Seth Stephens has reached a resignation settlement with Orange County Schools that will see Stephens go on paid administrative leave until his resignation becomes effective on Jan. 31 2020.
Stephens, the Chief Communications Officer for Orange County Schools, had a contract that expires on June 30, 2022. The resignation, which was signed on Sept. 9, states that Stephens will be on paid administrative leave until the end of January, unless he begins employment with any other North Carolina institution that is covered by the North Carolina Teachers & State Employees Retirement System, according to Stephens’ final report that was released to the News of Orange County Thursday afternoon.
Stephens had a charge of discrimination made out to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Orange County Board of Education stemming from last year, according to the settlement report, and a complaint of retaliation against OCS made out to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. By signing the agreement, Stephens consented to send documents withdrawing his charge and complaint to each entity. In addition to sending documents withdrawing said charge and complaint, Stephens agreed to send final copies of the documents to the attorneys for OCS at Tharrington Smith, LLP of Raleigh.
Although the reasons for the EEOC complaint have not been made public, INDY confirmed with OCS interim superintendent Randy Bridges that the retaliation complaint was in reference to an investigation Stephens oversaw last year over allegations made by a parent of a first-grader of racial discrimination at Cameron Park Elementary School.
Stephens—whose salary is $98,549.40, according to Bridges, who confirmed the information to INDY—will be paid around $41,000 for the settlement.
By signing the agreement, Stephens assented to not file any additional charges or “admit liability of any kind” in the future in relation to his resignation against OCS, any officials with OCS, or personnel with the Orange County Board of Education.
Stephens was required to return any school property back to OCS, and was permitted to file an application for unemployment compensation if he so desires, due to his resignation, and the school system will comply, without contesting, any information requests for the Employment Security Commission, according to the report.
If OCS or Stephens feels that the other party has breached the resignation agreement, there must be written notice given to the other party in order to rectify the violation. If the party does not attempt to heal the infringement within a 30-day period, the other party is allowed to take action to enforce the agreement, according to the report.
Stephens’ mother, Brenda Stephens, is a school board member. She served as board chair for five terms until May 6, 2019, when Will Atherton replaced Stephens in a 4-3 vote at a Board of Education meeting. The vote came three meetings before Stephens’ term was up, as the News of Orange County reported at the time.
Stephens was hired in 2012 by OCS as a middle school Language Arts Teacher. In May 2013, Stephens was issued a Professional Educator’s License, according to Exhibit C of the report, and in March 2014 Stephens was promoted to a 12-month position as Director of Communications. In September 2014, Stephens was reassigned to Chief Communications Officer, a role he served until his resignation.