Reference letters for Sica, Forsten will only provide basic ‘factual information’ 

Monitor staff
Published: 11/12/2019 2:29:02 PM

The letters of reference that former Concord schools superintendent Terri Forsten and former Concord High principal Tom Sica will receive as part of their severance agreements with the Concord School District will include only basic factual information, like their dates of employment with the district and their job titles.

“I want to assure the public, we are not going to be writing letters of recommendation for Sica and Forsten,” school board member Chuck Crush said. “That would be unacceptable.”

The Concord School Board voted to terminate employment for both Sica and Forsten in September after receiving a report from an independent attorney tasked with investigating administrators’ response to reports made about former teacher Howie Leung, who was arrested in April on charges that he raped a former Concord student.

The agreements between the district the two administrators, which the Monitor detailed in a story published earlier this week, do not specify what will be included in the reference letters. The agreements state that the board will provide a reference letter to both Sica and Forsten, which they can choose whether to use in their search for a new job.

Sica’s agreement stipulates that the “specific language of the letter of reference will be negotiated in good faith between the parties.”

However, Crush and Stephen Bennett, a lawyer hired by the board to help manage the independent investigation, clarified Tuesday that both Sica and Forsten’s reference letters will include only general information.

“The letter will provide dates of employment, positions, responsibilities, and similar, factual information,” Bennett wrote in an email. “The letters will not recommend them (or state that they are qualified or unqualified) for any specific job or position.”

Crush said that he and other board members have requested to review the letters before they are sent out. Forsten and Sica are to receive their references from the board within 10 business days of signing their severance agreements.

The severance agreements also state that Sica and Forsten are allowed to ask former colleagues in the Concord School District for letters of recommendation.

“Former colleagues within the District may provide them (at their discretion) with their personal letters of recommendations, but none would be speaking for or on behalf of the District,” Bennett wrote.

While information about the severance agreements are public, the Concord School Board has not disclosed why Forsten and Sica were removed from their roles in the district. Independent attorney Djuna Perkins’s 100-page investigative report that examines the district’s response to complaints of inappropriate behavior by Leung has not been made public.

Sica, who was principal of Rundlett Middle School in 2014, came under fire after it became known that he had accused a middle school student of spreading “malicious and slanderous gossip” for saying that Leung showed favoritism toward certain female students and crossed boundaries.

Forsten, who was not superintendent at the time of that suspension, came under increased scrutiny after it was learned that Leung was able to remain at the school for three and a half months after several students saw him kissing another student in his car in December 2018.

Forsten said she was unaware of any previous concerns regarding Leung when the 2018 incident occurred. 

The Concord School Board announced the resignations of Forsten and Sica at separate meetings earlier this month.

As part of her agreement, Forsten was paid $109,597.25, a combination of her salary and unused vacation time through June of next year. Sica was paid $139,897.56, a combination of his salary and unused vacation and sick time through Feb. 21 of next year, according to his and the district’s agreement.

Both Forsten and Sica are specifically not allowed to speak about any student or personnel records, including information related to Leung. If they do, they will lose all of the benefits and payments they received as part of the severance agreement.

Additionally, Forsten, Sica and the district agreed to not sue each other as long as the terms of the agreement are obeyed. Forsten and Sica also cannot “disparage” the Concord School District. In turn, the district will not disparage  Forsten or Sica.

“They shall continue to speak civilly,” the agreement reads.

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