Resignation agreement says Baldwin did not commit ‘wrongdoing’

Superintendent Karen Baldwin

Ridgefield Superintendent Karen Baldwin.

The Board of Education found no wrongdoing or misconduct in the performance of Superintendent Dr. Karen Baldwin, according to the terms of a resignation agreement signed last week.

The agreement was obtained by The Press this week through a Freedom of Information Act request.

“The board has not requested Dr. Baldwin’s resignation or otherwise forced her to submit her resignation, nor has the board made any finding(s) of deficiency, wrongdoing, or misconduct with respect to Dr. Baldwin’s performance or actions.”

The agreement also states that it “does not constitute an admission” by Baldwin that she “took any action or engaged in any conduct that would warrant disciplinary action or constitute sufficient cause for termination” under the terms of Baldwin’s contract of employment, the document says.

In the same paragraph, Baldwin agrees that the board is not “in any way liable” to her, and that the board did not treat her unfairly or unlawfully.

“It’s a resignation agreement, it’s not an investigation,” Board of Education chairwoman Fran Walton said Wednesday, when asked why the agreement contains no mention of Baldwin’s use of source documents.

“I think you have to understand when people are fired or terminated, there has to be cause,” she also said, in reference to the agreement’s language.

Baldwin did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

Investigation dropped

Under the agreement, the board also waives Baldwin’s performance review for the 2017-18 school year, and agrees “not to undertake any efforts to further assess, investigate, or evaluate” Baldwin’s “performance or actions while she remains on paid administrative leave.”

After Baldwin announced that she would “explore” a resignation agreement with the board on Monday, March 12, the board dropped an independent investigation into allegations that Baldwin had copied from other sources in her official memos and letters without attribution.

Three days before, the nine-member board voted to have Jonathan Steckler, the newest member of the board, retain a lawyer to investigate “the Superintendent’s use of source documents,” according to a motion by the board on Friday, March 9. The board also voted to place Baldwin on administrative leave with pay, following a roughly two-hour performance review discussed in a private meeting.

After Baldwin suggested she would resign, the board did not a retain a lawyer for the investigation.

“She approached us with an offer of her resignation,” said Walton.

In a joint statement by Baldwin and the board made on March 14, the district clarified that the board did not request Baldwin’s resignation, after earlier reports suggested it had.

“The parties have agreed to explore whether a resignation agreement would be the best alternative for both the district and the superintendent in light of all circumstances. The board has not requested Dr. Baldwin’s resignation, nor has it made any findings with respect to Dr. Baldwin’s actions or conduct.”

“This may turn out to be a situation where the mutual parting of ways is in the interest of all concerned,” the statement said.

Paid leave

Baldwin, whose resignation will go into effect at midnight on June 30, was most recently awarded a contract extension on Jan. 3. Her salary under the contract is $233,303 per year, along with an annuity of $14,660.

Baldwin will continue to be paid her regular salary and collect benefits through June 30, the agreement states. The board will also reimburse Baldwin for up to 15 unused vacation days, at $894 per day, or a maximum of $13,410.

Asked about the agreement Monday, April 9, First Selectman Rudy Marconi said he felt the arrangement is a “fair agreement for both sides.”

“We’re focused now on finding a new superintendent for the district,” said Walton. “We need to find a new superintendent to helm the district and move forward with all the great work that’s currently going on in our district.”

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