Paid sus­pen­sion continues for school su­per­in­ten­dent

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - COMMUNITY - By KIRSTEN JOHN­SON Email Kirsten John­son at kjohn­son@hawai­itri­bune-her­ald.com.

Brad Ben­nett, Hilo-Wa­iakea Com­plex Area su­per­in­ten­dent, re­mains on paid leave for the rest of the school year while an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion continues.

The state De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion first placed Ben­nett on “de­part­ment di­rected leave” Dec. 22. The de­part­ment said it is in­ves­ti­gat­ing a com­plaint made against him, but has not pro­vided specifics about the com­plaint or the na­ture of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Chad “Keone” Farias, su­per­in­ten­dent of the Ka‘u-Keaau-Pahoa Com­plex Area, has since per­formed Ben­nett’s du­ties, in ad­di­tion to his own. Farias will con­tinue Ben­nett’s du­ties for the re­main­der of the school year, said DOE spokes­woman Don­a­lyn Dela Cruz in an email this week, though no de­ci­sion has been made about the 2018-19 school year.

As to why the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has spanned more than four months, Dela Cruz said “in­ves­ti­ga­tions have dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances and do not have firm dead­lines to al­low for in­for­ma­tion about po­ten­tial of­fenses and al­leged claims to be thor­oughly re­viewed.”

Ac­cord­ing to the DOE web­site, de­part­ment di­rected leave is ini­ti­ated “when cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions of em­ployee mis­con­duct arise or em­ploy­ees demon­strate con­duct that jeop­ar­dizes a safe and healthy learn­ing and work en­vi­ron­ment.”

Ex­am­ples in­clude sex­ual mis­con­duct; acts of harm in­volv­ing chil­dren; crim­i­nal acts; se­ri­ous in­ci­dents of dis­crim­i­na­tion, ha­rass­ment or re­tal­i­a­tion; acts of work­place vi­o­lence that threaten or ac­tu­ally re­sult in se­ri­ous in­jury; or a se­vere hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion posted on­line.

If mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions are sub­stan­ti­ated, post-in­ves­ti­ga­tion and due process pro­ceed­ings should be­gin im­me­di­ately af­ter, and if al­le­ga­tions are not sub­stan­ti­ated, the em­ployee will be in­formed by let­ter and re­turned to work.

De­part­ment di­rected leaves are paid leaves and are for cer­ti­fied em­ploy­ees only.

Farias said Wed­nes­day he ini­tially “signed on to (per­form Ben­nett’s du­ties) month to month” and did not Satur­day, May 5, 2018 an­tic­i­pate fill­ing in for so long. How­ever, he will “con­tinue to do these du­ties for as long as the de­part­ment needs me … and as long as I can be ef­fec­tive cov­er­ing both sides.”

“I just go on do­ing my busi­ness and try­ing to show equal care to all the schools in East Hawaii,” Farias said. “As long as I can be ef­fec­tive and serve as sup­ports for prin­ci­pals and schools, I will con­tinue to do it.”

Ben­nett was ap­pointed su­per­in­ten­dent in 2015. He was pre­vi­ously prin­ci­pal at Wa­iakeawaena and Haa­heo elementary schools.

BEN­NETT

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