PLEASANTVILLE — Suspended Middle School Principal Stephen Townsend will return to work later this month under a settlement agreement with the district.

The school board filed tenure charges in September to potentially remove Townsend after a state Department of Education investigation, requested by board President Carla Thomas, found Townsend did not follow procedures in using the district’s schools to host a basketball tournament. A volunteer coach had also failed a criminal background check.

In January, state arbitrator John E. Sands held a hearing in the district and ruled the proposed settlement was an appropriate compromise.

Under the agreement, Townsend received a 150-day unpaid suspension, which will last until Feb. 23. He will return as a “principal on special assignment” but will not serve as a building principal or administrator.

He retains all tenure rights, but his salary, $138,983, will remain frozen for five years until Jan. 1, 2022, after which he can negotiate compensation. He will not be allowed to use any school facilities for nonschool-related events during his employment.

Tenure charges are withdrawn, and both sides agreed to release all claims against each other.

The school board approved the settlement without comment at its January meeting. The state monitor did not oppose it. The Press of Atlantic City obtained a copy through an Open Public Records Act request.

The process by which Townsend used the middle and high schools for a Spotlight Basketball tournament last March led to several school board discussions about the use of schools for private events and an overhaul of how such approvals are handled by the district.

Townsend wrote in an email that he is glad to be returning to the district where he has worked since 2006.

“My responsibility as an administrator in an urban school district is, and always will be, to empower, motivate, and inspire my students,” he wrote. “My mission has always been, and will continue to be, to raise the expectation level and to demand discipline and a high level of academic achievement.”

He said he understands the challenges faced by so many “at risk” students and will continue to provide that leadership.

“I have provided this much needed strong leadership in my position as principal of the Middle School of Pleasantville, Pleasantville High School, Decatur Avenue Early Childhood Center, Leeds Avenue School, and South Main Street School, and I will continue to provide strong leadership until I decide to leave the district on my own terms,” he wrote.


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