Keith Saunders is shown in this 2014 photo, when he...

Keith Saunders is shown in this 2014 photo, when he was with the Uniondale school district.  Credit: Barry Sloan

The Southampton school district has agreed to pay more than $200,000 to a former high school assistant principal who had alleged last year he was forced out because of his “lack of loyalty” to the district, according to documents obtained by Newsday.

According to a settlement agreement between the district and Keith Saunders, 52, the school system will pay him $201,746. The documents said that the district does not admit fault and that Saunders will drop his claims.

The settlement documents said Saunders “has asserted emotional distress injuries caused by the district. Although the district disputes any injuries, [Saunders] accepts the entire settlement amount as attributed to those emotional distress injuries asserted.”

Saunders, of Centereach, referred a call to his Hempstead-based attorney, Frederick Brewington, who said Monday, “The matter is settled to the mutual satisfaction of both parties and we wish the Southampton school district the best and hope they grow from this experience. “

Southampton school officials declined to comment.

The agreement said the district will provide Saunders with letters of recommendation specifying dates of employment, position held and effective date of termination and both agreed to a nondisparagement clause, saying Saunders and the district will not “disparage, denigrate or defame” each other.

The settlement, signed by the Southampton Board of Education president in January and Saunders, was recently obtained by a Newsday through an open records request. It says Saunders “understands and agrees that the payment and consideration that he will receive under this agreement is in full and final settlement and discharge of all actions, claims, grievances, complaints, administrative claims and demands” against the district.

Saunders "further understands the agreement does not constitute an admission of any wrongdoing by the district," according to the document.

In October, Saunders, who is Black, had said he was forced out because he interviewed with another district, an action he said was not prohibited and one that other administrators had done without reprisal, according to a discrimination complaint he filed with the state Division of Human Rights against the district. 

Saunders had alleged in the complaint filed Oct. 6 that district officials treated him with "unresponsiveness, insensitivity and retaliation" and a "lack of loyalty" was not an adequate reason for his removal.

In the complaint, Saunders had said he used a vacation day in June to interview for a position in Central Islip. Southampton district officials found out about the interview.

Saunders had said he had told district officials he would be in contact with Central Islip.

"Mr. Saunders merely interviewed, as his white counterparts had previously done. However, unlike what Mr. Saunders is now facing, those interviews occurred without any fear of repercussion," according to the complaint.

According to a letter dated Aug. 11 from Superintendent Nicholas Dyno to Saunders, he was assigned to home as of Aug. 18 and Dyno "will recommend to the Board of Education that your probationary appointment of teacher in the Southampton High School be terminated effective October 21, 2022."

Saunders resigned in early October.

He previously worked 12 years as an administrator at Uniondale High School. He became assistant principal of Southampton High School in September 2021. He was the only full-time Black administrator in the district, according to the state Division of Human Rights and Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission complaint.

Saunders had said the district paid him $150,000 annually, which he said was below his worth and less than white assistant principals with less experience, according to the initial complaint.

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