Fruitland cuts ties with embattled principal in separation agreement

The Fruitland School District signed an agreement with former principal Mike Fitch, agreeing to pay his salary through the end of April in exchange for his resignation.

Fitch was put on administrative leave in November amid an Idaho State Police investigation into his conduct.

That investigation led to criminal charges of sexual battery against a co-worker at the school  — to which Fitch has pleaded not guilty — and was followed by legal claims from two former Fruitland High School students who say Fitch sexually harassed them.

On April 18, the Fruitland School District sent an email announcing Fitch resigned.

That same day, Fitch signed a separation agreement with the Fruitland School District, which was obtained by Idaho Education News.

Fitch’s contract was worth $77,609 for the 2018-19 school year. According to the separation agreement, the district agreed to pay Fitch $67,161.60 of that for his employment through April 30, and an extra $4,517 for a “supplemental contract,” the details of which were not immediately clear.

Terms of the separation agreement include:

  • A $23,771 payment to Fitch from the school district. That includes $19,254 the district says it owes Fitch for his contract through April 30, plus the supplemental contract.
  • Both Fitch and the school district agreed not to talk about his employment, except for “Fitch’s period of employment, years of service, placement and attendance,” unless they have signed consent, or are ordered by a court to disclose more information.
  • Fitch gave up the right to sue the district for things related to his employment, including wrongful termination or breach of employment contract, and agreed to submit a letter of resignation.

Idaho EdNews asked the district for Fitch’s letter of resignation but Superintendent Teresa Fabricius denied the request. She said the letter is not a public record, because it is part of  Fitch’s personnel file.

Rob Winslow, Executive Director of the Idaho Association of School Administrators said that he’s not an expert in separation agreements, but he does understand that it can be very difficult for a district to terminate an employee’s contract early, even if someone has been arrested.

“Until they’re found guilty, it’s hard to break a contract,” Winslow said.

In the email announcing Fitch’s resignation, his attorneys wrote: “Mr. Fitch’s resignation does not admit any liability or wrongdoing and he makes this decision based on what’s best for his family.”

Fabricius said in the email that the resignation gives the district a chance to move forward and find a replacement.

Fitch’s job was posted on the Fruitland School District website the day after he resigned. The application deadline is 4 p.m., May 3.

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