Paid suspension continues for school superintendent
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.