A former Jupiter elementary school principal who was demoted last year would receive a pay raise and a new three-year principal contract under a proposed legal settlement.
Patricia Trejo, principal of Jupiter Elementary before being demoted last summer to a program planner, sued the school district in December claiming the move was retaliation for raising concerns about student privacy and bias against Hispanic students.
Trejo asked in the suit to be reinstated as a principal under Florida’s whistleblower-protection laws and compensated for salary she lost when she was demoted.
The school district denied in court records that Trejo’s demotion was retaliatory. Before she was removed from the school, records show, a supervisor had said Trejo had only "partially shown" progress on her employee-improvement plan.
After months of negotiations, Trejo and the school district reached a tentative settlement in April.
Then, for reasons that are unclear, Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Donald Fennoy declined to submit the agreement to the school board for approval until a judge directed him this summer to do so, court records show.
The school district declined to comment on the settlement. Sid Garcia, an attorney for Trejo, called the settlement "a great deal for the school board."
"They got off very lightly," he said.
In the proposed settlement, which school board members now are scheduled to consider Wednesday, Trejo would continue her work as a program planner for Hispanic/Latino studies.
[UPDATE: School board members on Wednesday rejected the proposed settlement and directed their attorneys to continue negotiation with Trejo’s attorney.]
But her base salary would rise to $103,000 and she would receive a three-year contract to work as a "principal on assignment for Hispanic/Latino studies."
That would give her the same pay and contractual status as a principal while she continues her work for the school district on ways to infuse teachings about Latino history and culture into school curriculum.
She would also receive $8,500 in cash to compensate her for earnings she lost when her pay was cut.
Trejo, now 42, had been at Jupiter Elementary a year when district administrators removed her from the school and cut her pay by about $9,000 a year, the suit stated.
The suit said that Trejo’s demotion came days after she complained that one of the district’s instructional superintendents, her supervisor, met privately with a group of Jupiter Elementary parents who criticized her and complained that some of the school’s Hispanic students "can’t even hold a pencil."
Months earlier, Trejo had alerted district officials that the district was giving a "scholarship donor" and a non-profit nutrition program access to private student information, in what she said might have been a violation of federal student privacy laws, the suit stated.