A former O’Farrell Charter School superintendent accused of misconduct was paid $120,000 under a settlement quietly signed last year.

Why this matters

The O’Farrell Charter School in southeastern San Diego is funded almost entirely by taxpayers. Its leadership is responsible for the school’s educational program, including staffing and curriculum, for close to 1,900 students.

Jonathan Dean worked at the southeastern San Diego school for more than a decade until board members unanimously fired him without cause in June 2020. O’Farrell never provided any public explanation for his termination, but inewsource found the school had investigated Dean following an accusation of misconduct involving a female employee. 

Further details were never disclosed, and Dean has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

The settlement is less than what the former administrator was initially seeking. Under his employment agreement, his termination without cause made him eligible for a $250,000 severance. A yearlong legal fight ensued after O’Farrell didn’t pay.

The O’Farrell Charter School in Encanto is shown on Aug. 20, 2020. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

Dean also alleged wrongful termination and age discrimination, among other claims. Under the settlement, the school denies the allegations while Dean “denies any acts or omissions warranted his separation.”

In addition to $120,000, O’Farrell will fund health benefits for Dean and his eligible dependents until he turns 65, or until he obtains comparable coverage with another employer. 

The school also reimbursed him for $13,600 worth of insurance premiums. 

Dean and his attorney, Jon Vanderpool, declined to comment.

O’Farrell never disclosed the settlement in a board meeting. State law would have required the agreement to be reported in open session if the board had accepted an offer from Dean. But in this case, Dean was the last party to sign the agreement — meaning the school only has to disclose the deal upon inquiry.

inewsource obtained the agreement earlier this month through a records request. The litigation involving Dean last appeared on an meeting agenda in July, but the board didn’t approve the minutes until last week, after inewsource brought the unapproved item to the school’s attention.

O’Farrell has about 1,900 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, with the majority considered socioeconomically disadvantaged.

The school is now headed by Cindy Wagner, former deputy superintendent of the South Bay Union School District. She succeeded Susan Cuttitta, who headed O’Farrell on an interim basis following Dean’s termination and has since resumed her role as operations director.

Type of Content

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Jennifer BowmanInvestigative Reporter – South Bay and Imperial County

Jennifer Bowman is an investigative reporter at inewsource, covering Imperial County and the South Bay. She used to cover education for inewsource. She’s happy to be back in her hometown after stints at daily newspapers in Michigan and North Carolina. At the Asheville Citizen Times,...