Investigation finds former Cloverdale principal failed to report alleged teacher misconduct; resigns as part of the settlement

The Cloverdale Unified School District released a report on Friday detailing the results of an investigation into the actions of former Washington Middle School principal Mark Lucchetti that led to his demotion and subsequent resignation.

In an Oct. 3 settlement with the district, Lucchetti received his teacher’s full salary for the remaining 2022-23 school year, as well as a lump sum to cover his health and welfare benefits. In exchange, he agreed to tender his “irrevocable resignation” and waive all claims against the district.

Lucchetti was placed on administrative leave in late February amid an investigation into several allegations against him, including that he failed to properly report and investigate alleged teacher misconduct, officials said. district in mid-August.

Findings of third-party investigation into former Cloverdale manager Mark Lucchetti

There was enough evidence to support 10 allegations made by the district against Lucchetti, a 27-year-old administrator and teacher whose departure sparked an outcry among supportive parents and teachers, according to a summary of the investigation obtained Friday by The Press Democrat.

Independent private investigator Erin Lagourgue conducted the investigation between March 7 and May 30. He revealed that Lucchetti did not file a report with child protective services – despite being required to do so by law – after a student reported that a teacher had touched her. The teacher’s name was removed from the report, according to the documents.

Lucchetti told Lagourgue that he did not see any intent on the teacher’s part and did not believe the act was malicious, according to the report.

But any investigation by Lucchetti into the student’s claim proved insufficient, according to the report. The former principal told investigators he spoke with the student, but witness statements indicated otherwise, according to the report.

Lagourgue’s investigation found that Lucchetti also failed to properly document any investigation he made into the student’s complaint.

According to the report, two other allegations against Lucchetti involved reports of additional students claiming that the teacher touched them as well. Of 17 students Lagourgue interviewed, only one said Lucchetti had asked her about interactions with the teacher.

It was also found that Lucchetti had not contacted the parents of any student who had complained about the teacher.

Cloverdale Superintendent Betha MacClain said a Title IX investigation into the teacher’s actions had been opened, but details were not available Friday.

Lucchetti was demoted from his position as manager on June 30, then placed on unpaid leave on September 22.

School officials remained silent on the matter until mid-August, when a letter was posted on the district’s website. In it, the district said a Washington Middle School counselor told MacClain in late February that Lucchetti had failed to thoroughly investigate student reports of teacher misconduct.

The Press Democrat filed a request with the district on July 2 for documents related to Lucchetti. When the district informed him that it intended to release the documents, he sued and won a temporary restraining order.

Judge William Barry then issued a ruling on September 23 allowing the documents to be released within two weeks unless Lucchetti appealed, which he did not.

Lucchetti, in earlier texts and emails to The Press Democrat, disputed that his actions constituted a “material” breach of his responsibilities as principal. He filed a lawsuit against MacClain for his handling of the episode, and the district in turn hired an investigator to look into those allegations.

According to the district, this investigation revealed that nearly all of Lucchetti’s allegations against the superintendent had no basis. The only one that has been substantiated is that MacClain did not provide an annual staff appraisal review during the pandemic, the district said.

Lucchetti said he filed a lawsuit Aug. 3 against the school because its complaints against him were “without merit.” Following his settlement with the district, it is unclear whether a lawsuit will proceed.

Lucchetti could not be reached for comment Friday. Under the terms of the settlement, he and the district are barred from publicly disparaging each other.

It has been a long battle for both sides. Lucchetti told The Press Democrat last month that he was overwhelmed with legal costs.

The issue has “deeply divided” the school district community over the past seven months, district council chair Jacque Garrison said in a letter sent to parents Oct. 5.

October 5 Letter to Cloverdale Unified School District Board Parents

Several parents and students had previously expressed support for Lucchetti in school board appearances, where some also complained about conditions at the college since Lucchetti’s demotion.

In the spring, the students staged two walkouts in support of Lucchetti, and when a fight and ensuing disciplinary issue troubled campus, parents took to social media to say the issues weren’t happening. would never be produced if Lucchetti was still in charge.

“The board has taken steps to end the ongoing, at times public, dispute with the former principal of the Washington school,” Garrison said in the Oct. 5 letter. “The board has now reached an agreement with the former principal to address these issues, which have torn our community apart and wasted school resources.”

In the letter, Garrison called the settlement “fiscally and operationally responsible.”

“It’s often cheaper to settle than to go through a long legal battle,” MacClain told The Press Democrat on Friday. “We are a school district; our job is to take care of children.

“Hopefully the community can move forward…and we can focus on the kids and their needs.”

You can reach editor Kathleen Coates at [email protected] or 707-521-5209.

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