Darrington school chief to resign April 30

DARRINGTON — Superintendent Larry Johnson has agreed to resign his school post April 30.

At its meeting Thursday, the Darrington School Board announced that its lawyer and Johnson’s attorney have drawn up an agreement to end litigation between the superintendent and the district.

School board spokesman Alan Pickard said terms of the settlement are not complete and the monetary sums are not final.

“There are no winners here,” Pickard said Friday. “We need to heal and we need to move on and get back to the business of educating our children.”

In October 2010, the school district’s finance director collapsed at Johnson’s home in Darrington. She died at an Everett hospital. Experts determined her death was caused by a cocaine overdose. Sheriff’s investigators found no evidence of foul play or of a crime in the death. However, the school district’s investigation raised questions about Johnson’s “less than professional relationship” with Myra Lewis, which led to a lack of oversight and supervision.

The school board fired Johnson in February 2011.

Johnson appealed the termination. In March 2012, a hearing officer found that Johnson was wrongfully fired from his job, and the small district was ordered to pay Johnson’s legal fees.

Johnson has been on paid administrative leave for a year and a half.

While waiting for the appeal hearing, the Darrington School Board in May 2011 told Johnson that his contract would not be renewed. Johnson brought a lawsuit challenging the nonrenewal decision.

Johnson, 60, said in March that he hoped to return to work. However, Johnson’s lawyer, Everett attorney Mitch Cogdill, said that Johnson had been offering to settle with the district.

The settlement includes Johnson’s resignation, the payment of Johnson’s attorney fees and a buyout of Johnson’s contract, which he contended ran through June 2013.

The school district’s attorney advised the school board that the district was at risk in the lawsuit.

Pickard said the terms of the settlement will be available when they are final. The district’s insurance company has agreed to make a contribution.

In a statement released by the Darrington School Board on Friday, board members said that the settlement is in the best interest of the district and the community.

“Further litigation would involve significant risk of liability, costly attorney fees and further heartache in a situation that began with tragedy,” the statement said.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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