Kevin Dougherty, principal of Elmont Memorial High School, was placed on an unexplained leave of absence before the beginning of the 2022-23 school year and will be receiving $400,000 in a settlement. The community is upset and confused about the loss of the popular educator, NewsdayTV's Shari Einhorn reports. Credit: Newsday/James Carbone, Thomas A. Ferrara

The Sewanhaka Central High School district will pay Elmont Memorial High School Principal Kevin Dougherty as much as $400,000 after his June departure under a separation agreement signed seven months ago.

Newsday obtained the deal between Dougherty, 42, and the district’s board of education last week via a Freedom of Information Law request.

The 25-page document revealed that the district will compensate Dougherty with his $207,816.84 salary and bonuses worth a potential $203,908.50 through next school year, but fails to explain why the district sought the popular principal’s resignation.

Dougherty, Elmont's high school principal since 2015, announced earlier this month he is leaving the district in June. In an April 5 letter to parents, he said, “The Elmont community has been amazing to me and my family over the last 8 years and I will cherish the memories that we have."

Just days before school started last fall, district officials told residents that Dougherty was going on a yearlong sabbatical and appointed an interim principal. That unexpected notice led to days of protests outside the high school by students and parents who lauded Dougherty for maintaining an above-state-average graduation rate and serving as an inspired leader in the community.

The paperwork cites a “dispute” between Dougherty, the district and its eight-person school board, without providing specifics. The agreement is dated Sept. 20 and signed by Dougherty and board president Michael Jaime.

“The parties acknowledge and agree that there was a dispute that was resolved to the satisfaction of all the parties,” the agreement said.

There are no allegations of wrongdoing referenced. Attached to the separation agreement is a lengthy recommendation letter from the district’s superintendent, James Grossane, that referred to Dougherty as “a phenomenal educator and leader” who “touted a deep commitment and vision for academic excellence.”

Grossane and Jaime declined to comment this week, citing confidential personnel decisions. Dougherty did not return messages seeking comment.

A clause in the agreement bars Dougherty and school officials from discussing “the existence or contents of this agreement.”

The high school has about 1,600 students, according to the state Education Department. 

Told of the agreement by Newsday, parents of Elmont Memorial High School students said this week they are disappointed and angry with the district for keeping them in the dark.

“He’s irreplaceable,” said Lynette Battle, president of the school's Parent Teacher Student Association who has a son in the 11th grade. “He’s the school’s heartbeat."

Battle said Dougherty founded the "Men of Elmont" club, a mentoring and leadership program for male students, created safe spaces for Muslim students, and has been recognized for his work in the community.

Rachelle Lewis, whose son is a senior, said she’s “absolutely angry.”

“The biggest thing that Dougherty brings is a heart to Elmont,” she said. “He brings the compassion. He makes the connection. Dougherty’s loss is a big deal.”

Elmont residents also took issue with the school board’s use of taxpayer money to oust a principal.

“That does not sit well with me,” said Michael Anderson, whose daughter is a high school softball player at Elmont. “The sad part is we have to pay for it. That’s not right. That’s not right at all.”

Battle called for an investigation into the school board’s decision-making.

“That is a lot of taxpayer money,” she said, adding that she’s glad Dougherty is being compensated. “But it also makes me even angrier at the school board.”

Another Elmont resident, Sheldon Meikle, credits Dougherty for improving the high school’s culture. His three children went through the school and are now in college. But he took issue with the agreement made by the school board.

“I believe he's entitled to every penny,” he said of Dougherty. “But it's mixed feelings because, of course, it's at the taxpayers' expense.”

The agreement Newsday obtained revealed the district’s arrangement to announce the principal’s departure to the school community in stages, a plan that ultimately was upended less than a month into the arrangement.

The September deal initially called for the principal to spend this current school year on a paid sabbatical before officially resigning in June. Part of the agreement included plans for Dougherty to announce his resignation later in the school year.

The district amended the agreement in early October after parents and students protested his absence and complained about the lack of an explanation.

The revised deal called for Dougherty to return as Elmont’s high school principal. Publicly, school officials apologized to “all those affected.” Privately, the updated agreement laid revised groundwork for Dougherty’s departure.

Under the updated agreement, the district reinstated Dougherty on Oct. 11, gave him a $100,000 “longevity” bonus in November and accepted a resignation letter effective this June that was kept under wraps until he announced it this month.

“We didn't have any idea that that was in place in September,” Battle said. “Things were very hush-hush.”

Lewis added, “I'm very surprised because we as parents asked the district what was going on. We got nothing in terms of that.”

Dougherty’s last day as principal is June 30. However, the separation agreement called for the district to continue compensating him.

The district will pay Dougherty his salary in monthly installments of $17,318.07, totaling $207,816.84, through June 2024. Then, a month later, the district will pay Dougherty a lump-sum payment of $103,908.50, representing an additional half year's salary.

The deal also includes clauses that financially reward Dougherty if he receives a new full-time job.

If Dougherty finds work before the end of 2023, the district will pay him an additional $100,000. The incentive payment reduces to $50,000 if he gets a new job between January and June of 2024.

The amended agreement also mandates that the district continue to run the mentoring program Men of Elmont.

Battle said that clause “speaks to Dougherty’s character and who he is and what these children mean to him. If that doesn't resonate with anyone, then nothing will.”

Anderson added, “The school board has a lot to answer for, and unfortunately we’re not getting those answers.”

With Shari Einhorn and Thomas A. Ferrara

.

The Sewanhaka Central High School district will pay Elmont Memorial High School Principal Kevin Dougherty as much as $400,000 after his June departure under a separation agreement signed seven months ago.

Newsday obtained the deal between Dougherty, 42, and the district’s board of education last week via a Freedom of Information Law request.

The 25-page document revealed that the district will compensate Dougherty with his $207,816.84 salary and bonuses worth a potential $203,908.50 through next school year, but fails to explain why the district sought the popular principal’s resignation.

Dougherty, Elmont's high school principal since 2015, announced earlier this month he is leaving the district in June. In an April 5 letter to parents, he said, “The Elmont community has been amazing to me and my family over the last 8 years and I will cherish the memories that we have."

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Plans for Elmont Memorial High School's popular principal, Kevin Dougherty, to resign this June were agreed to in September, without the school district informing the community.
  • The separation agreement cites a dispute between Dougherty and the school district and board of education, but also includes a glowing reference letter from the superintendent.
  • The school district will pay Dougherty more than $300,000 after he leaves the district, and an additional $100,000 if he is hired elsewhere by the end of 2023.

Just days before school started last fall, district officials told residents that Dougherty was going on a yearlong sabbatical and appointed an interim principal. That unexpected notice led to days of protests outside the high school by students and parents who lauded Dougherty for maintaining an above-state-average graduation rate and serving as an inspired leader in the community.

The paperwork cites a “dispute” between Dougherty, the district and its eight-person school board, without providing specifics. The agreement is dated Sept. 20 and signed by Dougherty and board president Michael Jaime.

“The parties acknowledge and agree that there was a dispute that was resolved to the satisfaction of all the parties,” the agreement said.

There are no allegations of wrongdoing referenced. Attached to the separation agreement is a lengthy recommendation letter from the district’s superintendent, James Grossane, that referred to Dougherty as “a phenomenal educator and leader” who “touted a deep commitment and vision for academic excellence.”

A tribute to Kevin Dougherty in Elmont Memorial High School's...

A tribute to Kevin Dougherty in Elmont Memorial High School's 2020 yearbook. Credit: Elmont Memorial High School

Grossane and Jaime declined to comment this week, citing confidential personnel decisions. Dougherty did not return messages seeking comment.

A clause in the agreement bars Dougherty and school officials from discussing “the existence or contents of this agreement.”

The high school has about 1,600 students, according to the state Education Department. 

Parents upset with district

Told of the agreement by Newsday, parents of Elmont Memorial High School students said this week they are disappointed and angry with the district for keeping them in the dark.

“He’s irreplaceable,” said Lynette Battle, president of the school's Parent Teacher Student Association who has a son in the 11th grade. “He’s the school’s heartbeat."

Battle said Dougherty founded the "Men of Elmont" club, a mentoring and leadership program for male students, created safe spaces for Muslim students, and has been recognized for his work in the community.

Rachelle Lewis, whose son is a senior, said she’s “absolutely angry.”

“The biggest thing that Dougherty brings is a heart to Elmont,” she said. “He brings the compassion. He makes the connection. Dougherty’s loss is a big deal.”

Elmont residents also took issue with the school board’s use of taxpayer money to oust a principal.

“That does not sit well with me,” said Michael Anderson, whose daughter is a high school softball player at Elmont. “The sad part is we have to pay for it. That’s not right. That’s not right at all.”

Battle called for an investigation into the school board’s decision-making.

“That is a lot of taxpayer money,” she said, adding that she’s glad Dougherty is being compensated. “But it also makes me even angrier at the school board.”

Another Elmont resident, Sheldon Meikle, credits Dougherty for improving the high school’s culture. His three children went through the school and are now in college. But he took issue with the agreement made by the school board.

“I believe he's entitled to every penny,” he said of Dougherty. “But it's mixed feelings because, of course, it's at the taxpayers' expense.”

Earlier plan upended

The agreement Newsday obtained revealed the district’s arrangement to announce the principal’s departure to the school community in stages, a plan that ultimately was upended less than a month into the arrangement.

The September deal initially called for the principal to spend this current school year on a paid sabbatical before officially resigning in June. Part of the agreement included plans for Dougherty to announce his resignation later in the school year.

The district amended the agreement in early October after parents and students protested his absence and complained about the lack of an explanation.

The revised deal called for Dougherty to return as Elmont’s high school principal. Publicly, school officials apologized to “all those affected.” Privately, the updated agreement laid revised groundwork for Dougherty’s departure.

Under the updated agreement, the district reinstated Dougherty on Oct. 11, gave him a $100,000 “longevity” bonus in November and accepted a resignation letter effective this June that was kept under wraps until he announced it this month.

“We didn't have any idea that that was in place in September,” Battle said. “Things were very hush-hush.”

Lewis added, “I'm very surprised because we as parents asked the district what was going on. We got nothing in terms of that.”

Dougherty’s last day as principal is June 30. However, the separation agreement called for the district to continue compensating him.

The district will pay Dougherty his salary in monthly installments of $17,318.07, totaling $207,816.84, through June 2024. Then, a month later, the district will pay Dougherty a lump-sum payment of $103,908.50, representing an additional half year's salary.

The deal also includes clauses that financially reward Dougherty if he receives a new full-time job.

If Dougherty finds work before the end of 2023, the district will pay him an additional $100,000. The incentive payment reduces to $50,000 if he gets a new job between January and June of 2024.

The amended agreement also mandates that the district continue to run the mentoring program Men of Elmont.

Battle said that clause “speaks to Dougherty’s character and who he is and what these children mean to him. If that doesn't resonate with anyone, then nothing will.”

Anderson added, “The school board has a lot to answer for, and unfortunately we’re not getting those answers.”

With Shari Einhorn and Thomas A. Ferrara

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