A lawsuit over the ouster of the James Island Charter High School principal has been settled for $60,000 and an admission by school officials that Bob Bohnstengel did not violate ethics laws.
The settlement, reached in April, required the school's board of directors to send a letter to teachers stating the former principal served "ethically and with distinction."
The letter also clarified the reasons for the board's decision to remove Bohnstengel, who has been on paid leave since November.
"The Board of Directors' decision was neither intended to embarrass Dr. Bohnstengel nor infer that the Board of Directors' decision was based upon anything more than its belief that a change in leadership and management was both necessary and appropriate," the letter said.
In addition to the $60,000 payment, Bohnstengel will receive his salary and benefits through the end of his contract on June 30. Bohnstengel estimated his salary for the 2013-2014 school year at $102,000.
Keith Bolus, chairman of the 1,400-student school's Board of Directors, declined Tuesday to comment on the settlement or the letter. He said the board last week appointed interim principal Richard Gordon as the permanent principal for the 2014-2015 school year. Gordon served as the school's assistant principal for seven years and previously worked at Academic Magnet High School in North Charleston.
"We are excited Mr. Gordon is our principal and we are moving forward," Bolus said.
Bohnstengel sued the school in December after the board placed him on paid administrative leave in late November. The lawsuit sought Bohnstengel's reinstatement as principal. It also alleged defamation and intentional breach of contract, for which he sought compensation.
In its response to the lawsuit, the school accused Bohnstengel of failing to disclose he worked for a company that the school hired to train its teachers and administrators in classroom management techniques. Bohnstengel's failure to disclose his affiliation with The Education Company and his recommendation of a contract with the company are both inconsistent with state ethics laws, the school's filing claimed.
In a separate affidavit, Bohnstengel denied being an employee of The Education Company. He claimed he attended trainings with the company but never received monetary compensation for being a staff member, according to the affidavit.
Bohnstengel said Tuesday the accusations against him are "false and baseless."
The school approached Bohnstengel with an offer to settle ahead of the first court date in March. With around 50 days left in the school year, Bohnstengel said he felt it was "in the best interest of the students and community" to move forward with a settlement. He is currently not working.
Bohnstengel maintains that friction between him and the school board stemmed from a disagreement over who would choose the school's next football coach.
Issues over the board and the hiring of coaches surfaced again Monday when more than 100 people attended a board meeting after weeks of rumors that baseball coach Tom Hatley and basketball coach Stan Wilkins would be fired. After hearing from numerous people who spoke in favor of the coaches, the board voted to return the hiring and firing of coaches to the principal.
Bohnstengel, in an interview Tuesday, applauded the move.
"It's what should have been done all along," he said.
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