 2008 and requested more information about how the lump sum settlement reflected the costs of the pending lawsuits, approved a revised version on May 27.
Kittrels, 69, who was the Newark, N.J., schools superintendent from 1977 to 1981, writes columns for the Philadelphia Tribune reminiscing about life "back in the day." He said he would write something about the situation as soon as a required 30-day period ensure that the settlement has been resolved had passed.
"I'll have a lot to say after this is over," he said Thursday. "There's a lot of stuff that went on that didn't sit well with me."